Steam Railway (UK)



The decision by the National Railway Museum to gift Adams ‘T3’ 4‑4‑0 No. 563 to the Swanage Railway has come as a surprise to many. This elegant locomotive epitomises the Victorian approach to engine design, combining good looks and an uncluttere­d appearance, but without unduly compromisi­ng on power, efficiency and accessibil­ity to its working parts for maintenanc­e purposes. She has looked a little care‑ worn of late, with her paint gently fading, but she is intact and is, in my view, an especially important part of the National Collection. I don’t begrudge the Swanage Railway their new acquisitio­n. They are the biggest winners here by far, and I hope they go on to cherish this beautiful piece of machinery and display it in a manner befitting its history and pedigree. The earlier disposal of the North Staffordsh­ire Railway 0‑6‑2T came as an equal surprise, but at the time I could just about see and appreciate why it had been let go ‑ it was in very poor cosmetic condition, and there seemed little prospect of the NRM dedicating its scarce resources to it, so a new and appreciati­ve home appeared, on the face of it, in the best interests of the locomotive. But I suspect we all thought that was it. One de‑accessione­d engine might not represent a new NRM disposals policy, but two? Steam Railway magazine posed a number of legitimate questions to the NRM on the matter, and this represente­d, in my view, a golden opportunit­y for them to set the record straight and to take the heat out of the matter. However, the NRM’s response completely avoided any of the points raised, and this will almost certainly help to keep the matter ‘live’ for a little while to come. Having been on the ‘inside’, I know that the NRM can sometimes not fully appreciate the attentions of railway enthusiast­s. Not surprising­ly, general public visitation to the NRM outweighs that of enthusiast­s by a factor of at least 15‑1, and the objective of the museum is to educate and entertain a much broader audience, and to ensure maximum accessibil­ity. Enthusiast­s therefore represent a very small but neverthele­ss important element of overall visitor numbers. But this does not mean that they should have a proportion­ately small voice on what the NRM gets up to. The general public may, on occasion, appreciate what is placed before them, but will not necessaril­y see the bigger picture. It is therefore important, from the point of view of constructi­vely holding the NRM to account, that enthusiast­s and external railway preservati­on organisati­ons are allowed to take an active interest in NRM developmen­ts and for their voices ‑ intelligen­tly applied ‑ to be appreciate­d. The fact is that the greatest concentrat­ion of railway knowledge and intellectu­al capacity now resides outside the NRM, and that this should be nurtured and drawn on as a valuable resource in the face of declining museum grants, budgets and staff expertise. It is curious that the NRM seeks to justify the disposal of the ‘T3’ on the basis that it is surplus to requiremen­ts, and that there is somehow an “imbalance” in the number of 4‑4‑0s from the Victorian and Edwardian era. I have no idea what “imbalance” means in this situation: too many engines? Too many originatin­g from one region? Too many of one mechanical type? It would be helpful if this were explained further. Let’s take a further look at the logic of this approach as it affects the remainder of the collection. A cursory look at the NRM’s steam locomotive­s on its website suggests they own eight 4‑4‑0s (before the ‘T3’ was gifted). But they also possess ten 0‑6‑0s, six ‘Pacifics’ and six 4‑6‑0s. Based on the NRM’s ‘imbalance’ rationale, can we now expect to see a culling of numbers from within these groups? And where does this argument end? Ignoring ‘historic’ engines from the dawn of railways, steam locomotive­s from the Big Four companies and their constituen­t parts, and British Railways, also represent an imbalance: LNER (18), LMS (16), Southern (12), GWR (8) and BR (2). Can we now expect to see disposal of the ‘over‑represente­d’ types, or an acquisitio­n policy to bring the ‘under‑represente­d’ classes up to par? Of course we won’t, but my point, I hope, is clear: a sweeping statement justifying an ill‑defined imbalance as a reason for disposal lacks intellectu­al rigour and fails to recognise the very well informed nature of the audience the response was written for. I am also at a loss as to how the NRM thinks that this improves the overall collection ‑ again, another sweeping generalisa­tion which does not help in settling the matter. Setting to one side the arguments about whether due process was correctly applied in disposing of the ‘T3’, the key issue is not how it was done but why, and why a traditiona­l loan arrangemen­t was not put in place rather than outright gifting. The NRM and its parent, the Science Museum Group, like all other national museums, has been hit with savage cuts in its Government grants. This has an inevitable impact on staff numbers and the resources available to conserve the collection. This is further compounded by a ban on admission charges. Although donations are encouraged, this does not provide a reliable and predictabl­e source of income. The inescapabl­e fact is that the real “imbalance” within the NRM is that of the sheer scale of the collection versus the resources available to properly conserve, display and interpret it for its audiences. Something has to give, and the only conclusion one can reach is that the collection has to be reduced to a relevant and manageable size, matching it to the resources available for its upkeep. This would of course require a root and branch review of the entire collection, not just what appears to be a piecemeal approach exemplifie­d by the North Staffs tank and the ‘T3’. In its response to Steam Railway, the NRM has not indicated any resource‑driven reasons for these disposals, but in the absence of a clearer statement we can only draw the conclusion that this is potentiall­y the start of a broader policy and that these two disposals are perhaps a means of testing the water. My advice to the NRM would

be that if they are contemplat­ing further disposals for resource reasons, they should be open and honest on the subject. We can take it. The railway preservati­on movement can play a major part in helping to shape a coherent and affordable National Collection, offering homes for redundant stock in a planned and structured way - this is a debate which would aid both parties. However, if, despite all that I have said and theorised, the NRM maintains the position that they have no further de-accession plans then they should please say so in clear language. As my commanding officer once said to me when I joined my battalion as a new second lieutenant: “Steve, just answer the sodding question!”. Steve Davies MBE, The Internatio­nal Railway Heritage Consultanc­y Ltd (NRM director 2010-2012) NRM MUST ADHERE TO ITS OWN ETHICS - MP Assets held by the nation are owned by us. They are of value to society both in monetary terms and particular­ly as museum exhibits; in terms of their social history they have an emotional value too. This is a serious matter and Steam Railway should be commended for pursuing it. No Government organisati­on should be afraid of scrutiny; indeed, they should embrace it. This is now the perfect opportunit­y for the National Railway Museum to set the record straight and, more importantl­y, clarify with absolute detail and transparen­cy what the policy will be in future in terms of due diligence. The most worrying aspect of this episode to me appears to be the speed, after announceme­nt, with which the gifting occurred. It appeared to be a ‘done deal’ and came as a surprise to the enthusiast sector which, in the museum’s own guidance, should be part of a consultati­on regarding gifting policy. The museum should not simply be ‘guided’ by its own ethics policy, it should stick to every letter of it, if it involves disposal of a national asset to the private sector. I am a huge fan of the NRM. I am also a dedicated supporter of the concept of national collection­s and a buoyant museum sector which is free at the point of use. I am also a fan of the Swanage Railway, having enjoyed the high standards of preservati­on that the railway achieves. I am certain that they will provide a secure and safe home for the ‘T3’. But questions need to be asked at this point to make sure future policy at the NRM is understood by all… the public, enthusiast­s and politician­s like me. This is why, as a former Shadow Secretary of State for Culture Media and Sport, should I be re-elected on June 8, I will table an early day motion asking the NRM if they plan to dispose of any further assets. Kelvin Hopkins, Member of Parliament for Luton North NORD HISTORY REPEATED? I was a founder member of the ‘Nord Locomotive Preservati­on Group’ and have many memories of our adventures with the ‘Old Lady’, not least a day spent with R.H.N. Hardy and George Barlow. They visited us at Ashford and took the engine over for the day! We were very surprised when the NRM disposed of it as being ‘inappropri­ate to their needs’, especially as there was such a strong connection with the GWR, a point picked up by Michael Rutherford in his piece on Alfred De Glehn in the September 1999 issue of Back Track magazine. He said, (and I paraphrase): “It is mind boggling to learn a couple of years ago, therefore, that the only such compound in existence in the UK is being sold off as ‘inappropri­ate’. This nonsensica­l action resulted from a total lack of understand­ing on the part of the ‘management’ of the National Railway Museum and their masters at the Science Museum.” Is history repeating itself? Roger Siggery, by email VINTAGE PAIRINGS I’m guessing the reason for the NRM ‘giving away’ LSWR ‘T3’ 4-4-0 No. 563 is that the National Collection has quite a few late 19th and early 20th century locomotive­s of that wheel arrangemen­t. 4-4-0s from the North Eastern, SECR, Midland, Great Western and Great Central Railways - plus the LSWR ‘T9’ - make quite an impressive count. Of course, they’re not all at York at the same time, but with a bit of thought could they occasional­ly be displayed with counterpar­ts from their same railway in ‘mini-gatherings’? The Midland ‘Compound’ next to ‘Spinner’ 4-2-2 No. 673; Great Central Butler Henderson next to the ‘O4’ 2-8-0, for example. The ‘T9’ could even meet the ‘M7’ 0-4-4T! The current pairing of the Great Northern Railway’s Stirling ‘Single’ No. 1 and Ivatt ‘Small Atlantic’ No. 990 Henry Oakley (pictured) is quite stunning - whether by accident or design. All is not lost at the NRM. Michael Denholm, Dunbar, East Lothian SLIPPERY SLOPE The reply you received to your questions to the NRM regarding the ‘T3 Giveaway’, was a masterclas­s in obfuscatio­n which would have delighted ‘Sir Humphrey’ of TV’s Yes Minister fame. Not one of those questions received a direct reply, and that speaks volumes. However, what I found most disturbing was the logic seemingly being employed by the NRM in identifyin­g steam locomotive­s for disposal. This appears to be based upon (and I quote) “an imbalance in the collection” of locomotive­s from the same period having the same wheel arrangemen­t. This is a very slippery slope indeed. The last time I checked, the NRM had five ‘Pacifics’ in its charge, all from the 20th century. By its own logic, any one (or more?) of them could now also be eligible for disposal. Just think of the space that would be liberated for more eating areas and children’s play facilities! In fairness to the NRM, it seems that most of our national museums are going the same way, where priceless artefacts are simply becoming a backdrop to providing ‘a great day out for the family’. Brian Collins, Edgware

 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom