Shortage of volunteers

Discussion in 'Railtours & Preservation' started by bionic, 22 Aug 2019.

  1. theblackwatch

    theblackwatch Emeritus Moderator

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    That was something myself and a few friends said 5-10 years ago, and look what has happened - we were wrong!

    Quite a few of the smaller lines are what some people would call a 'hobby railway' - ie the volunteers there work there largely for their own enjoyment, most of what goes on is funded by themselves, and any punters who come through the door are a bonus. Other lines carry out commercial work, for example the MNR by providing storage facilities for TOC use. However, I do agree with you that at some point, some lines will close due to lack of money, operational rolling stock or volunteers (or a mix of the three). 'Survival of the fittest' is a phrase that comes to mind...
     
  2. option

    option Member

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    One advantage to doing a single-track route on a double-track formation is that the distance to fixed structures, like bridges & tunnels, is usually increased. Leaning out then doesn't get you anywhere near anything.


    As for window bars, possibly limiting the window opening distance would do, by fitting something inside the space the window slides down into.
     
  3. Paul Hitchcock

    Paul Hitchcock Member

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    ORR have asked for details of clearances, warning notices etc.I suspect this issue will be of less concern to them than the whole question of competence and the recording of what various individuals are qualified to do. There have been rather too many cases in recent years of unbraked vehicles running away, collisions with level crossing gates and other avoidable happenings. Recently, there was a narrowly avoided head on collision which is still being investigated.
     
  4. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    You can't use the outside handle then, though. With vertical bars you still can.
     
  5. theironroad

    theironroad Established Member

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    Seems competence and safety management has been the major emphasis for the big railway for a few years now, with good results in terms of no passenger fatalities for many years, guess the safety management culture is being transferred to heritage lines by the Orr.

    Out of interest, does anyone know when the last fatality or major life altering injury was on a heritage line?
     
  6. pdeaves

    pdeaves Established Member

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  7. theironroad

    theironroad Established Member

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  8. Llanigraham

    Llanigraham On Moderation

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    Also:
    the death of a train driver on the RH&DR in 2003,
    severe injuries to a volunteer on the Telford Steam Railway.
     
  9. option

    option Member

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    I think there will be a split;
    Sites that are never open, or only do occasional 'open days' (as soon as you open to the public, insurance etc becomes a lot tougher)
    Essentially they will be workshop sites where locos are worked on, & don't require external income sources.
    Full professional operations, open most weekends & holidays, large numbers of volunteers/staff, brand recognition etc.
    Have the resources (money, people, facilities, parts) to keep multiple sets of carriages in use in top condition.​

    Those in the middle ground...



    The three are inherently connected. If you have no volunteers, then you have no operations, & no money coming in. No carriages, no operations, no money coming in.

    If your trying to maintain carriages out in the open, or under a tent, then there's going to be an issue recruiting & retaining volunteers to do so, & issues with maintaining safety/quality standards.
    Which creates a loop; public don't have a good visit > don't come back again > less income > less money to maintain standards > public don't have a good visit
     
  10. StoneRoad

    StoneRoad Member

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    Ffestiniog is required to lock outward opening passenger doors ...

    Back in my days as a volunteer guard (actually did some seasonal work as well) we did have trouble with people and their cameras leaning out - a certain tunnel portal was (im)famous for the ability to smash expensive lens etc. Although I don't recall any passengers coming into actual contact.

    On various occasions, especially with excitable children present, I would walk up and down the platform (or on the train pointing out the "dangerous to lean out of the window" notices. On getting some backchat from older kids, I would ask them "why do think we paint the carriages red ?" someone else in their group could usually be counted on to say "hide the blood, of course" ... seemed to work !
     
  11. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    They do have VERY limited clearances, though.

    That said, no window bars. I'd be quite reluctant to travel on them if they did, as with the doors locked on a wooden bodied coach with a kettle on the front, a collision could otherwise be somewhat Quintinshill-esque.
     
  12. 45669

    45669 Member

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  13. Belperpete

    Belperpete Member

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    It is not uncommon for volunteers to travel considerable distances (often hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of miles), pay for their accommodation, and buy their own uniforms, overalls etc. While some lines do provide subsidised accommodation in their own hostels, even the most well-off preserved railway that attempted to recoup all their volunteers' expenses, let alone pay them a wage, would rapidly go bust. The important thing is to make it attractive enough for people to be prepared to put in the time, effort and expense.

    Like those who volunteer for the Inland Waterway Association, the National Trust, and a host of other voluntary-supported bodies, volunteers on preserved railways do so because they feel there is something worthwhile that needs doing that wouldn't be done on a purely commercial basis. The RNLI is perhaps the most extreme example of this, where the volunteers regularly put their own lives at risk. If your logic were applied to the RNLI, which is also a multi-billion pound business employing volunteers in coastal areas crying out for jobs, and it dispensed with its volunteers and used mainly paid staff, then it certainly couldn't support anywhere near the number of lifeboat stations that it currently does.

    The RNLI is actually a very good example. It shows that you can rely on volunteers to provide a 24-7 service, run to professional standards. RNLI volunteers are expected to meet its high standards, and get a sense of achievement through achieving those standards. The same applies on the preserved railway that I volunteer for: you are expected to achieve its standards, and part of the enjoyment is the sense of achievement of a good job well done. There are people for whom this ethos doesn't fit, and who have found their place elsewhere. However, lines who tolerate a more laissez-faire kind of attitude are undoubtedly finding life increasingly harder.

    There is an art to managing volunteers, and there was a very interesting programme on Radio 4 recently on just this subject. Volunteers will often put in considerable time, effort and expense. However, volunteers will only keep coming back if they enjoy their time volunteering, and a key part of managing volunteers is recognising this. It does NOT mean that you have to tolerate lower standards from volunteers. However, whereas you can expect paid staff to undertake certain unpleasant tasks because it is part of what they get paid for, managers who apply this kind of thinking with volunteers are soon going to find themselves short of volunteers.
     
  14. Baxenden Bank

    Baxenden Bank Established Member

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    Global Business, BBC World Service, last Saturday (5 October). Available on the BBC Sounds app.
     
  15. option

    option Member

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    https://www.gov.uk/raib-reports?railway_type[]=heritage-railways



    That incident was 2012
    https://www.gov.uk/raib-reports/fatal-accident-at-grosmont-north-yorkshire


    Previous to that was 2006.
    https://www.gov.uk/raib-reports/fatal-accident-at-bronwydd-arms-station-on-the-gwili-railway


    You'll note that they're essentially the same incident.
     
  16. theblackwatch

    theblackwatch Emeritus Moderator

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  17. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    To use another example, you can give employees an awful IT system to use it and say "shut up and use it, we're paying you" but such a thing will drive away volunteers.
     
  18. Western Sunset

    Western Sunset Member

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    Is the raising of the retirement age having an effect on volunteer numbers too?
     
  19. Peter Wilde

    Peter Wilde New Member

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    These are good comments. I suspect though, that the RNLI is not an ideal example in this context. Lifeboat crew are seen as risking their own lives (and actually do in some rare cases) to save others (no arguments about that!). So RNLI volunteers are very well motivated by that perception - they can bask in the warmth of public opinion. On the other hand, where heritage railway volunteers are concerned, a large part of the public dismisses them as just "trainspotters". Motivation has to come more internally, by meeting standards set by either oneself or by the railway, and one may have to just ignore and not worry about public opinion.
     
  20. xotGD

    xotGD Established Member

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    Plus the disappearance of final salary company pension schemes that kick-in at age 60.

    My brother in law, a doctor, was able to retire at 58. He now spends a chunk of his week doing voluntary activity, but not on a railway.
     
  21. philthetube

    philthetube Established Member

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    They are all hobby railways to the volunteers, what else can you call them, similarly they are all playing trains, what is important is that they are following their hobbies and playing trains correctly. I have a friend who is into model railways, he operates his railway in a way which is probably as safe as the best of heritage lines because he likes to do it properly, he is definitely playing trains but should th RAIB investigate an incident on his railway they would not find much to fault.
     
  22. philthetube

    philthetube Established Member

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    you do have to treat volunteers differently, to use a simplistic example is someone in the station cafe makes lovely scones but hates making pies you either let them make scones, or negotiate something else, "not instruct", or you end up with neither pies or scones.
     

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