Hello, and welcome to 2015. This year the first two, standard gauge, lines to begin operation using volunteers will reach 55 – the Middleton and Bluebell Railways started their new incarnations in 1960. One was a genuinely historic piece of railway, in a less than pretty part of town, the other a scenic route through rural Sussex, two themes, the scenic and the historic, which loom large in a great many aspects of heritage railways and their connections with the wider public and enthusiast alike – though for very different reasons.
In those fifty five years an industry has grown up, there are fewer hare-brained schemes, more, lots more, health and safety – the driver on 80135 is wearing hi-vis overalls, not quite the ‘old steam days’ image. Industry of another sort has grown up too, the railway preservation industry. This industry involves everyone from Chinese workers making plastic models of Thomas the Tank Engine, to British heavy industry, casting cylinders, driving wheels, and cutting the frame plates for new build locomotives, such as No.60163 Tornado, or the P2 which is just getting underway.
The larger heritage railway undertakings employ paid staff, utilise out side contractors, some sub-contract engineering work, in their own workshops, for other heritage lines or act as wholesaler, supplying stock for the ‘station shop’. I haven’t even mentioned the things like public liability insurance, infrastructure maintenance, or film and television work. Local shops, cafes, hotels and B&Bs, printers who print the membership mags, flyers, and posters, caterers who stock the buffet and buffet cars, post cards and greeting cards, jigsaws, mugs, tea towels, souvenirs of every ilk, all this trade and industry from those lads with a trolley and a hare-brained idea!
Well done guy’s – from the muck of the railways tha’s made a lorra brass, for a great many people!!
In the photograph Standard Class 4MTT No.80135 is about to ‘take coal’ one of the dirtier railway jobs, believe me, the coal dust gets to places you didn’t know there were places!