So here's where I'm at now as far as my own views of the heritage sector and the challenges it faces to retain volunteers, especially those with bespoke skills, stand. They're not very positive, unfortunately, so cast your eyes away if you don't want to read what I see as the bleak reality on the horizon... I hung my boots up at the GCR this month after 12 years as a volunteer. Just don't have the time for it anymore, and as such was unable to commit the number of turns needed to maintain my working member status. I know the ropes, know the railway and platform duties like the back of my hand, and have by all accounts been a valued servant of the line for more than a decade, but I just have too many other things in my adult life that take priority nowadays. They can't justify keeping me on the books for "the odd turn" every 4 months or so anymore, which is completely understandable given the microscope railways now find themselves under in terms of H&S, professionalism and welfare, but it's worth noting that my role was non-safety critical and I can't speak for the whole railway from the position of a lowly porter / P.I. Since I'm leaving the country in January, there is zero point in me reapplying and sitting through the training that now appears mandatory in order to potter around on the station maybe once or twice between now and me leaving. Even if I did, my credentials would just lapse again in the two years I'm going to be gone, and I'd have to do it all again when (or if) I return from my working holiday and decide I have the time for the railway again. The days of asking to volunteer and being able to just walk-up and get stuck in are long gone now. It's a ballache when you're unable to commit, and kind of hurts given I was a regular for the first six years I volunteered, before moving away for University. But, again, I get the real world is biting, and the railway can't justify casual volunteers anymore for legal reasons as operations professionalise. But there is a chronic issue with that professionalisation - the workforce is still almost entirely voluntary and ultimately doing their turn on the railway "for fun", so to have to jump through more and more hoops just to turn out for a day's work is not in the least bit appealing without some other form of incentive beyond "keeping the past alive". The volunteer workforce in the heritage railway sector is disproportionately made up of A) retired or semi-retired people and B) young people of Uni age and lower, who have the spare time to be able to make the commitment. If my experience is anything to go by, for those of working age with time at a premium, there is a huge shortage in necessary skills and experience, or the outright love of the job to keep them prioritising it above work, family and other personal hobbies and commitments. The few of working age that do seem to turn out regularly for the railway seem to have little else going on, which is fine, but it's not a sustainable model to rely on the odd person with that much spare time to cover the manpower of the majority of the population, as the older generation with the skills needed becomes less able to contribute by the day. Put simply, unless you can train up those kids in group B above, then convince them to stay on with the railway when they hit the world of work, numerous disciplines, (especially those safety-critical ones that now require a de facto professional qualification to do on a voluntary basis with next to no prospect of real-world transferrable employment) are certain to face a chronic and possibly fatal shortage of skilled labour. As bright as the future looks on the surface when you see youth in the heritage sector, scratch the surface and there's still a massive skills shortage looming with the passing of the last of the "steam" generation: one that won't be filled unless some sort of educational or financial incentive arises to keep young apprentices on lines in sustainable numbers.