Sadly, during the Christmas period, graffiti vandals have struck again on a heritage railway, this time the Severn Valley Railway. These acts of vandalism are not new and nor are they confined to dim and disaffected teenagers. The destruction of huge chunks of the railway network was industrial scale vandalism, and, in some senses, every bit as mindless as the actions of the graffiti sprayers. It was more good luck than good management which kept the line in the photograph open for business. For those who don’t know, this is the Settle – Carlisle route, close to Aisgill summit. If you were a lover of the original ‘Royal Scot’ class you might consider Stanier a vandal for his rebuilding. However, rebuilds are a can of worms I’m not going to open here.
In the case of the national network it wasn’t thousands of volunteer hours of labour that was being trashed, it was the deaths of thousands of navvies, their wives and children too, who died in building routes like the Woodhead route across the Pennines or the Waverley route through the borders. To some extent our current hobby is the result of this vandalism, all in the name of progress, naturally.
I don’t condone the vandalism, be it state sponsored or the mindless moron variety; we do, however, seem to display a certain degree of ambivalence to the former and a quite alarming degree of ferocity towards the latter. Some of the comments I’ve seen on social media advocate chopping hands off, a practice the same commentators would, in all probability, condemn as barbaric if it was being perpetrated by Saudi Arabia.
The unfortunate thing is that the vandals, who have been around for thousands of years, will still be vandals and their mindless activities, whether on the small scale or the large, will continue to rile people. And if the history of dealing with vandals shows us anything, it is that all the solutions, tried in order to prevent it, have failed, even the barbaric ones.
The recent vandalising of the teak coaches at the NYMR brought a great community response and the coaches were back in service, almost, before you could say Jack Robinson. Hopefully, this current act will draw a similar response. The vandalism may well be distressing to many but, the railway community response to it is a much more positive and longer lasting effect than a few cans of aerosol paint.
So, on that positive note may I wish Steam Age Daydreams fans and followers all the steaming best for 2018.
If you have enjoyed my blogs – I have written a book about my 60 years involvement with railways, from trainspotter, via steam age footplateman, to railway author and photographer, this is a link to it:
Until New Year the eBook edition of Gricing is on offer at just £3:95, that’s a whole book for less than a monthly mag.