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How would preserved railways have developed if history had been different?

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Cowley

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This is following on from Calthrops thread about having a choice between saving the lines that were lost or steam not being eradicated so quickly.
If the closures hadn't happened in that way and lines such as The Great Central or West Somerset for example hadn't become available for preservation and if steam hadn't ended as rapidly as it did, therefore perhaps Barry scrapyard being just another scrap merchant would have carried on cutting up wagons and maybe the odd batch of twenty steam locos that they were able to process along with everything else.
What do people think would have ended up being preserved?
 
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edwin_m

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Maybe not much more than what is in the NRM? Plus the narrow gauge of course.

It would also be interesting to compare the UK situation with that in other countries that didn't have lots of line closures and did transition from steam more slowly.
 

Bevan Price

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If steam had been phased out more slowly, BR would probably have continued to scrap all the withdrawn locos rather than sell any to scrap merchants. It was only when large numbers of steam locos were being withdrawn that scrapping exceeded BR's own capacity, and sales to scrap merchants commenced.

BR did sell a few locos direct to preservationists and that would probably have continued. However, there would not have been a "Barry-style" source of steam locos for "latecomers" to the preservation movement.

Lines obtained by the heritage movement would probably be similar to the Bluebell Line or Worth Valley Railway - mostly shortish branch lines (or sections thereof), often in rural areas or serving villages / very small towns. Lines like Minehead, or the Great Central would still be part of the national network, although some of the lesser-used stations might have closed.
 

Cowley

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If steam had been phased out more slowly, BR would probably have continued to scrap all the withdrawn locos rather than sell any to scrap merchants. It was only when large numbers of steam locos were being withdrawn that scrapping exceeded BR's own capacity, and sales to scrap merchants commenced.

BR did sell a few locos direct to preservationists and that would probably have continued. However, there would not have been a "Barry-style" source of steam locos for "latecomers" to the preservation movement.

Lines obtained by the heritage movement would probably be similar to the Bluebell Line or Worth Valley Railway - mostly shortish branch lines (or sections thereof), often in rural areas or serving villages / very small towns. Lines like Minehead, or the Great Central would still be part of the national network, although some of the lesser-used stations might have closed.

That's pretty much how I see it, I find it hard to imagine a UK without all the preserved railways we have though. Imagine also railways like the West Somerset completely rationalised with maybe a passing loop at Williton and basically just a long siding to Minehead a bit like the Newquay branch, lots of buildings/infrastructure etc wiped away.

Edwin M said it would be interesting to compare ourselves with other countries that did do things more slowly than ours and I've often thought that it would, but I bet when you compare ourselves as a country we're a real one off when it comes to railway sentimentality (with a nod there to Mr Calthorpe). ;)
 

Calthrop

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When one stops to consider -- this is indeed alternative-history territory, with quite a potential number of different ways in which things might have gone; and with increasing numbers of possible alternative consequences, of the different paths taken.

Maybe not much more than what is in the NRM? Plus the narrow gauge of course.

Yes, the narrow gauge would indeed be a different kettle of fish: likely enough, narrow-gauge preservation would have gone a lot like it has in "Our Time-Line"[OTL].

If steam had been phased out more slowly, BR would probably have continued to scrap all the withdrawn locos rather than sell any to scrap merchants. It was only when large numbers of steam locos were being withdrawn that scrapping exceeded BR's own capacity, and sales to scrap merchants commenced.

BR did sell a few locos direct to preservationists and that would probably have continued. However, there would not have been a "Barry-style" source of steam locos for "latecomers" to the preservation movement.

Lines obtained by the heritage movement would probably be similar to the Bluebell Line or Worth Valley Railway - mostly shortish branch lines (or sections thereof), often in rural areas or serving villages / very small towns. Lines like Minehead, or the Great Central would still be part of the national network, although some of the lesser-used stations might have closed.

It would seem clear, indeed, that in a situation of far more of the network lasting a lot longer than in OTL: lines taken over by preservation societies would be relatively “minor and marginal” ones. Pace Cowley, possibly in fair numbers – in any halfway-realistic scenario, some lines closed in the 1960s in OTL, would perish in the ‘60s or later, even on a scene of an overall better history for lesser lines than actually came to pass. Just, many of the lines which got preserved, would be different ones from those of OTL.

A thing which I can get a bit bigoted about: I, personally, regret that so much of the preservation movement’s potential effort is dispersed in what I see as silly, piddling little “three-men-and-a-dog” outfits; rather than people concentrating on fewer, but bigger and more worthwhile, more-established lines. I’d be willing to bet that this phenomenon would be the same – even if with different locations -- in our alternative scenarios as above. “With my head”, I can see how and why this thing is: people are not natural “communists”, and many of them prefer being a daft, piffling little wheel in their own right; to being just a cog in someone else’s large-scale, magnificent wheel. Also, folk tend to like to have a project which is on their doorstep and convenient to get to.

(A rather flippant “aside”: I had forgotten the date of BR’s closing of the Worth Valley line: looking it up, I found that the branch passenger service was withdrawn as from Jan. 1st 1962. In my “genie” scenario in the other thread, I hypothesised most of the network as at the very beginning of 1962, long remaining in service: whereby the Worth Valley branch might just “make the cut”, and be in action as part of the national rail system for decades thereafter, delivering – one hopes – railbus-loads of Brontë devotees to Haworth.)

Bevan Price’s thoughts on different circumstances of availability of steam locos to preserve, given a situation of steam’s being phased out more slowly and sensibly: prompt musing on how things might have been, overall; given a higher degree of co-operation / friendship / assistance from the national rail undertaking, toward the preservation movement.

The picture I get is that in OTL, in the 1960s BR’s attitude was more than a little hostile to anything which smacked of “nostalgic / reactionary sentimentalism”: they tended to make things difficult for preservationists, rather than go at all out of their way to help them. An instance that comes to mind, is the trouble which many preserved lines have long had, as regards making direct connection with main-line services. Some – e.g., once again the Worth Valley -- have been lucky in this respect, thanks to the chances of how their infrastructure had developed. Others have been less fortunate; as, say, the West Somerset and its being unable to run regularly into Taunton. (In circumstances such as WSR / Taunton as just referred to, one sees the national network’s point of view: very difficult to run frequent, slow branch-line trains between Norton Fitzwarren and Taunton station, without great disruption.)

One wonders what might have come about, in a situation of a national network which was both bigger, with many relatively lightly-trafficked rural lines; and more disposed toward help and co-operation vis-a-vis the preservation movement; than was the case in OTL. Greater possibilities for direct passenger connection national network / preserved line, at lightly-used country junctions?

Perhaps even, its being possible to work things out for preserved steam-hauled trains to share regular passenger workings over some rural lines, with the national network’s modern diesel railmotors? That is, maybe, crazily optimistic: from my limited knowledge of preservation on the European continent, such stuff seems to occur little there, if at all (Wolsztyn in Poland maybe an instance of its happening) – but our famously eccentric nation often does things differently from “that lot over there”...

Edwin M said it would be interesting to compare ourselves with other countries that did do things more slowly than ours and I've often thought that it would, but I bet when you compare ourselves as a country we're a real one off when it comes to railway sentimentality (with a nod there to Mr Calthorpe). ;)

I'm not so sure -- as I've mentioned on the forum before, that's a thing which the Germans, too, are very big on. And railway-enthusiast numbers in the USA, are legion: many of them steam fans, keeping preserved steam action going -- albeit "real" steam came to an end in the US, overall quite some years earlier than in Britain -- an American would in the main have to be at least in their late sixties, to have meaningful memories from childhood, of "the real thing".

Re detailed comparisons -- one feels that yet another thread is perhaps indicated::-x (in "Railway History & Nostalgia"; or in the "International" section?).
 

Cowley

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Interesting stuff
Re the above I hadn't really thought about the USA, clearly a country with many railfans and I know there is much interest in other countries including Germany of course in Europe.
Has anyone ever seen people on the end of platforms taking numbers in other countries?
I don't know if that's a thing or is it just us?
 

Calthrop

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Interesting stuff
Re the above I hadn't really thought about the USA, clearly a country with many railfans and I know there is much interest in other countries including Germany of course in Europe.
Has anyone ever seen people on the end of platforms taking numbers in other countries?
I don't know if that's a thing or is it just us?

I haven't, to my knowledge: but (stereotypes about other nations, which can of course be very much off the mark) -- one is tempted to feel that it's a thing which would be likely to appeal to many male Germans of all ages...
 

Harbornite

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Interesting stuff
Re the above I hadn't really thought about the USA, clearly a country with many railfans and I know there is much interest in other countries including Germany of course in Europe.
Has anyone ever seen people on the end of platforms taking numbers in other countries?
I don't know if that's a thing or is it just us?


Go on youtube and flickr and you'll find plenty of German, Polish and Americans who enjoy filming and photographing trains, possibly with this in mind,
 

JohnElliott

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Thinking of the Bluebell in particular: The point of divergence suggested in the original thread was in the early 1960s, after the Bluebell had moved into preservation. So I'd expect that in that case East Grinstead - Horsted Keynes - Haywards Heath would be a double-track electrified line, and the Bluebell would have extended southward from Sheffield Park towards Lewes. West Hoathly station would be open, maybe even with its original buildings if they were in reasonable condition, but Kingscote would most likely have been closed and demolished.
 

Harbornite

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I imagine that lines such as the West Somerset, had they survived with BR, would have lost their buildings in favour of bus shelters, and eventually sprinters would be used.
 

yorksrob

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Thinking of the Bluebell in particular: The point of divergence suggested in the original thread was in the early 1960s, after the Bluebell had moved into preservation. So I'd expect that in that case East Grinstead - Horsted Keynes - Haywards Heath would be a double-track electrified line, and the Bluebell would have extended southward from Sheffield Park towards Lewes. West Hoathly station would be open, maybe even with its original buildings if they were in reasonable condition, but Kingscote would most likely have been closed and demolished.

Good point. The Bluebell railway had already started the preservation bug before the 1960's even began, let alone Beeching. I suspect that more of those lines closed before the 1960's might have been preserved. For example the freight spur on the Northern part of the Meon valley line could have made a preservation project, had the mid-Hants remained in use.

Possibly fewer if the takeovers of lines in situ as they closed and were taken over, but doubtless some would have taken over already closed lines. K&ESR is another which would have still been available without the 1960's closures.
 

Cowley

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I'd agree with all three of the above posts. We had a strange perfect storm of many enthusiasts who didn't want to see everything lost, lots of lines becoming available and a scrapyard full of available locomotives. If any one of those three things hadn't been available things would have been completely different.
Maybe if electrification had become more widespread and the railways had developed in a more measured way there wouldn't have been so many diesel fans either? Which would also effected the way preserved lines would have developed.
 

Harbornite

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Maybe if electrification had become more widespread and the railways had developed in a more measured way there wouldn't have been so many diesel fans either? Which would also effected the way preserved lines would have developed.

Possibly. Had the East coast mainline been wired in the 1960s, we could have seen class 40s doing most of the passenger jobs in the interim (a bit like what actually happened) but they would have been replaced by ACs rsther than Deltics. Therefore you wouldn't have any deltic fans, unless they were ordered for other lines.
 
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