Sorry for the gap in blogging folks but the problem has been too many things to talk about rather then not enough. Oh, that and writing words for a living rather than fun.
I’ve much to catch up on, such as the vagaries of the freelance world, Railfest, the new camera and also stuff about recent travels. I’ll try and make a start later this week.
One thing that has caught my attention recently has been the bad publicity and media storm the East Lancashire Railway has been caught up in when Fleet St picked up on stories of people parading in (the worst kind of) Nazi uniforms at a recent war event. Previous comments from an offended Jewish couple to the MEN made things worse. All this has been covered in several national newspapers with a circulation of many millions. To paraphrase the old adage ‘you just can’t buy bad publicity like that’
Meanwhile, there’s a very thoughtful, insightful and intelligent open letter by Rabbi Walter Rothschild on ‘Railway Eye’ that preserved railways would do well to pay attention to. The Rabbi is also a railway enthusiast, well placed to understand both sides of the argument. You can find it here if you cut and paste the link:
What this storm proves is how out of their depth some preserved railways are dealing with such negative publicity. It seems the ELR’s approach is to be reactive rather than proactive, blaming the media and others for the storm that many observers have seen coming for a long time. The truth is that the responsibility lies with the railways for lax supervision of these war groups, not on the media for reporting what happens after they turn up. Engagement, a bit of contrition and showing a willingness to deal with the problem is a far better tactic for pouring oil on troubled waters than finger pointing or ducking responsibility.
Like many others I really can’t understand why preserved railways still allow people in Axis uniforms to parade around their railways. They add nothing to historical accuracy but the potential for it all to go ‘Pete Tong’ is huge – and proven (remember the infamous mock execution elsewhere?). The message should be loud and clear, certain uniforms and behaviour is beyond the pale and if people insist on turning up like that they’ll be ejected forthwith.
Perhaps the wiser heads at the Heritage Railway Association should consider issuing guidance to their members on this issue before the next storm hits - as it inevitably will – unless railways get a grip.