The New Year is not starting well at the National Railway Museum. The January edition of the Railway Magazine has a rather acid editorial. Short and sharp. The problem being (I concur) the preference of the Japanese media over the British. It is very important that the new management wins friends with the British railway press. There is no need to cowtow to them but it is pure wisdom that I would hope a philosophy graduate would understand that the media needs to be onboard with your plans. Two months into the new job and there has been no media briefing.
Instead the Steam Railway dropping onto the mats now, publishes the end product of David Wilcock threatening the museum with an FOI request. At this point (as I exclaim a breath at the arm wrestling that is going on) I am going to let Chris Leigh continue the story. I have worked with Chris for many years and appreciated his editing and writing for many years before that. He is a fully respected member of the preservation and model fraternity and well grounded on this planet in my opinion. He has sent me, with the intention that it be uploaded here, his summary of things at the start of 2013. Chris Leigh writes:
"In the latest issue of Steam Railway, which starts reaching subscribers
today, David Wilcock reveals that he has finally, after five attempts
and invoking the Freedom of Information legislation, received an answer
to the question he asked the National Railway Museum about the cost of
the 'Six A4s' event to be staged at the Museum later this year. In
particular he wanted to know how much it had cost to bring the two A4s
back from North America and to restore them before returning them to
their owners in Canada and the USA.
Wilcock reveals a catalogue of
alleged evasion and mis-information from the NRM before it provided the
information that the exercise will have cost in excess of £250,000. His
Steam Railway feature includes a table of costs associated with numerous
visits of NRM staff to North America, in one instance running up a
hotel bill in excess of £3,000 for a nine-day stay in Toronto (a place
where I stayed in a top four-star hotel in the city centre for 7 days
for £79 a night earlier this year).
This is set against further
allegations (as yet unconfirmed by the NRM) that another major problem
has been found by the latest engineering report on the beleaguered 'A3'
Flying Scotsman and a report in another railway journal that the NRM's
new head has already made a trip to meet press representatives abroad,
while refusing to meet those in the UK.
On a recent visit to York, I
found the presentation of exhibits in the main hall to be poor. Whilst
the turntable is a considerable asset it is also a problem in that it
dictates how the hall is laid out. That problem is compounded by a poor
choice of prominent exhibits - the beautiful but not especially
significant SECR 4-4-0 is the first sight for visitors, followed by a
black 2-6-4T and a Rail blue 'Western' diesel. These are engulfed by
nondescript display cases, an open cafe area and a sales concession of
some sort, the other locomotives, including Mallard and the dynamometer
car being squeezed in around the turntable and dominated by two Stanier
4-6-0s, neither of which belongs to the Museum. There is little guidance
to the significance of these exhibits and seemingly no attempt to tell a
coherent story of rail history.
It seems to me that the NRM needs to
restore some credibility and quickly. It could do so by better
displaying and caring for its own exhibits instead of spending large
sums of money, which it doesn't have, on exhibits which don't belong to
it and in the case of the A4s, will be returned abroad in due course. In
particular, with the CRHS apparently being asked to raise just C$9,000
towards the re-styling of 60010, perhaps the next question which needs
to be asked is 'Who's stumping up the rest?'"
I will not promise to agree with all Chris says and on some of it, I am not well placed to judge. I will suggest that the new director needs to engage with the British press, national and specialist soon. I will be so forward to hope I get an invite as well and I would be happy to either interview the new director or receive the NRM view on all this which can be published.
(For another take see http://martincreese.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/was-it-worth-it.html ) .