Railway Heritage and Society

by

Andrew Scott, the Director of the National Railway Museum, speaking in Warsaw at the First International Conference on Railway Heritage and Society.

A distinguished group of railway heritage experts from many many different countries in Europe attended Poland’s First International Conference on Railway Heritage and Society which took place in the Warsaw Management College on 26 November. The Conference consisted of three sessions. The first session was entitled, The preservation and promotion of railway heritage – Future possibilities, best practice solutions, social benefits, synergy.

The keynote presentation, Public Benefits and Railway Heritage, was given by Andrew Scott, the Director of the National Railway Museum in York. Mr Scott explained how the NRM developed a new satellite museum in Shildon called Locomotion. By aligning some of the NRM’s problems (vehicles rotting in the open, no room for them in York, no money for more covered accommodation) with some of Shildon’s problems (high unemployment, low economic activity, low self respect) a brand new £10 million museum was funded with money coming in from the City, the Region and the EU.

During this session Zbigniew Marciniak, from PKP Cargo outlined how it had been possible to retain steam-hauled trains on two of the daily Wolsztyn-Poznan turns; Jiri Kubaczek, Head of the Museum and Documentation Centre in the Slovak State Railways Research and Development Institute, explained how steam trains in the Slovak republic were kept running thanks to volunteer run railway societies; Mike Pease, founder of the British – Polish Railway and Industrial Heritage Partnership (BPRIHP) outlined how a family’s purse strings are controlled by ‘Mama’ and what she is looking for when planning a days outing for her family. Jacek Jerczynski outlined some of amazing achievements of the Wroclaw Railway Enthusiasts Society who had restored a number of items of rolling stock without any external funding whatsoever.

Gordon Rushton giving his presentation. Robert Dylewski of Fundacja Era Parowozow is controlling the projection of the slides.

The second session was entitled, Problems and disasters – Specific problems, barriers, threats. This was opened by former Ffestiniog Railway General Manager, Gordon Rushton and was entitled Money Talks. Mr Rushton outlined some of the ways how – 55 years after the line’s closure – the Ffestiniog Railway had gone about raising £25 to restore the Welsh Highland Railway. He also explained how understanding the impact of a heritage railway on the local economy is a useful lever to getting all the key players on side. Finally, he outlined the results of a specific economic impact study carried out by Bangor University into the effect of the Ffestiniog Railway upon the local economy.

From left to right: Jaroslaw Lipinski, the chairman of the Polish Federation of Museum, Tourist and Local Railways; David Morgan, the president of Fedcrail and the chairman of the Heritage Railway Association; Robert Dylewski of Fundacja Era Parowozów and Marek Cieselski, translating for Mr Morgan.

The afternoon’s proceedings were introduced by Martin Oxley, the Chairman of the British – Polish Chamber of Commerce who stressed the role that railway heritage could play in the development of Poland’s tourism industry. Mr Oxley stressed the need for cooperation and partnership with public and private bodies in order to secure the future of Poland’s railway heritage.

The third and final session was chaired by Jaroslaw Lipinski, the chairman of the newly constituted Polish Federation of Museum, Tourist and Local Railways. The session was entitled, Analysis and solutions – Fast-track problem-solving, law and regulations, inter-departmental working group, national umbrella body, further action. The session was opened by David Morgan, President of Fedecrail and Chairman of the Heritage Railway Association. Mr Morgan urged all Polish organisations involved in railway preservation to join the new Federation, as only if it achieves critical mass will it have the resources and credibility to push back the barriers and threats facing Polish railway heritage. During this session, Pawel Niemczuk, vice chairman of the Federation and a board member of the Upper Silesia Railway Society, outlined some of the difficulties that the Federation’s founders had faced in finding a form of constitution which would allow all the different kinds of legal entities which operate in the Polish railway heritage field to become members of the new body.

Other speakers included: Pawel Mieroslawski, the chairman of the Polish Railway Enthusiasts’ Association (PSMK), who outlined some of the current difficulties facing Polish Railway Heritage Projects; Zbigniew Jakubina, the chairman of the Pyskowice Railway Preservation and Railway Museum Management Society, who outlined the current difficulties his society faced with respect to their occupation of the railway land at Pyskowice; Miroslaw Szymanski, the chairman of Fundacja Era Parowozow – one of the organisers of the conference – who outlined his Foundation’s proposal to amend the law such that PKP railway land – such as the railway depot at Pyskowice – could be transferred directly to a railway society, rather than the process having to take place through an initial transfer to a local authority. Howard Jones of the Wolsztyn Experience, spoke about how the Smigiel Town Council had turned down a proposal from a British Railway Enthusiasts to restore the derelict Px48 at Smigiel to working order and Tomasz Strapagiel from the Local Rail Haulage Association, stressed the need to get local authorities on side and how this was often a long and painful process.

At the end of the conference Mr Szymanski, proposed a resolution urging that the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage set up an inter-departmental working party to assist in removing some of the threats and barriers faced by organisations seeking to safeguard the future of Polish railway heritage. Andrew Goltz, the chairman of the BPRIHP who had taken on the role of Conference Director, thanked all those who had contributed to the success of the conference and put Mr Szymanski’s resolution to the vote. This was carried overwhelmingly with only one vote cast against.

In the evening, conference VIPs – who included representatives of Polish ministries, provincial governments, other local governments and PKP as well as Heimo Echensperger, the chairman of the Verband Deutscher Museums- und Touristikbahnen (the German umbrella body for railway preservation societies) and Rik Degruyter, the vice-chairman of Febelrail, the Belgian umbrella body enjoyed cocktails served at the British ambassador’s courtesy Mr Paul Fox, the deputy British ambassador.

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