NRM AVOIDS KEY DIS­POSAL QUES­TIONS - DAVIES

Steam Railway (UK) - - Mailbag -

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

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