It is a laudable goal to try and encourage young people to become involved in rail heritage organisations but let's not lose sight of just why it is that older members of the community form the bulk of members and active volunteers (not just in rail either). Older people have life experience, skills and knowledge that make them useful, they remember the "real" railway as something from their younger days and they want to celebrate and share what it was like with the younger generation who weren't as lucky (yet!). Perhaps even more importantly, people who have or are nearing retirement or those well short of that but whose kids have grown up and left home, have the time to give and very often are not restricted by the demands of work or other commitments and can make themselves available when full time workers just cannot.
Everyone with an interest and willingness to commit to our rail heritage should be welcomed by us all, with open arms and a willingness to assist, teach and also learn ourselves. Unfortunately I don't thin k it's something we do well.
I have been involved with rail heritage (in NSW) since the late 1960's, I began as a school kid and despite all the will in the world, by the time I got to my early 20s, other interests took over. In fact, it was already a bit of a struggle by late teens as nature took its course and a young man's fancy, etc, etc. Since then I've drifted in and out of the scene as sport, family, work and geographical limitations all imposed their restrictions and I've been involved with RTM, 3801 Ltd, PHM, ARHS and a few others and for quite a few years now I have been a loyal but increasingly dissatisfied RTM volunteer (those who know me would be shocked to hear what I have to say). I come from possibly the last generation when being an admitted rail fan doesn't send people scurrying for the DSM (the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, bible for the world of psychiatry), and so do many of my life long friends, but there really are only a few of these who stayed the distance without a break and there are many whose active involvement petered out in their 20s who never rekindled the flame, many more than those like me who left and came back.
However, I see a problem that is and has been growing in the rail heritage movement in NSW, and which is like some insidious disease, and it has to do with some, not all, but some of the younger people in our 'industry'. It is certainly a disorder which I believe afflicts RTM and it is also now emerging at PHM and I am told there have been outbreaks in other places as well. It's not limited to younger colleagues but they do seem to suffer a more virulent form. I refer to the tendency of some to see themselves as heritage rail wunderkind and possessing knowledge and skills far beyond that of mortal man (and it goes without saying, in fact even more so, far, far superior to women), especially if the mortal happens to be an "older" person or somebody who wasn't born with a copy of the Safe Working Catechism in their hand. The fact that these immortals gained their knowledge from "older" people in the first place seems to be forgotten. The symptoms of this disease are arrogance, rudeness and complete intolerance for others and the insecurity this masks is hidden behind the shield of entrenched cliques. The worst sufferers are also very good at blackmailing their organisations with threats to walk out and such like and in at least one instance have been able to create the ridiculous impression they are indispensable and they get away with it.
For too long now, cliques have ruled the day and they do so by some pretty obnoxious and nefarious means. I have not been hassled because I suppose I've been around long enough and the ring leaders think I'm on their side, but over the years I have seen many competent or potentially valuable and fine volunteers lost because of the disadvantage they suffer at the hands of the cliques. I have tried to raise the issue in the past but it's a bit like trench warfare without a helmet, raise your head above the parapet and you risk getting it shot off. I admit I've been too timid to speak out and I know I'm not alone.
This industry survives on Volunteers and the Report makes that clear. It will only prosper into the future if we build the volunteer workforce and treat them all properly and I don't think that occurs in some key areas. It's time for a clean-out, get rid of the cliques and those who abuse the privilege they have to work with our wonderful rail heritage. Right thinking people in the organisations know who the culprits are and they owe a duty to the whole movement to put a stop to this form of abuse and bullying. There is a very big hint in the report which recommends a job spill at RTM and open competition for jobs and the hint should be taken. At the very least it needs to be brought out into the open, no longer should it be the elephant in the room.
Unless the clique system can be broken once and for all, it doesn't matter what recruitment you engage in, you'll lose the best people because they won't tolerate the nonsense and childishness, they'll vote with their feet. The only way to do it is to have a clean out, we all know who the perpetrators are and