Friday, 25 January 2013

Funding the restoration of the Trans-Atlantic A4s.

"The Friends of the National Railway Museum have officially announced a £50k donation towards the cosmetic overhaul of the A4 locomotives repatriated from North America. The estimated cost of the cosmetic restoration works to No. 60008 and No. 60010 in the National Railway Museum’s York and Shildon workshops is in the region of £22,000 and £37,000 respectively. This is based on all work carried out by contractors and the costs associated with buying the necessary parts and equipment for the work being undertaken by the National Railway Museum workshop teams. This includes the supply of paint, asbestos remediation to make the vehicles safe for sanding and painting, the removing and refitting of the motion and body work repairs".

"A spokesperson for the museum said:

“Although fundraising towards the cosmetic restoration phase of the Mallard75 project is still ongoing, we are delighted to officially announce the Friends’ generous donation towards the work necessary to display Dwight D Eisenhower and Dominion of Canada alongside their sister locomotives in the Great Hall. It is a significant contribution towards the cosmetic restoration work on the two vehicles which is planned to be complete by late spring. We hope the spectacular sight of all six surviving Gresley A4s around the Great Hall turntable will be a suitable reward and we would like to express our heartfelt thanks for the Friends’ support.”

The National Railway Museum commits to do a job before the funding is in place. Should public institutions do this? To cover itself the Friends of the NRM make a considerable donation towards the restoration of other institution's artefacts. Am I the only person who thinks this is odd?

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Puffing Billy lives in the Science Museum London

Puffing Billy lives in the Science Museum London but was built in Wylam 200 years ago. That thread of linkage to the NRM is why I now share a press release from Beamish and Wylam Parish
(extracted from a PDF from Wylam Parish and Beamish)
Photograph  was  taken  at  the  Haugh  Pit  in  the  early  1860’s  and  shows  Puffing  Billy  with  the  driver  J.  Carr  (right)  and  fireman  W.  Greener  (left).  In  the  background  are  three  buildings  still  standing  today  -  the  former  school  of  1854  (far  left),  Laburnum  House  (centre)  and  the  Wesleyan  Chapel  of  1834  on  the  extreme  right.

Invitation  to  community  groups

In  2013  communities  along  the  Wylam  to  Lemington  waggonway  will  be  celebrating  200  years  since  steam  locomotives  were  used  to  transport  coal  from  Wylam  colliery  to  Lemington  staiths  on  the  River  Tyne.

These  early  engines  were  the  cutting  edge  technology  of  the  period.  being  the  first  commercial  steam  locomotives  working  on  the  adhesion  principle.  They  helped  pave  the  way  for  the  future  development  of  modern  railways  across  the  world.

‘Puffing  Billy’  was  one  of  these  steam  locomotives,  built  circa  1813 – 14,  working  for  nearly  50  years  along  the  waggonway.  The  engine  survives  today,  almost  certainly  the  oldest  locomotive  in  the  world  and  a  fully  operational  working  replica  was  built  in  Beamish  and  launched  in  2005.

A  group  of  interested  parties  has  begun  to  meet  to  discuss  possible  events  to  develop  a  programme  for  a  Puffing  Billy  Festival  which  will  include  visits  to  and  from  Beamish  Museum ,  involve  the  Puffing  Billy  replica,  community  events  and  an  attempt  to  replicate  the  steam  power  that  travelled  down  the  lines  with  pupil  power  that  will  travel  along  the  track  way  from  Wylam  to  Newburn  (along  its  original  route).

This  group,  including  so  far,  representatives  from  Wylam  Parish  Council,  Beamish  Museum,  members  of  local  groups,  members  of  the  public,  Northumberland  County  Councillors  and  officers  and  Newcastle  City  Councillors  and  officers  would  like  to  invite  you  to  find  out  more  and  how  you  can  get  involved  at  an  informal  meeting  on;

Wednesday  16th  January  at  7pm  Walbottle  Campus,
Hexham  Road,  Walbottle.  Newcastle  upon  Tyne.  NE15  9TP

We  all  feel  that  this  is  a  great  opportunity  to  use  this  very  significant  anniversary  to  build  on  the  many  successful  community  events  of  2012,  foster  cross  community  links  and  develop  cross  county  links  and  are  keen  and  excited  to  involve  as  many  people  and  groups  as  possible.
Please  pass  this  on  to  other  interested  parties,  come  along,  have  a  cup  of  tea,  find  out  the  ideas  we  have  had  and  discuss  any  ideas  of  your  own.

If  you  would  like  to  come  along  or  have  any  questions  then  please  contact  either;  
Geraldine  Starker    Community  Engagement  Co-ordinator,  Beamish  Museum   
0191  370  4000  (ext  2080)           
Tom  Martin        Wylam  Parish  Council       
01661  852025                    

In the Hexham Courant 1st February 2013 it was announced that the Puffing Billy replica which lives at Beamish will visit Wylam on 21st September 2013. A great piece of community news.

In the end a very successful festival with major help from Beamish and some help from the NRM was held. More detail here.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

A Great Central new outstation for Leicester

Something looking more positive which the February dated Railway Magazine covers is the development of a plan for another outstation like Shildon but at Leicester. This is headlined as a £10 million development covering up to 50 new jobs and handling 200,000 visitors a year. Paul Kirkman current museum director has given his blessing to the development of the scheme's funding package. As with Shildon, this will be a partnership. In this case with the Great Central Railway at Leicester North station and with Leicester City Council. Being of a certain age I remember a previous attempt perhaps 40 years ago when National Collection items spent some years in store in Wigston Roundhouse pending a museum development then. I think what actually happened was that Leicester developed the Abbey Pumping Station project and at least some of the items in store wound up at the Midland Railway Centre?

It is worth bearing in mind that if this happened, the NRM would have substantial on the ground presence at York, Shildon, Swindon and Leicester. In the round it would certainly assuage those who worry about the "northocentric" nature of the NRM, I don't. At some point however, you wonder when collecting mania on large objects will encounter a brick wall. Despite Shildon a sizeable chunk of NRM collection is at places like Kineton in secure store. The Leicester development should be an exciting and positive scheme if it assists in getting all the NRM collection into public areas. But will we in 10 years be seeing yet another outstation? My own take for some time is that increasingly the need is for the NRM to be a backstop in preservation management. Apart from the icons let the private sector take the load and intervene by the state only when a single figure survivor is threatened.

Seeing the financial details of a Shildon would be interesting for instance. How much does it cost the NRM each year? How much does Durham County pay and how secure is that? £11.3 million was the capital cost at Shildon in 2004. Shildon welcomed a million free visitors in its first six years. Some parallels are evident. That is fine, doing something twice is no bad move. Leicester's visitor catchment should be a better one than Shildon.

The new Steam Railway has a feature "Is it time for a national register of Locomotives?". Yes, I say. There is such for British maritime heritage. 20 years ago my father was working with the World Ship Trust on the International Register of Historic Ships. About that time I tried to persuade Neil Cossons at the Science Museum of the need for a register and grading system in railway preservation. I was rebuffed. Yet since then the concept has gained in momentum. The work has been done on carriages by the Vintage Carriage Trust based at Ingrow.

(A PS to this story, a rival's view!)

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Guest contribution from Chris Leigh

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 ) .