Shortage of volunteers

theblackwatch

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Exactly the conversation we (volunteers) had over lunch the other week, and the conclusion we came too, unfortunately.
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...
 
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option

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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)?

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.
 
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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....
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.
 

theironroad

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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.
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?
 

option

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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...
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...



some lines will close due to lack of money, operational rolling stock or volunteers (or a mix of the three)
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
 

StoneRoad

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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 !
 

Bletchleyite

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

Belperpete

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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.
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.
 

Baxenden Bank

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

option

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



No longer ago than 2013: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-york-north-yorkshire-21279819 (don't know if there has been anything since then).
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.
 

Bletchleyite

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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.
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.
 

Peter Wilde

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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.
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.
 

xotGD

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

philthetube

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Granted, the forum isn't representative of the sector as a whole and forums tend to have skewed opinions anyway but... From what I see from the tellybox and from various anecdotal sources; it does appear that people are 'playing trains' That is at all levels.
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...
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.
 

philthetube

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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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