Dissertation Ideas for Heritage Railways

Discussion in 'Railtours & Preservation' started by trimmtrab, 17 May 2015.

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  1. trimmtrab

    trimmtrab Member

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    I am studying for an MSc in Responsible Tourism Management and want to base my research project on heritage railways. (Responsible tourism means maximising the positive economic, environmental and socio-cultural impacts whilst minimising negative impacts).

    As a straw poll, what research areas would people recommend? My interests lie in socio cultural and environmental issues? Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Llanigraham

    Llanigraham Established Member

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    And now that penultimate sentence in English?
     
  3. Gathursty

    Gathursty Established Member

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    When I read that post, I thought first of the one at Kidderminster as at the other end it is in a World Heritage site. Then I thought about those which are within a National Park (Peak Rail, Porthmadog, Ravenglas etc...)
     
  4. 455driver

    455driver Veteran Member

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    Well done on getting all the latest buzz words in there, unfortunately I only speak normal English so can't understand what it is you are asking.
     
  5. rg177

    rg177 Established Member

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    So basically the OP's interests lie in the benefits/drawbacks etc. of Heritage Railways at a social, cultural and environmental level.

    If that explains it any more :p
     
  6. bluenoxid

    bluenoxid Established Member

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    How long is your dissertation?

    Could be worth contacting the Heritage Railway Association or the NRM, who might have a project/idea that you could assist with.

    There was a massive thing at one point a few years ago about the lack of engagement with minority communities a few years ago by the National Trust. Has that been dealt with or does more need to be done
    There is also the environmental impact of heritage railways and what can be done to mitigate it.

    Finally, are there any conclusions from this report that you can "spin off"

    http://www.markgarnier.co.uk/files/mark_garnier/u4/HeritageRailways.pdf

    My advice is come up with some ideas, then engage some parties who may be interested in your work. It could also open some doors for you too.
     
  7. Skutter

    Skutter Member

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    There's a wide range of railways out there, so you might be looking to contrast some differences rather that cover the whole sector as one. Having said that, most railways were founded and are maintained purely for the preservation aspect, but must market themselves
    alongside other general-interest "days out" in order to bring in the customers and money - an interesting tension.

    Contact the NRM - they did a survey a few years ago which identified something like 13 different customer bases, from "want to get out of the rain" to "researching a paper on 1913-4 ejector design". Other sites will have different audiences too, but maybe not the resources or desire to target them all.

    On the environmental front, by definition preserved railways perpetuate out-of-date and inefficient practices - steam engines, dirty old diesels, coal fires in booking offices. New developments, especially buildings, need to conform to modern standards and often seem to do very well. Some railways provide an alternative to the car - NYMR got support from the North Yorkshire Moors Park authority and others for providing access to the moors (even more now they run to Whitby), Swanage advertise park and ride to Corfe Castle.

    Good luck - and post a link here when it's done.
     
  8. theageofthetra

    theageofthetra Established Member

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    One aspect is where an area is losing its young people due to a lack of job opportunities. Heritage lines are getting involved in apprenticeships which may help stem the tide. I saw an example of this on the reopened Vivrais line in France which is now actively employing (via the regional tourism organisation)young people in the shop, driving grades and in maintenance.
     
  9. bluenoxid

    bluenoxid Established Member

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    Something else to ask is why commuter operations on heritage railways seem to struggle to get off the ground. A number have been long grassed recently including the kWVR.
     
  10. krus_aragon

    krus_aragon Established Member

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    To speak on my own patch, there's a fair bit one could look into on the heritage railways of North-West Wales, with scope for comparisons between them:

    Tom Rolt describes how the Talyllyn Railway was still being operated to serve the needs of the local population when preserved in the post-war era (Railway Adventure). Similarly, I understand that the Ffestiniog/WHR, in addition to originally transporting quarrymen to work, have operated some morning commuter services more recently.

    The rebuilding of the WHR through Snowdonia National Park required several special arrangements, particularly when reopened as far as Beddgelert, to avoid hordes driving there to board at the (temporary terminus). Plenty of scope for analysing environmental studies, etc here.

    Historical comparisons could be made with the Rheidiol railway, which remained state-owned into the 80s(?): A BR steam-operated narrow gauge railway.

    There's also the Snowdon Mountain Railway, which has apparently never regarded itself as a heritage railway, but rather a tourist operation to get the punters up the mountain. In this regard, its use of coal, oil-fired and diesel traction over the years could be interesting.

    Of these, I'd guess the WHR has the greatest scope for a dissertation, but it's your project, of course.
     
  11. Blamethrower

    Blamethrower Member

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    I'd second that, the WHR is a fully documented construction programme within the modern world of lottery and EU funding coupled with H&S and local partnerships.

    You'd do well to check out www.isengard.co.uk - there used to be another site but I'm not sure if that's still going (since the creator died)
     
  12. fandroid

    fandroid Member

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    My own personal interest is in those heritage railways that have potential as contributors to local public transport. It would be great to have some decent research into why this seems to be so difficult. The Festiniog is probably one of the best in that it provides a link between main line railways. There are others that have tried. The Mid-Hants Railway was supposed to be trialling a Parry People Mover as a public transport feature (it never happened). The South Devon Railway is in a great position to provide an easy link from the main line to Dartmouth, but never seems to have tried. there are others too.

    Best of luck!
     
  13. Tim R-T-C

    Tim R-T-C Established Member

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    I think the main topic you would be able to write on, would be on using heritage railways to reduce car journeys and necessary car park construction in tourist destinations and/or limiting the requirement for car journeys for tourists visiting heritage railways.
     
  14. bangor-toad

    bangor-toad Member

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    Hi there,
    As some general advice from within a Uni...

    Choose your title well.
    Resist the urge to cram it full of the latest buzzwords. Some are fine, too many will make the reviewers less impressed.

    Pick a subject that's interesting to you but choose a specific research area where you can get real data.
    A good dissertation will look at data, pose a question or two, analyse that data and come to conclusions.
    A poor dissertation will be full of anecdotal comments and personal viewpoints.

    To find the data, look for similar reports on line to do with the heritage sector.
    See what data sources they've quoted / worked from.
    See if you can access those.
    There is a lot of information out there - but it may not be easy to find initially.
    At the very least you could look at Companies House to get the financial data filed there for each organisation and then compare any growth / decline with their stated environmental policy?

    Also, try to avoid doing your own surveys.
    They take a lot of time & effort and unless you are particularly skilled or lucky you probably won't get enough responses to be meaningful.


    Finally, proof read what you submit!
    I have seen submitted this opening line which passed grammar and spell check but clearly fell foul of a peer practical joker;
    "The main conclusion is obvious which is that I am a fish and that ..."

    Good luck!
    Mr Toad
     
  15. trimmtrab

    trimmtrab Member

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    So please don't reply then, thank you for your time.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    It is 14,000 words, simply the environmental impacts of railways is too large a subject to study at Masters level. The National Trust angle is useful. Thank you.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Thank you, I like the idea above. The project does require some sort of primary data so am afraid I will have to do some sort of survey. Thanks.
     
    Last edited: 18 May 2015
  16. gswindale

    gswindale Member

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    An important point of acquiring information to include in your dissertation is to be able to obtain the best responses/quotes.

    That requires being able to ask the questions in a way that will get real responses from people within the industry you are talking to rather than phrasing it in "university speak".

    If somebody comes back and says they don't understand what you're asking; then re-read the question and see if it can be phrased differently rather than telling them to "go away"!
     
  17. Domeyhead

    Domeyhead Member

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    I do understand what you are saying - it isn't that hard. What you may be interested in exploring is where a heritage line with the passage of time has rediscovered its original purpose as a conventional public transport solution. The Swanage Railway is an obvious example but many other preserved lines have had aspirations to run some kind of public transport service at some point. I think the East Lancs did, and some like the Wensleydale railway railway still see themselves as a hybrid operation.
    It may be interesting to explore whether the (sometimes) conflicting aims of preservation and public transport can coexist without one predominating (and perhaps destroying) the prospects of the other.
    As a secondary or complementary analysis, whether a heritage operation could in some way help assist the business case of a potential reopening. For this you could look at the residue of the Waverley route from Carlisle to Tweedbank, or Skipton to Colne (utilising the Settle-Carlisle) or Lewes to Uckfield (running heritage trains down from Eridge and TUnbridge Wells). There are many other examples. Good luck anyway.
     
  18. starlightEXPRESS

    starlightEXPRESS Member

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  19. trimmtrab

    trimmtrab Member

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  20. JohnGeddes

    JohnGeddes Member

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    How about looking at the promise vs reality of the "traffic reduction" hopes of the WHR (which featured quite strongly in the grant justifications if I remember correctly) .

    There might be mileage in looking at the size of gap between the low fares needed in order to tempt car users out of their cars if they weren't looking for a heritage experience, and the level of fares needed from other passengers in order to make a heritage line viable. You could then examine examples of socially-acceptable measures that would allow an operation to operate such extreme price discrimination - find none (I suspect), and thus demonstrate that whatever the other desirable attributes of heritage railways, road traffic reduction is not a realistic objective.

    John Geddes
     
  21. fsmr

    fsmr Member

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    The Great Central would be worth looking at as they are now joining up with Leicester City Council to bring about the new Lottery funded NRM museum in Leicester's boundary

    It is slightly at odds as Leicester City and their Mayor Peter Soulsby who have been very anti pollution and CO2 emissions which always makes me chuckle when I shove Wales finest steam coal up the chimney. An electric heritage railway just wouldn't work trust me unless its 100 yrs old over scenic mountains in Majorca ;)
    Leicester also has a massive diverse ethnic population so would be interesting to see the balance of the GCR visitors
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-30267922
     
  22. lyndhurst25

    lyndhurst25 Member

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    On the environmental aspect, you could look at by what means of transport visitors to heritage railways use to get there.

    A few lines have through ticketing arrangements with National Rail services to encourage visitors to use public transport. On the plus side these schemes sometimes offer a discount to the normal fares and possibly also railcard discounts. However these fares are sometimes poorly advertised, difficult to purchase, not available from all stations or with all ticket types. Also they seem to be set up so that the heritage line is the destination, rather than the origin of the journey.

    Some herritage lines also run their own local railcard schemes, where people living in the local area can get discounted travel. Whether or not this encourages people to use the lines for actual "commuting" would be interesting to find out.
     
  23. trimmtrab

    trimmtrab Member

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    Thanks for all your help. I have decided on a title as follows:

    "Investigate the extent to which socio-cultural and economic impacts upon the UK Heritage Railway sector are recognised and how organisations can benefit fully from the positive impacts".

    Socio-cultural means how the local community life benefits from the railway e.g. volunteers, use of railway for everyday use, local employment (lots of benefits). Economic benefits means how local business can benefit from the railway e.g local produce sold in gift shop, local contractors used for jobs, deals and offers with local hotels"

    Hope this helps. If anyone can provide help on these themes, again if you could assist.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    I have a question on the survey which asks railways to rate how National Rail link with them. A low score can then turn into recommendations with a few case studies thrown in to enhance this point.
     
    Last edited: 29 May 2015
  24. JohnGeddes

    JohnGeddes Member

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    If you are looking for (indirect) negative impacts of Heritage railways, look at Matlock.

    The needs of Peak Rail meant that the 2007 Sainsbury+Relief Road development ended up delivering Sainsbury an island of unopposed retailing. The retention of the rail line beyond Matlock station cuts off easy access from Sainsbury to the town centre, with customers considering a visit to the town centre needing to take an uphill diversion to get high enough to cross the railway. Result? Damage to the vitality of the town centre, as a large proportion of Sainsbury visitors never venture into town.

    Without Peak Rail, there could have been level access from Sainsbury to town centre, and the town centre would have seen less impact on its commercial viability.

    To be clear, I hold no grudge against Peak Rail - but if you are wanting to reflect the whole picture on the economic impact of Heritage railways, you do need to look at the downside too.

    John Geddes
    Derbyshire
     
  25. 341o2

    341o2 Member

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    not entirely clear re the OP but how about the Swanage railway which should be reintroducing a diesel MU service to Wareham in the near future.

    In fact, the SR nearly went bust, with shaky finances, extending to Corfe castle and beyond to Norden may not seem prudent, but part of the agreement is that given parking within the town of Corfe is non existent, the railway is not to run any regular services terminating there, those wanting to visit Corfe or indeed Swanage are encouraged to park at Norden and take the train from then on

    Having recently travelled by car from Bournemouth to Wool, I can vouch that weekend congestion around Wareham can be horrendous, the longer journey to Bere Regis and join the a35 there is probably quicker
     
  26. 6Gman

    6Gman Established Member

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    Welsh Highland is interesting as it faced some very strong local opposition. The comment upthread about Matlock is also very interesting.

    I wonder if a small market town in long-term decline was given the choice between a heritage railway and a Waitrose which would deliver the greater economic, social and environmental benefit to the local community?

    (I'm thinking it wouldn't be the railway!)

    :D
     
  27. DarloRich

    DarloRich Veteran Member

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    You are going to need to question customers of the heritage railway quite closely as for the second part of the title you will need to asses how many customers "leak" out of the heritage railway into the local community, then how much they spend, then where they spend it.

    My guess is that most money outside of the railway is spent in pubs and cafes followed by B&B/hotels.
     
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