Rail Heritage Review - All Aboard! A fresh start for Transport Heritage in NSW

  Alonzo Trumbull Beginner

Location: Central Coast
I am glad there is some discussion about this and I agree with pretty much all that is said in the various Posts, with some exceptions.

My input is derived from experience over many years and is conditioned by what I see happening around me now and from what friends tell me they experience elsewhere. Mark well though that I don't say it is a failing in all younger gen rail heritage volunteers or paid staff and I readily accept it isn't behaviour limited to those under (say) 30! We need a mix of ages, skills and knowledge but most of all we need an open, welcoming culture that is inviting, encouraging and supportive and that is not something we have yet.

Cliques are generally an ugly and poisonous blight no matter where they occur and those I refer to are classics of the genre. The fact that they seem to self perpetuate (if allowed) or have been part of the scene since cocky was an egg is no justification for their ongoing survival. I seem lucky enough to be able to float above or around them and hide my disgust. I must be effective at fooling those who promote themselves through "their" clique because most of them think I'm part of their silly, bitchy games, not everyone can be so fortunate though.

Why do I not stand up and confront the "brotherhood"? It's not worth the hassle, I did my tour of duty on the firing range with people firing marbles at me, my days of serving on Boards and Committees are long over and I think subtlety is more my strong suit now, generate a discussion of the issue so that those with the power to act, will. There was a clean out once before when a seemingly irreplaceable but deeply flawed regime was turfed out with the promise of fairer and more open approaches to replace it, but as somebody else said, it has degenerated into the same old game with new (or not so new) faces. Perhaps the new structure of the rail heritage sector will provide the mechanism and that was part of my point, the time is ripe for change.

It is certainly true that a lot of good work is evident in the sorts of things PRRS2 mentioned, but if you were somebody who was actually closer to the reality and knew all that went on and also understand such things, your view might be tempered by what isn't bragged about, by what was destroyed or wasted rather than created. An end product is the sum of all that went before it and the bottom line needs to reflect that. It's all well and good to pat the team on the back for what they get right, but they won't learn if they also don't get a smack for what they f--d and pretending it didn't happen or burying the bad news with hype ain't professional, ethical or productive.

Can I also make a further point that the sort of skills and knowledge we need for our sector to continue to prosper isn't found only in serving or ex-railwaymen (and women). I'll stick to the area I know best, the mechanical and steam side, but let's include loco crews as well. Everyone needs to start somewhere and part of the learning process is practical experience which includes errors and too many of our colleagues forget this and are too quick to condemn. We were all newbies once, none of us is without sin and nobody ever came into this world an expert. Why are those who do all in their power to exclude new and non-railway background volunteers so fearful of new blood, what is it that drives them to waste so much energy and thought to the black art of undermining and blackmail? Wouldn't these people gain greater satisfaction and kudos from seeing someone who came into the depot with non-railway engineering experience or even no experience, grow in knowledge, skill and usefulness to the organisation under their tutelage, so that their legacy is a truly positive one, not negative? In this area at least I think the poms have it all over us in NSW.

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  Duffy Chief Commissioner

Location: ACT
Why do I not stand up and confront the "brotherhood"? It's not worth the hassle, I did my tour of duty on the firing range with people firing marbles at me, my days of serving on Boards and Committees are long over and I think subtlety is more my strong suit now, generate a discussion of the issue so that those with the power to act, will. There was a clean out once before when a seemingly irreplaceable but deeply flawed regime was turfed out with the promise of fairer and more open approaches to replace it, but as somebody else said, it has degenerated into the same old game with new (or not so new) faces. Perhaps the new structure of the rail heritage sector will provide the mechanism and that was part of my point, the time is ripe for change.
Alonzo Trumbull

Dozens of people post anonymous comments and opinions backed up by veiled references to what they may have done or been involved in over the years.  Its hardly a subtle approach, nor does it establish any real credibility, so the question is, why should anyone take it seriously?
  Alonzo Trumbull Beginner

Location: Central Coast
Dozens of people post anonymous comments and opinions backed up by veiled references to what they may have done or been involved in over the years.  Its hardly a subtle approach, nor does it establish any real credibility, so the question is, why should anyone take it seriously?

Well, that's your choice and you can make your own mind up. But, there is a serious issue being discussed here and it's not new and pretty well anyone who chances to have a go in our "industry" knows about it and they know it exists and if they are fair dinkum about it they also know it's wrong. What always happens when someone has the temerity to challenge the power of the cliques is that they get attacked, their "credibility" gets called into question and their detractors use just the same tactics they use in the Roundhouse.

I could lay out my credentials and give chapter and verse of who and why and whether Duffy chooses to believe it or not at this point, that would instantly establish I have the knowledge I claim and the experience to back it up. However, I don't intend to do that for the same reason nobody else does in these Forums or on the job, I have avoided being a victim up to now and want to work out my time without being ostracised, slagged off and stabbed in the back. I do not want to find I'm suddenly persona non grata, whispered about and shut out, treated like a pariah dog. I enjoy the work I do as a volunteer and I want to keep doing it and I know that as night follows day what would happen if I came out 100% openly.

Now, it would be easy to say, as has been hinted at, that what I am doing is exactly what I am criticising others for and that may be a valid criticism but the difference is that I have tried in the past to combat the problem but got nowhere. I always find it interesting that the instant reaction of those who practice the politics of exclusion and of which I complain, to anybody trying to expose the problem, is to cry foul and bleat about how unfair it is that somebody is criticising them. The irony and hypocrisy is breathtaking. I chose to grow up and leave schoolyard bullies and childish "my gang" mentality behind when I left primary school, and I just wish others would too.

The funny thing is that despite the fact I detest the clique system, some of its ace exponents are my good friends and we've shared a lot together. I value those associations but deplore, with every bone in my body that I cannot make them see that the fear, jealousy, insecurity, whatever weird emotion it is that drives their dysfunction, is unnecessary.

Anyway, getting back to the topic, does anyone seriously suggest that what I complain about is just a figment of my imagination, a fantasy that I've concocted just to create a bit of mischief?
  locojoe67 Assistant Commissioner

Location: Gen X purgatory/urban Joh-land
The issues should be taken seriously. Rail has become a niche industry, with trains a novelty for most of the general public. These people don't give a damn whether the loco wears its original colours, what psi the boiler runs at, or which hand you use for shovelling. From casual visitors to regular volunteers, rail must compete for attention like never before.

The cliques control and influence the visitor experience. The amount of work that makes a happy customer is huge, and necessary. But converting even a tiny proportion of visitors to a volunteer base will mean engaging with nonrail people.

Yes, talk is cheap. Enquiries to one group resulted in an insistence on two weekends per month commitment, minimum. Even my army reserve service didnt take that much. With two jobs and a family, that just isnt workable.

Some short time later, that same group was advertising for volunteers - commitment flexible!
  prrs2 Beginner

I do not know what failures you refer to, this makes it hard to defend or find guilty any person or group but even I am shore for those in the industry the truth is hard to find,  Was 3830 run out of water by its maintance staff a number of years ago. Has it had systemic boiler problems since its overhaul. Both power house locos have a history of  being unavailable for service  and high failure rates for the amount they run. 3265 does not have a good reputation compared to 3237, Why after major boiler work by old hands did 3830 fail? why did The powerhouse Museum see fit to replace its Old Hands, rumour has it the boiler inspector favoured by the power house  could not even get in the firebox. What failures have the current RTM team had, Seems people tell me 3642 is going well, 3526 out for overhaul but was performing well, 2705 still going well and no failures that I've heard of. The Previous team at Thirlmere did have issues with the 59, what happened there.
Alonzo, are you mechanically minded and have the ability to lead a team in the overhaul of a loco or do you volunteer your services in one of many thankless tasks,? carful not to throw stones unless you have done better. Same could be said for Mr Duffy and myself. I do  have friends in the RTM team that tell me they are a close nit group, growing all the time, they seem to always be successfully running there operations with reliability and professionalism , Close nit team" is that a problem?. If Alonzo you have been around so many groups and find it hard to fit in are you the problem, who Knows.
  acert Station Staff

don't know what your problem is Alonzo but i think the rtm is a well run professional orginisation with a good bunch of people
  Alonzo Trumbull Beginner

Location: Central Coast
Prrs2, it isn't my purpose to come on here and prove I've got bigger cohones than others, I'm content with my engineering abilities as someone who moved from shop floor to higher qualification, position and responsibility and so are the people who pay me a lot of money for my expertise and RTM has never complained about what I do there either. At the risk of being distracted, I'll just make it clear my involvement in more than one rail heritage organisation was just like many others, including paid staff, it wasn't moving from one to another, it was helping out where I saw or was asked to fill a need and concurrently as most of us do. I was even able to help 3801 Ltd whilst still being active at RTM and to deplore the bitter and twisted warfare both groups engaged in (amazing how some people seem to forget their roles in an organisation whose shilling they once pocketed but now the bag because they swapped sides mid-stream), read the report on this topic and be realistic, neither side deserve credit for that.

Interesting spin on 3830, I see where you are coming from now, I hadn't heard that version, good thing those clever young fellows are around to save the day from the obviously incompetent old farts who must have bluffed and lucked their way through for all those years previously. Interesting you never referred to the matters I was talking about though. But I digress and admit I should have stuck to my initial subject, which was the insidious and destructive cliques, or "close nit teams" (I assume that's not a typo, acert) as I'm now instructed is apparently the modern term.

Look fellas, let's drop the extraneous nonsense before this just descends into swapping insult for insult. I drifted off topic in reflecting on stuff-ups and so on, I admit that and I shouldn't have.

My original point remains that - 1. The cliques exist and exercise enormous negative influence   2. Too many good volunteers/supporters and potential volunteers/supporters are discouraged and lost to the sector because of cliques  3.  as a sector, rail heritage cannot afford to be an exclusive club for a privileged few, we need to be of and for the community we serve and that isn't limited to only those who still carry grandad's Gladstone bag and 4. We need a mutually respectful mix of older and younger volunteers.

Locojoe67 summed it up perfectly.

Just like politicians who live in an incestuous world and because they only talk to other politicians and political journos think that they are doing a great job, so do many of us in rail heritage think we are doing a marvellous job, and sometimes we really are. However, it is a fact, that in the wider public, appreciation or even knowledge of what we think we are doing well ranges from apathy or mild dis-interest to others who see us as a bunch of overgrown boys playing trains and who don't want to share. In the middle are the ones who might show some interest from time to time but are never going to be committed. It is the ones who are at the negative extreme that should be our biggest worry because usually there is a reason why they have that view and more often than not it is an unhappy brush with trying to become involved and being treated like a leper. I will no longer encourage colleagues from my real world circles to consider volunteering because too many times I've been embarrassed when they later report to me the shabby reception they got.

Acert, by and large, RTM is able to survive and hasn't quite collapsed and it seems that there is a lifeline in the offing with the sector restructure and I concede there are competent people and dedicated people who help it do what it does. Even those I am complaining of contribute, but I argue that contribution could be much more if there were less negative energy expended. You are someone who is well satisfied and good for you. However, there is a well known adage in customer service that a satisfied customer tells maybe one other of their experience whilst a dissatisfied customer tells everyone! I sincerely believe we generate too many dissatisfied customers (ie; p----d off volunteers). That is the issue I'd like to see addressed.
  Harold Mann Beginner

Location: Central Coast
I'm new to this but my two bobs worth is that Mr. Trumbull has got it right. I had a similar experience to locojoe67 on my first attempt. I decided to give it a second chance as maybe I just struck a bad time but I didn't, I got the cold shoulder treatment again. After 28 years in aviation engineering I thought I'd have some skills that could be useful around locos but I'll be damned if I'm going to cut grass and pick weeds to prove somebody else's point. I've stayed an RTM member but I'm not sure whether that's really worth it and if anyone asks me should they volunteer I just laugh. Harold
  zordmaker Train Controller

Location: NSW
OK, some thoughts now.

What we've got here is an attempt to pick a winner and an attempt to replace representation with democracy.

Up until now, we've had some attempts of representation. That's where we have a lot of preservation groups who become a "member" of a bigger peak body group, which then (hopefully) looks after representing them to /from Government. It hasn't worked.

Now, we all have to go and check our RTM membership is current because really no other membership matters anymore. If we want to be heard then you're an RTM member, thats it.

Within a few years we will have replaced the cliques and competing groups with parties. The loudest parties will have a coveted representative on the Board to look after them.

Give it a chance. It's got to be better than what we've had up until now.


As a rail heritage sector and for the first time in history, WE NOW KNOW WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TOMORROW.

Make the most of it.

  Alonzo Trumbull Beginner

Location: Central Coast
Agree with you Mr. Zordmaker and do we have any choice anyway.

The result of the report is pretty amazing, despite all the hype and spin probably more than RTM's wildest dreams and produces winners and losers which is exactly what 01 and RTM have been trying to do to each other for years. The test now is to see if the hatreds and bitterness can be packed away so that we ALL can move ahead for the benefit of the entire rail heritage community. That also means taking a bigger picture view and being generous in defeat and humble in victory.

I am very encouraged by how experts from a country that can't play cricket or rugby but seems to have got it right in rail heritage could see the problems built into Thirlmere as rail heritage central, which is that it hasn't, can't and won't work, doesn't matter how many millions are spent on it. Trainworks doesn't and won't work, no matter who runs it, for the same reason our beloved Thirlmere has never met the expectations we were promised and the cause is just like the real estate agents always crow, location, location, location. This isn't a new idea, lots of people have said it before and some still try to say it but are then shot at dawn if captured. Given the choice to have remained at Enfield way back when, would RTM have chosen Thirlmere, I don't think so, there was no choice. For nearly 40 years we've given it our best shot but the odds have always been stacked against us. Now there is a real opportunity to get a silk purse from a sows ear, but the process will be painful for many.The RTM reaction in the Board press release didn't seem like it accepted this point.

Just think what we all could have done with the $36mil wasted at Thirlmere. Lop off Trainworks, give RTM better facilities for a fraction of the cost and then spread the rest around and we could have achieved much more for NSW rail heritage.

Everyone needs to unite and look at the heritage sector in just the same way the NSWGR managed itself, as a network headquartered in the states major population and administration centre and for those who don't recognise where that is, its Sydney. The report gives more than a hint about using Eveleigh as the heart of the network with another major centre at Broadmeadow and these serving the whole sector. Thirlmere, Canberra, Valley Heights and all the rest of the 26 plus smaller groups would become outposts in the network and customers of Eveleigh and the administration. Total autonomy seems to be swept away in the model recommended by the report even though organisations remain independent and that's a bitter pill for everyone but it could work, maybe. I do think it deserves support.

Can we do it? I think we can but we have to look pretty hard at ourselves and take a more mature position that is for the benefit of all.

What think you?

PS- Reading back on my earlier posts I got wound up and probably said too much about side issues. I knew there was a reason I had stayed out of this up till now. I should have realised I'd kick off a witch hunt, but listen fellas, you can keep searching and I'll keep sympathising and saying I don't know who I am and you'll probably blame some innocent bloke as you have before, we are all eating ourselves alive. No more personal stuff, we need that internal debate on the bigger picture.
  zordmaker Train Controller

Location: NSW
Just think what we all could have done with the $36mil wasted at Thirlmere.
Alonzo Trumbull
Being a member of both 3801 Ltd and RTM (and having a long history in electric train preservation too) I share your concern. However Trainworks wasn't a "total waste". The challenge now is to make sure no more good money gets thrown after bad. Trainworks is going to have to stop pretending to be the Southern Highlands Powerhouse Museum and start getting back to RTM's roots I think.

Trainworks' strength is and always will be as a destination for school buses on weekdays. They should drop everything else (maybe even consider, gawd forbid, CLOSING on weekends altogether!). It's proximity to Sydney means it's well within a bus trip of most of Greater Sydney and it should capitalise on that and that ALONE. It's just too hard and expensive to get tourists to Thirlmere from Sydney, even if they did go ahead with my dream of using heritage electrics to Campbelltown and connecting with Thirlmere steam from there.

In it's place  - renewed focus on opening Broadmeadow as a place where multiple rail heritage groups can find a permanent home, start restoring stock and getting it on the track. Eventually it would be better for the tourists to go to Broadmeadow rather than Thirlmere.

The most exciting thing about the report is the idea of the umbrella group (THNSW) being an accredited group. What a great idea.

Now, instead of every group needing to hold their own accreditation, insurance and operating paperwork, it can all be done by the one umbrella operator. That also means crew training and qualification can be done that way too. No more of this waiting 5 years just for crew to get enough hours on the road to qualify because now they can go out on any train, not just the ones operated by their own group. Kinda not entirely unlike the NSWGR itself, before all this started.

Rolling stock can be owned and maintained by separate groups but operated by one group. Crews can be qualified in multiple train types using the same rules and procedures for all of them, instead of having to remember who you're working for and what rules apply before deciding what to do when something goes wrong. And then there's all the crew scheduling problems (where different volunteers work for different groups and end up fatigued after going over their maximum hours) which will be solved if the scheduling is done by one group.

Wanna be heard? Get that RTM membership in now before its too late. It's not such a bad deal - you get two visits to Trainworks per year and discounts on mainline tours plus other stuff. You can also stack the deck by making your whole family members - four votes for the price of one!

  Alonzo Trumbull Beginner

Location: Central Coast
have to be quick, I can only do this stuff when the boss isn't looking, ha, ha.

Again I agree with most of what Zordmaker says and if the world he predicts comes to pass it becomes a win all around. But I do have a different opinion about Trainworks and agree instead with what the report says, that Thirlmere is too far away, too inaccessible by public transport including rail, and cannot connect to any other touristy attractions, basically it is isolated, off the tourist map and by itself will always stay that way. Thirlmere isn't within a bus trip of Sydney for the average tourist operator because of its isolation from town and other attractions. Nothing new in that, it has been that way since day one. The very poor presentation and planning of the whole site doesn't help, read the report, but it really doesn't matter how good an attraction you put there, geography will always defeat you.

The key to maximising the sites potential and the Loop Line is not to ignore the geographical limitations but to utilise them. Zordmaker is on the right track if you excuse the pun with the suggestion about heritage red rattlers and so on. The journey to and from RTM has to be part of the attraction and Thirlmere is only another part. Punters need to be immersed in the rail experience if you excuse the jargon and their transport should be by rail, from Sydney Terminal with selected intermediate stops all the way to Thirlmere. We should be running several trains a day in each direction, electric, steam and diesel with activities on the trains themselves like music, videos, interactive stuff and such like. Most non rail fanatic visitors don't want to stay at Thirlmere more than an hour or so but by integrating the transport as part of the experience you offer several hours entertainment and education and lots of opportunities to sell stuff, which is where the money lies, not in gate receipts (read the report again). But it has to be clever.

School groups are important because part of the reason we do this stuff is to educate the young about their heritage, but that isn't where the cream is. Inbound tourism and local family and retiree groups are your bread, butter and dessert.

Got to go, the curse of work is calling, lots more I want to say.
  fernhill Chief Train Controller

Sunday Telegraph7/10/13

Gladys Berejiklian's staffer's 'conflict of interest' over rail toursTRANSPORT Minister Gladys Berejiklian's chief of staff Owen Johnstone-Donnet - already accused of fixing up a transport consultancy for an alleged Liberal mate of the Minister - is facing new conflict of interest claims over moonlighting with a scenic rail business.
Mr Johnstone-Donnet finds time in his busy job to run Scenic Journeys by Rail, trading as St James Rail, which offers scenic rail tours around the world and NSW.
Opposition transport spokeswoman Penny Sharpe yesterday claimed Mr Johnstone-Donnet's business was a conflict because it relied on "access to (government-supported) trains like Southern Aurora".

She also claimed "the operations of heritage trains are directly impacted on by decisions made by the Transport Minister and Transport for NSW".
Mr Johnstone-Donnet had that one tour through through Taiwan, costing $5985 per head plus airfare, in September 2011 would be accompanied by Lord Richard Faulkner, a UK heritage expert and member of the House of Lords.
The same month, Ms Berejiklian announced a Transport for NSW review into rail heritage, which included Lord Faulkner as one of three panel members.

A Transport for NSW spokesman said "Lord Faulkner was not engaged or paid" to assist with the review, which reported in May this year.
But he conceded that Lord Faulkner's expenses were paid for a "brief visit of about two weeks" to take part in the review.
Ms Berejiklian said Mr Johnstone-Donnet had declared his potential conflict when employed by her.
"Personal interests were declared at the commencement of employment in accordance with the guidelines for Ministerial staff," a spokesman said.
But Ms Sharpe said seemed that Mr Johnstone-Donnet was carrying on his business and claimed he was answering the St James Rail phone during his government business hours.
"Minister Berejiklian is either wilfully ignoring the conflicts of interest in her office or she believes it is reasonable for her Chief of Staff to be running a rail tours business while being paid by taxpayers. The Minister has to explain why she supports these arrangements," she said.
Mr Johnstone-Donnet is currently on leave and did not answer calls.
  ssaunders Train Controller

Agree with you Mr. Zordmaker and do we have any choice anyway.

Trainworks doesn't and won't work, no matter who runs it, for the same reason our beloved Thirlmere has never met the expectations we were promised and the cause is just like the real estate agents always crow, location, location, location.
What think you?

"Alonzo Trumbull"

Thirlmere never meeting expectations? Please do tell us what those expectation were. There was a move away from Sydney at the Govt request and then the RTM lived within its means for the next 30 years or so and ran trains for the members.

I'd say that met all expectations of the members.

  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
I will go along with Alonzo with his comments about the clique mentality, because I have also experienced it first hand in more than one organisation here in Victoria.
I joined one main line preservation group back in the 1980's, and went to the depot in overalls and work boots ready to do whatever job I was asked to do. One gentleman, and I use the term in its correct sense, courteously introduced me to people as a new volunteer who was willing to work, and I received nothing except a large slice of cold shoulder from various little groups.I refused to be daunted, and went back twice more, expecting that things might improve. Result - nil.  
I went up the road and dropped in on another group to which I was, technically, not able to join. However, I was made welcome and stayed for some years, until a new clique arose and managed to get rid of me and three others who didn't fit their plans. That group is now labouring with a lack of qualified people.
I subsequently went to a tourist railway, where I started as a general hand in the loco depot, with a view to qualifying as a fireman. It became dispiriting to see the culture of institutionalised favouritism which existed there. I made four unsuccessful applications, over three years, to join the safe working course. I was accepted on my fifth try. On the same course was a guy who also did work in the loco depot, and had been there for five months. He knew the right people, and, dare I say it, the right handshake. I passed my fireman's exam, and one morning got up at 4:30 and arrived at the depot at 6:00 ready to light up my loco for the day. I found another guy on it - a bloke whom I had taught to light up. He had been given my firing gig, and I didn't even get the courtesy of a phone call to let me know that I'd been chucked off.  
Eventually, I went back to the first group I mentioned here. I have a weekday every week when I'm available, and I thought I might be able to do something useful there. The very first day I turned up, in overalls and boots again, I introduced myself to a guy working on a diesel loco, as a new volunteer. His reply was that "We don't need any more f***** volunteers."
I have to say that I just don't understand it. We all have the same agenda, surely - preservation.

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