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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 100 - October 2008
Chairman's Notes - Allan Baker
Forty Years On
This year 40th anniversaries have been very much in the news. I had not realised what a momentous year 1968 was - the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia, the assassination of Martin Luther King and the end of BR main line steam. From a personal point of view it was also the year that Christine and I were married - so 40th anniversaries have been very much on my mind this year.
Forty years ago, I was living in Manchester and as a sales rep my "patch" covered the whole of northwest England, and as I drove around in my Morris 1000 Traveller I didn't have to use much ingenuity to ensure that my route took me through Burnley and Preston and to one of the last steam sheds at Rose Grove. Steam was on its last legs by then but whatever the grimy Black 5's and 5F's looked like the sounds and smells were just as evocative as ever. And then suddenly it was all over - silence descended and the sense of loss was like a collective bereavement. In fact, it is probably no exaggeration to say that thousands of railway enthusiasts went into a state of mourning.
It was in this atmosphere that the QRS was formed and moved onto its site at Quainton early in 1969. Thousands of enthusiasts - deprived of their daily "fix" of steam - provided a vast pool of energetic enthusiastic young workers eager to help the emerging preservation movement. What happened next is well-known to us all, so I will not repeat it here save to say that as custodians of this country's steam heritage we owe a great debt of thanks to those early pioneers. As we go into 2009, we have one more 40th anniversary to celebrate. August sees the 40th anniversary of our first public open day at Quainton so we will be celebrating this historic milestone in appropriate style.
The Way Ahead
Anniversaries provide an opportunity to look back but also to focus one's thoughts on what comes next. As we enter our 41st season of open days and you look around we have much to be proud of but much to give us cause to wonder what the next 40 years will bring. The first thing that an observer would note is that the fresh faced young volunteers are all a little greyer now (not just a little I'm afraid - a recent estimate indicated that the average age of our open day volunteers is now 58). This change in age range has led to a change in volunteering patterns with weekday volunteers now equal or greater in number to those at weekends. Our collection now numbers over 150 vehicles and many thousands of smaller items, many in need of heavy restoration and the finance that goes with it, not to mention the track and associated buildings. Have we got any realistic chance of restoring all these items or, in specially selected cases, should we be considering passing some on to others with the money and resources to successfully achieve their restoration?
In looking forward a degree of realism is essential. We cannot expect the mass interest in steam railways that followed the events of 1968 to continue. There will not be armies of steam enthusiasts - denied their "fix" of steam on the main line - eager to help restoration centres such as ours. More importantly than this perhaps, the general public will have no knowledge of steam in their daily lives and a steam centre will not have the nostalgic appeal it bad to an earlier generation. Will they be interested in spending their hard earned cash and leisure time in visiting us? We will certainly have to use all the armoury of the modern marketing world to attract them.
Change is inevitable and we took the first big step forward last year in the appointment of our first General Manager to mastermind and pull together our whole sprawling operation, which like Topsy has just grown over the years. With Janet in post, however, we cannot all just lean back in our armchairs and take a breather. The need for volunteers able and willing to work alongside our team of paid staff has never been more urgent. Of particular need are committed volunteers prepared to take responsibility by heading up particular areas or projects and managing our scarce resources. This is also true of your Executive Committee where members with the skills and commitment to steer the future course of the Society are urgently needed. As well as new blood we need new thinking and willingness by all to accept new ways of doing things. For Quainton to take the success it has enjoyed in its first 40 years through to 2049 and beyond requires us to accept the challenge of change and come forward to work with the professional management of the Centre we must have to prosper.
Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
Page Updated: 02 December 2017