Friday, 22 July 2011

NRM Engines see the Light of Day

Nice article about NRM engines seeing light of day by Anthony Coulls in 391.

That's a tweet of mine about an article just published with the title NRM Engines see the Light of Day. For brief updates my Facebook and Twitter accounts can be subscribed too. In fact this issue of Steam Railway has a lot of NRM content both up and down. The latter includes a report of a 16% visitor figure drop and the frames of 4472. Hopefully the work being undertaken in moving exhibits as described my Mr Coulls will help draw more visitors. Also in the good news tray is the story about Shannon. A conservation plan is now in place and the financial appeal is half way there.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Where will Mallard be this summer?

I tend to find myself asking as many questions as offering answers.

A URL I chanced by in connection with the Top Gear post set my brain off.

Here the NRM announced that Mallard would be in Germany July to October.

Here the story is that Mallard moves tomorrow Tuesday 19th July 2011 back to York. And then "Mallard will be placed on the turntable from 22 July until 1st August. After this it will take its place back in the main hall, up until 4 September 2011".

So two reasons to blog now. Mallard is back on the main line tomorrow. But what happens then? Is Mallard going to Germany or is she on display in York for the summer?

A little bit further on in time. The answer is definitely York. What happened to Germany and why the announcement about that is still live on the NRM site today is an open question.

Top Gear and the National Railway Museum

Many might have wondered how I could link the two agencies in my header! Equally as many will realise this happened on the 17th July 2011 as will show. That link is to i-player and it will not be live for ever I guess. This is episode 4 of series 17. In the railway enthusiast media this had been trailed and I knew that the Great Central Railway had been visited by a film crew. The result is certainly entertaining and funny. One wonders how many dispensations from the rulebook and Health and Safety had had to be requested in order to undertake these rip roaring antics? The surprise came when the passengers arrived (not overmany of them). They were "top officials and inspectors from the railway world". Fronting the guest list were the museum's Colonel Steve Davies and Helen Ashby who were introduced by name before the cameras although at no stage was any mention of the National Railway Museum made so I guess this was something undertaken in their own time?

A piece of priceless entertainment which I recommend you to watch. The connection with the header photo? The storyline was rather to the effect that the Top Gear team had made this sensational discovery that you can put cars on rails. And then they discovered some of the shortcomings like adhesion. I hope that privately our friends from the museum were able to point out that there is a considerable history of road vehicles on rails (and even of model vehicles of the same like Brawa VW vans). Doubtless the history might have spoiled the plot but I can remind readers of this with a picture from 1985 of myself at Abreschviller in the Vosges with just such an inspection car. An antique if there ever was one.

This is not the first time Top Gear has gone loco. The Race to the North was arguably much more substantial. James May has also determinedly endorsed model railways with his double attempt to run OO trains from Barnstaple to Bideford and a model railway appearing in his lad's workshop.

Added 4th August, Railway Magazine's editorial in their September issue revealed that the editor Nick Pigott had been another one of the passengers and complained rather clearly about the lack of credits.

Friday, 15 July 2011


Now that some two and a third years have passed since I started this blog, new readers may wish to be reminded of what was said at the start. That sets out the context of this blog and just to re-iterate this is a blog of personal reflections of someone who is a user/consumer of the museum who also is connected through the transfer of about 275 feet of shelved material The Forsythe Collection of Travel and Transport Publicity Ephemera. That took place in January 2009. The author is independent of the museum and feels free to both criticise and praise.

Don't miss L T C Rolt Symposium at Tywyn/Towyn

This email from Colin Divall about
the L T C Rolt Symposium, Tywyn 14-15 October got my attention. The event is likely to be a sell out. I hurried away and sent a cheque.

"Ditherers might like to know that we are only 8 places away from filling the room for this event. Registrations will be dealt with on a strictly first-come, first-served basis!"

The NRM through the Institute of Railway Studies and the Talyllyn Railway are joint organisers.

Lots of Talyllyn material is in the Forsythe Collection at York. You should certainly be able to find these from 1957 onwards.

A new strategy for interpretation

In the light of the failure of the NRM+ funding bid, is it possible to outline a different conceptual manner for developing interpretation at the NRM? On the 5th May 2011 I emailed the museum director with the substance of what follows. I now have his reply to the effect that this is not an issue for discussion. What do my readers think?

Originally the core of what follows was something that I put to Andrew Scott (the then director) in some detail probably about 1997 (it would need some digging out). The issue of the narrative and of utilising other exhibits apart from the rolling stock was well and truly alive then. My take on how to do this has always been a bit different. I am inherently suspicious of block buster interpretation projects. They jam up the ordinary life of a museum, eventually they get delivered (though the cost of the varied attempts to assemble a package may easily be forgotten, who remembers the Rapid City proposal for the NRM?). They are then flavour of the month for quite some while until the whole entity starts to look tired. It becomes a huge version of stop start.

I proposed to Andrew Scott an entirely different method of doing this. It was incremental. It said something like identify 10 core threads. Locate the space. If necessary build or convert a structure as the house. But then install the story gradually. Take 10 years to do it. Spread the cost. Ensure there is a new element each year. Balance the demands on preparing the exhibition with the staff resources available. Avoid a massive fund raising burst which if it did not deliver crashed. But build up the expertise of the team who delivered on the subject. This means really tapping into knowledge rather than consultant froth and haste. The Ferry Tales exhibition of 2010 struck me as executed in haste.

And after 10 years, element 1 of 10 would probably look tired. So retaining the team, redo it, find new artefacts to tell a similar story. The result would be something ever changing and alive and developing the in house skill base and knowledge. And I would have thought easier to fund than the splurge approach.

And if it meant that the sense of worship and cathedral atmosphere of the Great Hall was not tampered with, I would not be sad.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Flying Scotsman delay

Seen via Twitter today
"Just announced that Flying Scotsman unfortunately won't be here August as hoped. But still on display later this year" There are problems with the frames and the press release includes a full explanation and statement from Steve Davies. (RNF something of a different news thread to the other British news of the day).

Also see Yorkshire Post, Heritage Railway.