Shortage of volunteers

Malcmal

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No, I know when people are downright rude, especially when saying to another volunteer (a young lad) "For ***** sake, show this idiot how to couple a train" and (to me) "Well what the **** are you telling me for?" when I was trying to follow procedure.

Then being accused of stealing, and not turning up for Crossing Duty, when I told them well in advance I was not going to make it.
This only highlights my previous point about the attitude towards volunteers from SOME parts of the heritage railway scene. I see this attitude where people see a railway (or forum) as "my precious" and become aggressively possessive of same. The only hope is that a strong leader with a good sense of fair play takes charge and is not afraid to eject the bad elements no matter how "irreplaceable" or "senior" they think they might be.
 
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RailUK Forums

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Utility bills
Business rates
Insurance
Marketing
Maintenance
(all of which are still being paid in the non-running season)
Hire charges
Fuel billspossibly
Reserves (both generally & for major works)



Loads of other heritage organisations have very large volunteer numbers. Paid staff are generally on low wages & seasonal.
Some would add multiple, expensive to put on, galas leak money as well.
 

Serathor

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This only highlights my previous point about the attitude towards volunteers from SOME parts of the heritage railway scene. I see this attitude where people see a railway (or forum) as "my precious" and become aggressively possessive of same. The only hope is that a strong leader with a good sense of fair play takes charge and is not afraid to eject the bad elements no matter how "irreplaceable" or "senior" they think they might be.
Agreed, I would love to go back. Some of the staff/volunteers where great. But I won't go back because I know for a certain fact these people in question are still there. (I saw them on a recent Organisational Youtube Video)

I was treated like ****, and other where, so as such they lost a hardworking individual who gave up precious weekends to try and help

Weekends are precious to me, I work hard throughout the week. and I the experience was nothing what I expected (menial jobs or not) I am talking about the attitude from certain people.
 

theblackwatch

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Where does all the money go ? If your not paying your staff and are reliant on volunteers' then where is the cash flow leaking out ? Is it a case of significantly reduced income or that "operating costs" are spiraling out of control ?
Here is some of the things that the NYMR is spending its money on (having been awarded a £4.6 million lottery grant, the railway has to match that figure with its own funds):
  • Renew and repair the worn-out iron bridges around Goathland, removing a threat to the NYMR’s continued operation (£2.67M).
  • Provide a fuss free access carriage in every train, with ramps, loos and seating to easily accommodate the needs of all passengers, whatever their mobility (£770k).
  • Construct a covered stable for up to 40 carriages at Pickering, reducing decay and easing maintenance of the irreplaceable carriage fleet (£4.16M).
  • Better serve school groups and families with a dedicated education carriage at Goathland, building on success at Pickering and providing interpretation so visitors get more from their visit to a perfect country station (£330k).
  • Create a new volunteer hostel at Grosmont, providing decent facilities to encourage new volunteers including families and young people (£450k).
  • Develop initiatives to recruit new generations of volunteers to the line (£170k).
  • Build a railway apprenticeship programme (£470k).
  • Place a new emphasis on the care and management of the 18 miles of lineside (£170k).
(Figures courtesy of https://www.nymr.co.uk/north-yorkshire-moors-railway-secures-national-lottery-support-ymj-news )

Note that of £500,000 is being invested in volunteers...
 

ComUtoR

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Its a massive list of expenses; which I expected (cheers for the contributors). So where is the income coming from ?

If galas are leaking money...

Are there sponsorship deals, fundraising events, etc. Or just reliant on income from Galas and tourism ?
 
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Its a massive list of expenses; which I expected (cheers for the contributors). So where is the income coming from ?

If galas are leaking money...

Are there sponsorship deals, fundraising events, etc. Or just reliant on income from Galas and tourism ?
It's not "just" income from tourism, i is the vital part of revenue, coupled with the sales and catering income it generates.
 

Belperpete

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Am I being very layperson naive or is that a lot of money for a big shed?
A shed capable of housing 40 carriages is going to be a BIG shed. You are talking of a sizeable factory building. It will need lighting and power, somewhere for the water off the roof to go, and of course it will need track laying in it. There will likely need to be substantial groundworks required before you even start putting the shed up. £4.16M does not seem unreasonable.
 

Steamie Boxes

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To the earlier posts about the young volunteers wanting to drive the trains and all. I’m 15 and volunteer at Ravenglass (as I’ve already said) and I am asked to do multiple jobs and volunteer my early weekend mornings to clean the locos and during winter go and relay track. Let’s just say it’s not all glamour.
 

Belperpete

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Which I understand but any business has to survive and balance the costs. Speaking to an enthusiast friend, the costs to run and maintain a steam loco are quite exorbitant. I'm not looking to blame anyone but I get the impression that there is a lot of mismanagement in the Heritage sector. Maybe, in part, because that it is treated like a toy train set. I think it needs to modernize and diversify if it is to survive.
The view that preserved railways are run by people just playing trains is one that has dogged the preservation movement from its earliest days, not helped by films liked the Titchfield Thunderbolt. It is still one that the press like to wheel out, and sometimes lines seem to play along for the publicity. But the reality on all the preserved lines that I am aware of could not be further from the truth. Management is taken very seriously, especially commercial management.

I am not going to say that there is no mismanagement in the Heritage sector, because patently there has been, and likely still is. Things can become difficult when enthusiasts push pet projects regardless of commercial realities. In particular, enthusiasts not involved in the day-to-day running of an enterprise inevitably have a distorted perception of the commercial realities. Which is why all the major heritage lines have full-time management on site. The reality is that any line of any significance that doesn't take its commercial management seriously isn't going to survive very long.
 

Belperpete

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Similarly, I thought 450k seemed a lot for a new volunteer hostel.
You cannot be serious - 450k seems remarkably good value to me. How much would it cost to buy a similarly-sized hotel in that area?

There does seem to be this view that "I can paint my house for the price of a couple of tins of paint, why does it cost so much to paint a carriage?" that doesn't take into the realities of doing things properly and professionally, in accordance with working at height regs and such-like that the DIYer doesn't have to bother with.

I'd vaguely assumed it would be built on land the railway owned, which is often the biggest cost.
That depends on whether the railway had suitable land spare, in a suitable place. Even if they did have such land available, local residents may not take too kindly to the railway building what is effectively a hotel there, and the land may not be zoned for residential use, meaning that planning permission may not be granted to build on that land.
 

DarloRich

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Am I being very layperson naive or is that a lot of money for a big shed?
Similarly, I thought 450k seemed a lot for a new volunteer hostel. I'd vaguely assumed it would be built on land the railway owned, which is often the biggest cost.
You are both being a bit naive imo. The NYMR is in ( part or all) of the national park. Planning is hideously difficult and potentially costly there!

You are looking at land acquisition, design, planning, ground work, construction/conversion, fit out, services/utilities, track, signalling etc etc BEFORE you start to think about any special materials that may be required to pacify local residents and fit in with the ethos/feel of the railway and the manpower, specialists, lawyers, architects, structural engineers and equipment you need to buy in to do the job.

The prices look pretty spot on to me!

The view that preserved railways are run by people just playing trains is one that has dogged the preservation movement from its earliest days, not helped by films liked the Titchfield Thunderbolt. It is still one that the press like to wheel out, and sometimes lines seem to play along for the publicity. But the reality on all the preserved lines that I am aware of could not be further from the truth. Management is taken very seriously, especially commercial management.

I am not going to say that there is no mismanagement in the Heritage sector, because patently there has been, and likely still is. Things can become difficult when enthusiasts push pet projects regardless of commercial realities. In particular, enthusiasts not involved in the day-to-day running of an enterprise inevitably have a distorted perception of the commercial realities. Which is why all the major heritage lines have full-time management on site. The reality is that any line of any significance that doesn't take its commercial management seriously isn't going to survive very long.
It isnt commercial management that is the problem for the ORR!

Safety Management hasn't, always, been taken as seriously as it should have been. That leads to the question about entity in charge of maintenance, competence management, training, record keeping and so on and so on. This kind of stuff is fundamental to running a railway and is, perhaps, overlooked by well meaning enthusiasts who don't think it is important.

That is what I mean about professionalism. Everyone, volunteer or paid staff, HAVE to meet the required standards every day. No compromise, no difference.
 
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Monty

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Many of the paid staff roles tend to be those who work in the boilershops and other heavy engineering areas. That's not to say they have volunteers, but you'll find many of big railways will have a core team of paid staff to carry out maintenance and specialist work. It's a small and niche industry so the wages have to be competitive.

So it can be understandable if large sums are money are used to pay staff.
 
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Absolutely so. The incident where an individual was killec by alineside structure because he leaned out of a window is a classic example. A sad event but as a railway professional as well as a preservation volunteer he should, should have known better.

Incidentally, for those railways who issue computer generated tickets (cue for harrumph in some quarters) the system offers the opportunity for the blanks to be printed on the reverse with a "please do not lean out" message. This is being done in at least one place.
 

theironroad

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Many of the paid staff roles tend to be those who work in the boilershops and other heavy engineering areas. That's not to say they have volunteers, but you'll find many of big railways will have a core team of paid staff to carry out maintenance and specialist work. It's a small and niche industry so the wages have to be competitive.

So it can be understandable if large sums are money are used to pay staff.
Maybe it's time for the heritage sector to have a major overhaul, and a real rationalisation of the number of railways. Hate to use the term, but maybe a Beeching Report for Heritage Railways.

A need to professionalise operations and meet ORR regs means that safety management competence is vital for all roles, everyday not just when there is time.

Some of the heritage railways are already mutli-million pound businesses and maybe it's time that more, if not most of the roles are done by paid, contracted staff. Many heritage railways are in rural and coastal tourist areas which are crying out for decent full time jobs all year round, supplemented by seasonal paid staff.

I'm not sure that a mutli-million pound business whose business model relies on not paying the majority of its staff or providing few, if any benefits is particularly ethical especially if those staff are expected and treated as if they are paid and contracted employees. In some cases it seems that volunteers are expected to pay for overnight accommodation at their own expense in railway provided hostels.

A better focus on what the fare paying passenger wants rather than throwing thousands of pounds after sentimental projects that might never come to fruition. A yard full of rusting rusting and decaying scrap locos and carriages being kept forever in the hope they might be restored is not only wasting space, missing out on some scrap revenue but often detracts from the experience that most visitors come for.

Relying on volunteers to run a railway isn't sound, as this thread started out talking about. It's only a dedicated bunch who are happy to turn up very early in the morning to a prep a loco or work a train late in the evening in the pouring rain.

Many people on railforum are quite happy to froth at the mouth when the big railway has to rely on volunteer train crew to run Sunday services on some companies, and while they are different beast, a network and operator needs to know it will have people available to run that timetable, which with volunteer labour isn't always possible.

I can forsee in the next 5-10 years the number of heritage railways being drastically reduced as many no longer become viable for various reasons and only a few big players being left.
 

theironroad

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Absolutely so. The incident where an individual was killec by alineside structure because he leaned out of a window is a classic example. A sad event but as a railway professional as well as a preservation volunteer he should, should have known better.

Incidentally, for those railways who issue computer generated tickets (cue for harrumph in some quarters) the system offers the opportunity for the blanks to be printed on the reverse with a "please do not lean out" message. This is being done in at least one place.
It was indeed a very sad event, but the aftermath was that a couple of months ago GTR were fined £1m plus having to pay £52,000 prosecution costs as well as their own costs after the ORR brought a prosecution.

While I imagine insurance offsets some of this, imagine if a similar event happened on a small heritage railway ... would be financially catastrophic.
 
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It was indeed a very sad event, but the aftermath was that a couple of months ago GTR were fined £1m plus having to pay £52,000 prosecution costs as well as their own costs after the ORR brought a prosecution.

While I imagine insurance offsets some of this, imagine if a similar event happened on a small heritage railway ... would be financially catastrophic.
As I understand it, the action was brought because of the clutter of guff laden notices around the door in question which were held to impair the impact of the all important "don't lean out" one. Sadly one can be cynical that the victim would have ignored any notice even had it been on its own and in very big lettering. The court case had the general public, rather than the supposedly knowledgeable in mind.

Consequent upon the incident checks have been made of clearances on tourist railways and window notices.
 

DarloRich

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Maybe it's time for the heritage sector to have a major overhaul, and a real rationalisation of the number of railways. Hate to use the term, but maybe a Beeching Report for Heritage Railways.

A need to professionalise operations and meet ORR regs means that safety management competence is vital for all roles, everyday not just when there is time.

Some of the heritage railways are already mutli-million pound businesses and maybe it's time that more, if not most of the roles are done by paid, contracted staff. Many heritage railways are in rural and coastal tourist areas which are crying out for decent full time jobs all year round, supplemented by seasonal paid staff.

I'm not sure that a mutli-million pound business whose business model relies on not paying the majority of its staff or providing few, if any benefits is particularly ethical especially if those staff are expected and treated as if they are paid and contracted employees. In some cases it seems that volunteers are expected to pay for overnight accommodation at their own expense in railway provided hostels.

A better focus on what the fare paying passenger wants rather than throwing thousands of pounds after sentimental projects that might never come to fruition. A yard full of rusting rusting and decaying scrap locos and carriages being kept forever in the hope they might be restored is not only wasting space, missing out on some scrap revenue but often detracts from the experience that most visitors come for.

Relying on volunteers to run a railway isn't sound, as this thread started out talking about. It's only a dedicated bunch who are happy to turn up very early in the morning to a prep a loco or work a train late in the evening in the pouring rain.

Many people on railforum are quite happy to froth at the mouth when the big railway has to rely on volunteer train crew to run Sunday services on some companies, and while they are different beast, a network and operator needs to know it will have people available to run that timetable, which with volunteer labour isn't always possible.

I can forsee in the next 5-10 years the number of heritage railways being drastically reduced as many no longer become viable for various reasons and only a few big players being left.
I don't like to agree but I fear this will be accurate.
 

Llanigraham

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I can forsee in the next 5-10 years the number of heritage railways being drastically reduced as many no longer become viable for various reasons and only a few big players being left.
Exactly the conversation we (volunteers) had over lunch the other week, and the conclusion we came too, unfortunately.
 

Cowley

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Exactly the conversation we (volunteers) had over lunch the other week, and the conclusion we came too, unfortunately.
If Jeremy Corbyn gets in he’s going to nationalise them all, and then 15 years after that all the unprofitable ones will be closed and we can spend the next 50 years lamenting the fact that the West Somerset Railway would’ve made quite a nice heritage line if Doctor Preaching hadn’t recommended closure...
 

theironroad

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If Jeremy Corbyn gets in he’s going to nationalise them all, and then 15 years after that all the unprofitable ones will be closed and we can spend the next 50 years lamenting the fact that the West Somerset Railway would’ve made quite a nice heritage line if Doctor Preaching hadn’t recommended closure...
It won't need Corbyn intervening , capitalist market forces will quite easily take care of the unprofitable ones closing .....
 

Llanigraham

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I'm not sure that a mutli-million pound business whose business model relies on not paying the majority of its staff or providing few, if any benefits is particularly ethical especially if those staff are expected and treated as if they are paid and contracted employees. In some cases it seems that volunteers are expected to pay for overnight accommodation at their own expense in railway provided hostels.
Rereading Ironroad's posting:

I can think of several multi-million pound businesses that make big use of volunteers.
Try The National Trust for starters; they use volunteers for all sorts of things, from Room Guides to gardeners and beyond. I know from friend's experiences they can be very demanding about attendance and even clothing. And there are very few "perks" involved by being a volunteer.

I also suspect you might be surprised how many "voluntary" bodies expect their volunteers to shell out money for all sorts of things. Some examples from my own experience:
St John Ambulance: pay for anything over the very basic uniform, such as your green overalls, and pay for your own equipment beyond the absolute basics.
4x4 Response: buy your own radios, recovery gear, first aid kits, etc. You might be lucky and get something back for your fuel when on a "shout".
Any car rally marshal: no expenses, buy your own radio, buy your own water proofs, be abused by spectators.
RNLI: at a Station only the Mechanic is generally paid, and other than the London Station, all crews are voluntary, and they risk their lives!

And why shouldn't the railways charge for use of the Hostel. They have to pay the up-keep of it, from Rates to Power. I very much doubt that they are charging the local B & B rates for it's use.
 

duffield

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I'm afraid it's probably only a matter of time before someone gets killed or seriously injured on a Heritage railway by leaning out of the window or opening the door while the train is moving, at which point it will probably rapidly become a requirement for all doors to have some form of central locking and window bars put in place (or windows sealed and inside handles provided). That expense alone could kill off quite a few railways.
I wonder if prudent railways which can afford to do so should already be building up a contingency fund for for such requirements (and any similar safety related changes)?
 

Meerkat

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Presumably the heritage lines have to have public liability insurance?
So one bad event will cause big premium rises for all lines.....

If It could still directly cost the offending line a large amount I would cynically guess that the unmentioned plan would be to go bankrupt and rely on panic and PR fundraising for a buyout of the assets from the administrator.
 

theironroad

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I'm afraid it's probably only a matter of time before someone gets killed or seriously injured on a Heritage railway by leaning out of the window or opening the door while the train is moving, at which point it will probably rapidly become a requirement for all doors to have some form of central locking and window bars put in place (or windows sealed and inside handles provided). That expense alone could kill off quite a few railways.
I wonder if prudent railways which can afford to do so should already be building up a contingency fund for for such requirements (and any similar safety related changes)?
A HR being ahead of the game would look favourably with the ORR I guess.

I can see door locking becoming a requirement, but I guess the drop light window issue is route specific. If a HR could show that it has more than ample clearance between the train and any line side obstructions, so that anyone leaning out of a window (even this 'flailing' phenomenon) couldn't physically collide with anything then maybe there could be a derogation. Would also mean keeping platform edges clear as well I guess so that people on train don't collide with people on platform !

Sealing or limiting windows might be easier if less nostalgic than Brief Encounter....
 

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