Paid positions on heritage railways

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mind the gap

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Hi everyone,

Following on from the temporary closure of heritage lines and the financial impact, I was wondering on the typical structure of paid staff on a heritage railway :

  • Chairman / Board members
  • Company secretary (as most have an element as limited company as well as a charity)
  • General / Ops manager
  • “Chief” engineer - P Way and Loco / rolling stock
  • Catering manager - Cafe / on train dining
Any other positions?

Not looking for “named” examples, but just a feel of the “wage” demands experienced by a heritage railway

Thankyou
 
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Merle Haggard

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Some of the larger railways have over 100 paid staff. I usually see the members' magazine of one of them, and a recent issue had an article seeking to justify the numbers together with some whataboutery referring to other railways of similar size who had even larger numbers.
On more than one railway the catering at fixed locations is by paid staff and the on-train by volunteers. Interestingly, it's easy to detect a difference in attitude towards the customer between the two employment situations...
 

Flying Phil

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In 2019 the GCR had about 99 paid employees (10 management 89 Other) costing £1.45M and a turnover of £3.6M. [Remembering about £2M spent on MML bridge].
 

Meerkat

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Presumably some/many of the paid positions are seasonal temps?
 

BigB

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Not all railways will have operations as paid staff, but may have departmental paid staff, such as for steam, carriage and wagon and diesel, depending on the fleet size. Those with commercial engineering facilities, or doing paid work for other parts of the railway, will also employ key people to either do the work or ensure this work is done as required.
The other main benefit is that there is a presence all week to move things on so that the volunteers can progress work at weekends with major pieces in place. I personally see this as the future model for heritage railways, so that volunteer time is optimised. I will resist the temptation to move off topic!

Catering may well be split for good reason - if you "franchise" the hot food side in the buffet you have a regular income stream and it's in the franchisees interest to maximise that income, usually by offering better quality food. Prices will usually be agreed with the railway before any contract is made, to ensure the railway have the regular income. Also if the responsibility for the buffet operation is not the railway's, then it is not subject to the restrictions that a volunteer base may have such as staff not being available.

On train "catering" may be as simple as selling cans and sweets or sandwiches. When this is run by volunteers then the income is retained directly by the railway, and on some days this may be a trickle, on others such as gala days it may be frantic. It is horses for courses, but understandably a commercial concern may not want to tie paid staff up if there is no proven income stream, even at minimum wage.
 
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Merle Haggard

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On train "catering" may be as simple as selling cans and sweets of sandwiches. When this is run by volunteers then the income is retained directly by the railway, and on some days this may be a trickle, on others such as gala days it may be frantic. It is horses for courses, but understandably a commercial concern may not want to tie paid staff up if there is no proven income stream, even at minimum wage.

It may be simple, but it's pretty continuous work, covering the length of a train with a trolley. It's rostered from start to end of service so they have to turn up for a full day. One of the crews (husband and wife) of my acquaintance on the SVR travel from Canvey Island most weekends (and the husband can remember the floods, so they're not young). The on train catering seems to be regarded as the one of the biggest income streams on the railway. Meanwhile, at one of the buffets, a member of staff didn't understand the principle of numbered duplicate tickets - gives both copies to the kitchen, despite a number of protests, and then, when order fulfilled, couldn't fairly choose whose sausage sandwich it was...
The GC provides a wider hot food choice on trains than at stations and generally it's provided more quickly (though, as the Loughborough buffet took three quarters of an hour for a sausage sandwich once, a low bar).
 

BigB

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It may be simple, but it's pretty continuous work, covering the length of a train with a trolley. It's rostered from start to end of service so they have to turn up for a full day.
When I said simple, I meant that it was not as extensive a service as at the stations - not that it was easy None of this is easy - but some volunteers do seem to make it harder than it needs to be...
Having worked on the kitchen side of railtours (unpaid as were the rest of the kitchen staff - our railway does this too) it can be very hard work non stop from when the railtour starts to when it stops for all of us - including the buffet. For a team who don't do this for a living but come together to run the show like clockwork I have nothing but admiration for the "hot" side team.
That said, we are intending - when allowed out again for railtours - that food is contracted out; not because it is hard or unprofitable, but because it's a major commitment for volunteers and if you have a day job that is not running catering for your railway's trains, then something has to give.
To get back on topic - this is where some key staff, seasonal or otherwise, can make a difference to the running - and economic survival - of railways.
The big issue is getting the right staff who can work well with volunteers - for some people this always causes friction and is probably the hardest thing to balance.
 

Journeyman

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I currently have a paid position for a heritage railway, working on a safety management project for which I had relevant expertise. I've just been furloughed on the government's 80% wages scheme, until further notice.
 

30907

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In 2019 the GCR had about 99 paid employees (10 management 89 Other) costing £1.45M and a turnover of £3.6M.
A quick piece of mental arithmetic (the average employee cost being £14.5k, so average salary more like £13k) suggests that a fair proportion of these are part-time or seasonal.
 

Vespa

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GCR has a lot of employees, £1.45m is a significant outlay, when this coronavirus is over there will be a need to trim back the staffs and wages especially the top tier of management to remain financially solvent as a temporary measure, otherwise there's no railways to manage.

This also leads to another thought, couldn't some of the staff be redeployed as security guards, I've heard of incidents of trespass and vandalism on heritage railways during the shut down, East Lancashire Railway had some brass stolen.
 

Llanigraham

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I'd guess your railway is either very small or it uses contractors for a load of functions now then.
Yes it's small, and most things we are able to do ourselves, but we also have to use contractors for other jobs. For example, the Trunk Road Agency insist upon it for work close to their infrastructure, and building boilers is a bit beyond our capabilities.
 

fireftrm

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GCR has a lot of employees, £1.45m is a significant outlay, when this coronavirus is over there will be a need to trim back the staffs and wages especially the top tier of management to remain financially solvent as a temporary measure, otherwise there's no railways to manage.

This also leads to another thought, couldn't some of the staff be redeployed as security guards, I've heard of incidents of trespass and vandalism on heritage railways during the shut down, East Lancashire Railway had some brass stolen.
A rather negative statement about needing to make staff redundant/laid off before the railway itself has made any such comment, I'm sure the employees of the GCR will be very disappointed to read this. With furloughing and the government's 80% contribution this should be less important, it's the amount of income and any remaining support from Govt when they can run again that will be the impact upon whether staffing can be maintained.
 

Vespa

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A rather negative statement about needing to make staff redundant/laid off before the railway itself has made any such comment, I'm sure the employees of the GCR will be very disappointed to read this. With furloughing and the government's 80% contribution this should be less important, it's the amount of income and any remaining support from Govt when they can run again that will be the impact upon whether staffing can be maintained.

Not negative, realistic. If no money comes in, to prevent GCR indeed any other preserved railways from going bankrupt and disappearing, to save the railways cuts will have be made, its as simple as that.
 

fireftrm

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Not negative, realistic. If no money comes in, to prevent GCR indeed any other preserved railways from going bankrupt and disappearing, to save the railways cuts will have be made, its as simple as that.
Furloughing should be helpful and discussing redundancies when the staff are likley to on here isn't useful.
 

mpthomson

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GCR has a lot of employees, £1.45m is a significant outlay, when this coronavirus is over there will be a need to trim back the staffs and wages especially the top tier of management to remain financially solvent as a temporary measure, otherwise there's no railways to manage.

This also leads to another thought, couldn't some of the staff be redeployed as security guards, I've heard of incidents of trespass and vandalism on heritage railways during the shut down, East Lancashire Railway had some brass stolen.


Dropping 'top tier' staff salaries tends not to make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things as there's normally only one or two of them. Of course they may be measures needed but saying 'especially management' isn't very helpful. I doubt they're on that much as it is.
 

LowLevel

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Commentary made without detailed knowledge of the circumstances is useless. A lot of the GCR positions are part time zero hours style catering posts anyway and it is in a decent enough financial position for the time being.

There is no guarantee that salaries/posts will need to be cut.

Depending on how long things drag on circumstances may change but posting as if it's a certainty that any particular course of action will definitely be taken without detailed knowledge of those circumstances is, with respect, stupid.
 

LowLevel

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99 seems an awful lot, what are their occupations?

Most will be caterers on board the trains and in the cafés. Then there's loco and carriage engineering staff who undertake a lot of contract work as well as maintaining the railway's own home fleets. Then there are a small team of operations staff who supplement the volunteer staff when it comes to operating the railway, being able to provide drivers, guards, signalmen, control staff etc, as well as cleaning carriages, ordering and distributing supplies and stores to the stations and other areas and numerous other jobs. The railway operates trains most days now between service trains, charters and testing/project work, the volunteer workforce isn't able to keep up.

Then there's a volunteer/paid staff mix of management and projects staff.

A lot goes on behind the scenes at the GCR - it doesn't have the usual dependence on tourists in the summer that you see elsewhere, and does a lot of trade in the week hiring out the line.

It's balance sheet is a lot healthier than other lines too.

You don't see much of a demarcation between the paid and volunteer staff. It's quite common to have mixed groups undertaking tasks, everyone has the same goal of working for the railway in mind. You'll get volunteers in charge of work being done by paid staff, mixed train crews with some being paid and others not and so on.
 

duffield

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...

A lot goes on behind the scenes at the GCR - it doesn't have the usual dependence on tourists in the summer that you see elsewhere, and does a lot of trade in the week hiring out the line.
...

Yes, it also seems to be pretty busy with passengers during off-season weekends, running a fairly intensive services and dining trains; I get the impression quite a lot of people from the local area visit fairly regularly.
 

geoffk

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Interesting to see this information about different railways as I'm a member of only one. Does anyone have a figure for donations received by heritage railways since the Covid crisis began? I've seen figures in magazines for ten individual lines, mostly the larger ones, and these add up to around £2 million, so I guess £5m or more could have been raised, including things like on-line auctions.
 

Titfield

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You don't see much of a demarcation between the paid and volunteer staff. It's quite common to have mixed groups undertaking tasks, everyone has the same goal of working for the railway in mind. You'll get volunteers in charge of work being done by paid staff, mixed train crews with some being paid and others not and so on.
From a legal point of view there must be a tangible distinction between the work carried out by a volunteer and a paid member of staff. If there is not the volunteer would be at liberty to make a claim for wages at the same rate as the paid member of staff received.
 

LowLevel

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From a legal point of view there must be a tangible distinction between the work carried out by a volunteer and a paid member of staff. If there is not the volunteer would be at liberty to make a claim for wages at the same rate as the paid member of staff received.

I suspect it is quite technical and far from clear cut and in any case being at liberty to potentially make a claim is far apart from actually making one - you'd have to be pretty undesirable to try in the case of a heritage railway where you effectively are paid in your own satisfaction in indulging a hobby.

Not to mention there are plenty of cases whereby people undertake the same work for different pay - I work as a train guard but my job title is something different. If I work 2A01 one day, I get my wages at the end of the month. If there is a guard shortage and 2A01 is covered by a manager the next day doing effectively the same job, I don't get paid the manager's rate of pay by means of compensation.

Equally on the heritage railway an employee with a host of duties attached to the job title 'operations assistant' which could include cleaning, stock ordering, driving a train, shunting or guarding a train could be working on train A as a guard on a busy high season day. I don't see how it follows that the guard on train B who volunteers solely as a guard would be entitled to the operations assistant's wage, or indeed that of the guard on train C which might be covered by the operations manager on a different rate of pay again.
 

Titfield

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The answer to the examples you have given lie in the fact that a job description invariably includes a phrase along the lines of "and any other task commensurate with the succesfull fulfilment of the role". Carrying out some working at a "lower level or grade" when required is not an issue.
 
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