Welcome to the first e-newsletter edition for 2021
Terrier 2678 'Knowle' successfully passed her steam test in December. We look forward to more wonderful scenes such as this, courtesy of Alan Crotty
From the Chair...
A very happy new year to everyone – or at least as happy a one as it is possible to have.
We had hoped by now to have had a successful Santa season, and to be looking forward with confidence to running trains in 2021. Instead, we have a new national lockdown with vague promises that the country might begin to reopen again around the end of March should circumstances permit. And there are a lot of “ifs” around that.
I don’t know whether it’s sheer fatigue, or the weather, but the threat from the virus seems closer at the moment, and the restrictions more irksome. We must hope that this is the hour before the dawn and that the vaccines will provide a way out.
In the meantime, we all have a Railway to look after.
We have decided that the socially responsible course of action, and the best one for the Railway, is not to run any public trains until Easter at the earliest, and to review the position around the middle of March. Once we do judge that it is safe and sensible to reopen we shall do what we did last year by starting small and simple and scaling up when we are able to and when the demand is there.
We will be taking advantage of the extended furlough scheme, but we shall retain enough staff to keep things ticking over so we are ready to roll when the time comes. We also need to ensure that we can use the closed period to catch up on a lot of the backroom tasks and improvements for which there isn’t time in normal circumstances. There will be a balance to be struck.
I won’t pretend that losing the Santa season wasn’t a major hit to our finances, albeit mitigated at least in the short term by many of our pre-booked customers leaving their money with us against the intention to travel next Christmas. We shall be applying for a further Culture Recovery Fund grant, and it’s worth saying that the previous round was never intended to cover not being able to trade during December, but we won’t know the answer before the end of March by which time things will be very tight. We continue to apply for all the other grants for which we think we are eligible but there is a lot of foregone income to be made up and the longer we are unable to run trains the bigger that figure will get. It begins to feel uncomfortable.
We are therefore considering the options for an appeal to plug this new hole. Unless the lockdown continues for a lot longer than currently anticipated, or Government support dries up, we are not at risk of going under; but we do need to provide ourselves with a safety net and we do need to be able to continue to improve the condition of our assets.
We may not be running trains, but limited work on site continues and we must ensure that it is done safely. Some of you will be aware that on 9 December there was an incident involving a volunteer who was working a lathe. We have taken immediate steps to prevent a recurrence and more are planned.
The message here is simple. Safety is everyone’s first priority, and if getting safety right means we are able to run fewer trains than we would like to, so be it. Having robust safety systems is integral to our operation and safety must be in the forefront of all our minds.
The broad sunlit uplands of a 2021 in which the worst was behind us and we were getting into the stride of making the best of the new normal may be further away than we had thought, but not all is doom and gloom. By Easter we should have the promised new IT system and, hopefully, improved arrangements for taking bookings. We will have a Terrier either available for service or for hire to another railway. We might have the kitchen car back on site for completion. We shall have a new management structure in place. We shall have established a new group, to sit alongside the Fundraising Working Party, to ensure that whatever resource we do have to spend on projects is properly applied, that we can judge between competing priorities, and that we don’t start what we can’t finish. And we shall be guided by the Strategy that you will have been reading about in these pages.
Our sixtieth anniversary year will be tough, and we certainly don’t have the bandwidth at present to plan any celebrations in advance, even if we knew we would be allowed to. Like 2020, it will ask a lot of many of us as we seek to keep all the balls in the air. There will continue to be much hard work and worry, sometimes for little or no return. But we will get through it, and we will be in a position to face whatever the future brings.
Stay safe and look after your wellbeing. Let’s hope things start to get better soon. And if you feel you can pre-empt any appeal that we might be launching you can donate below!
NB. The text immediately below detailing the November meeting of Trustees was inadvertently omitted from the last edition of this e-newsletter. Notes from two meetings are therefore included here - my apologies!
The board of trustees had its monthly meeting on Saturday 28 November. We used the K&ESR’s Zoom facility.
The e-Newsletter provides an opportunity to give a brief flavour of some of the most important points. It should not in any sense be regarded as a formal record.
This being the first meeting since the 2020 AGM, there was an election of officers. I was re-elected as chairman; Geoff Crouch as deputy chairman and finance director, Neil Sime as safety director, David Nibloe as strategy director, and Paul Vidler as the trustee on the Risk and Compliance Committee. Philip Shaw and I were re-elected as K&ESR trustee representatives on the museum committee, with Brian Janes being confirmed as curator.
We also elected K&ESR trustee representatives to the CSRE, Robertsbridge 2020, and 6619 Ltd Boards.
We noted the decision that had been made to cancel the 2020 Santa season, together with the positive and supportive reaction from the public. If there was a silver lining, it was that we would now have more bandwidth and energy to clear up any outstanding organisational work and reset the Railway for 2021.
In a brief discussion on restructuring we recorded a formal vote of thanks to each one of those who had left the Railway’s employment during the autumn. Their names will be included in the minutes which will be published after the next meeting. (We noted that there was a backlog in the publication of such minutes, and the we were informed that the company secretaries have this in hand.)
We reviewed the financial situation. Despite cancellation of the Santas we were not on our uppers and in a better position than some other heritage railways. Thanks were due to all who had made this possible, and who would be continuing to do so. We had been, and would be, managing our money very carefully. Further applications for grants were in the pipeline.
We had a presentation from the Safety Director on Risk Management 3 (RM3). This was a tool used throughout the railway industry for measuring an organisation’s approach to risk management; it encompassed everything from high level governance to work on the ground. It was the intention to use it on the K&ESR, starting with trustees, the GM and departmental managers, and then more widely. We noted that the C&W department had already adopted its principles. This would be the start of a journey for us all, and a driver for culture change generally, not just on classical “safety” issues.
We noted that promotional videos were being produced for the Kitchen Car and Terrier 150 appeals. In respect of the latter we noted with gratitude the offer by The Terrier Trust of two free steamings for “Knowle”. It was the intention, Covid restrictions permitting, to make the most of the engine’s return to traffic.
We had a substantive discussion on the plans to continue the revamp of the Railway’s IT provision and we endorsed the concept for the next phase in upgrading. A portion of the grant funding is available to enable this. We shall now move quickly to market testing, and the aim is to complete delivery by the start of the main 2021 season.
We noted welcome progress by the Volunteering Committee on recruitment and welfare, and that we would be returning to this subject at the next Board meeting.
We discussed how we could better prepare, record and disseminate Board business, including a number of quick wins for the next few months.
We noted that the letters tabled in response to the invitation at the AGM would be answered as soon as possible.
We agreed in principle to trial Zoom-based talks and question sessions that would be open to volunteers and others.
The next meeting will be on Saturday 19 December.
The board of trustees had its monthly meeting on Saturday 19 December. We used the K&ESR’s Zoom facility.
The e-Newsletter provides an opportunity to give a brief flavour of some of the most important points. It should not in any sense be regarded as a formal record.
We noted the decision that had been made to cancel the Crimbo Limbo and February half term trains. The intention would be to restart services in March depending on the Covid situation at the time. The break would allow Shaun and those staff not on furlough to carry out a lot of backroom work.
We noted our current financial situation, and that owing to the loss of income going on for longer than expected it might now be desirable to launch some kind of general appeal. The Fundraising Working Party would be tasked with producing ideas.
We noted a report from the Safety Director and endorsed the safety targets for 2021, which would be published.
We noted with thanks the management action already taken in respect of an incident in the C&W shed. We also noted that while much progress had been made on safety generally it had not reached all areas in sufficient depth. We agreed further steps to prevent a recurrence. We wished to use this further to drive home the safety message; our approach should be that if work had to be delayed for safety reasons so be it.
The Risk and Compliance Committee were currently examining the Railway’s high level governance documents.
We agreed Terms of Reference and composition of a new Project Co-ordination Group. It would be based on past experience; it would have no executive power but would be a light touch means of ensuring that scarce resource was spend in the best way and that projects would not be started unless money was available and there was an expectation of completion. Its existence and functions would be communicated to staff and volunteers.
We noted the prospect of an innovative solution for providing power to the Kitchen Car and that this had caused a delay. We asked the project team to reschedule the remaining work so that the position could be confirmed to our major funders.
We wished all on the Railway a merry Christmas, and we placed on record our thanks to Shaun and his team of managers for their efforts in what had been a very challenging year.
The next scheduled meeting would be on Saturday 30 January. On current – perhaps rather ambitious – plans we would: agree a new approach to communications; note the new management structure; hold a six-monthly review of progress on the strategy; discuss feedback from the first stage of the RM3 exercise ; agree detailed proposals for the IT renewal; agree proposals for the better preparation and recording of Board business; and note the interim report of the review of machining.
No.14 'Charwelton' at Tenterden Town Station c1964
Image courtesy of Dick Beckett
Signalman Training changes tracks!
We all know about the first lockdown and how it shattered the normal lives of many, effectively overnight. Over on the Signalman Training side of things, the annual course had just begun. We were certainly no strangers to doing things in a ‘virtual only world’, having transferred around 80% of the course to ‘Skype’ in 2018. This made the course far more accessible/efficient for everyone to take part and cost far less in travel to the railway every four weeks, but more importantly, it also pretty much removed all costs of running the course to the railway – a great result!
So, given we had everything sorted already – no lockdown was going to affect us, right? Well, if only life was that easy! It quickly became apparent, once the railway had to shut its doors with no date for reopening on the table, that whilst we could teach the theory all year long to anyone regardless of where they were in the world let alone the UK, how were trainees going to manage this complex course without ever stepping foot into a signal box?
We knew that, if we kept going at the pace we had planned with just theory, photos and videos, we would soon reach a point where the topics became ridiculously over complicated and quite tricky to put into context by just doing the virtual course alone.
We decided to pause for around 2 months, but keeping in regular contact with the trainees to make sure we retained them in some way with the hope of things returning to normal as soon as possible.
As we restarted the course again, and the railway started having limited running, we were still not quite sure how long we could continue in the situation where trainees (for obvious reasons) could not be permitted to go into a signal box.
I was aware of various online simulators for sale which were of very high quality and would be most useful in replicating much of what happens in our signal boxes, but was faced with two issues. One was how would we get the trainees to operate this simulation over an internet connection, for at the time Skype (the free software we were using) did not have such a feature, whilst the other related to licencing issues.
I then learned that the K&ESR had its own Zoom account for departments such as ours to use. Zoom is like Skype but slightly more user friendly in my view. More importantly, it came with the option to easily allow different meeting attendees to operate another person’s machine, where everyone could see and hear exactly what that machine was doing! Excellent – I had solved the first of my two issues.
The other issue was one that kept getting deferred due to various challenges in my personal life, thrown up (like in most other people’s lives) as a result of the pandemic. I finally got round to emailing ‘PC Rail’ to see if we could make use of their software for training purposes online. I must admit I wasn’t expecting a particularly helpful response, as I didn’t have much to offer them in return. However a response came back pretty quickly from John at PC Rail with not only a ‘yes, that would be fine’, but also with a donation of whichever simulation we thought would work best for our Signalmen training!
We finally had something more that we could use in our course beyond the videos, photos and diagrams (plus listening to Tony Ramsey ramble on about incidents that he had caused as a Signalman!). The simulator we chose was PC-Rail’s Bridgnorth program, as this effectively gave us a block instrument, a single line, a run round loop, all three ways of signals indicating the route to the Driver, a kind of ground frame, facing point locks and a TRB among other things.
The use of the simulator is now a regular feature in our online training sessions and work continues on how to further integrate it into the course material. We have also created a plan to extend the training to previous course trainees who have not been in a box for some time, so helping them keep active whilst they await that all important passing out turn!
Our thanks go to John at PC-Rail for the invaluable donation and for permitting us to use the software for training purposes. Should anyone wish to have a look at the excellent range on offer, the website address is www.pcrail.co.uk
Signalman Training Officer
From the General Manager
Charwelton at Northiam Station with the Woolwich Coach c1965
Image courtesy of Alan Crotty
A new year is upon us and across the national media, print, audio, video it is a constant message of Covid misery, each channel trying to out-do the other about how terrible it is, and allegedly the worst is still to come. Yes it is tough and with the railway almost closed, it is a lonely place:
• The loco shed is closed for two weeks, when it opens it will be restricted to two staff only five days per week;
• C&W is restricted to two staff only, five days per week, plus one diesel fitter three days per week;
• Volunteer groups Forestry, 4253, Wagon Group, Tuesday Group, Gardening Group, Bodiam Group etc have all been stood down until further notice;
• P/Way and S&T are just ticking over
• Most volunteers are staying safe at home
• Finance staff are working from home, as the bills still come in and need to be paid;
• Commercial staff are working from home and coming to the end of the mammoth task of Santa refunds and moves
• A number of staff have caught covid and others have been required to self-isolate having been notified by track and trace
Though life is tough for us all, it has been harder for our volunteers, deprived of what they love doing most, deprived of being part of the railway family. But, we do have a choice. We can either run down the street waving our hands in the air, shouting “woe, woe is me” or alternatively we can be the “master of our fate, the captain of our soul”.
On my office desk at home the iPad I use for my many Zoom meetings sits on a makeshift stand, a 768 page paperback book “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela. I often think how he would have coped with Covid?
He suffered solitary confinement in a six foot square cell on Robben Island but was inspired by the words of the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903). Mandela came back with dignity, became President of his country and united blacks and whites across South Africa through his supportive role in South Africa winning the Rugby World Cup on home soil. Well, compared with what he went through, I am sure he would think Covid is a socially distanced walk in the park, and we would think if he can do it then so can we.
I am sure he would say to our volunteers:
• Follow the rules;
• Help your colleagues, stay away from the railway to reduce risk of transferring the virus unless specifically requested to work;
• Protect yourselves and your colleagues by observing social distancing, and wear a mask;
• Stay safe, “hands – face – space”;
• Your railway is continuing its daily security patrols;
• Vaccinations are being rolled out. With 50% of staff over 60, your vaccinations will not be far away;
• Your railway continues to tick over, minimising cost wherever possible;
• Your paid staff are being furloughed wherever possible;
• You will ramp up quickly because your railway is ticking over;
• Your restart plans, training plans, competency plans are being put together;
• You should look forward to the day your railway family will safely return;
• We don’t know exactly when, but return it will;
• Customers will be looking for opportunities to get out and about;
• Staycations will still be the order of the day;
• So believe, 2021 will be a better year than 2020.
INVICTUS by William Ernest Henley 1849-1903
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Carriage & Wagon Manage
The Santa that nearly was …
Santa tucks into a box of mince pies!
How do I succinctly describe in a few paragraphs the huge amount of work which went in to planning what would have been our 46th year of Santa Specials, together with the utter disappointment and dismay when it all had to be unpicked when Kent was placed in Tier 3, then 4.
Santa Specials is, hands down, the most important event for our Railway. Not only does it represent a key part of so many families Christmas tradition, with very high levels of repeat visits, but it also contributes around 25% of our total income for the (normal) year.
When I returned from furlough in mid-August, the already formed Santa Planning Group, comprising André Freeman, Helen Douglas, James Palk, Ian Legg, Graham Bridge, Brian Richards and Paula Oliver, had already begun discussing in detail how we might be able to deliver Santa in a Covid secure way.
It is fair to say that Zoom became my new best friend as we continued to discuss at great length how we could reinvent our tried and trusted formulae to still deliver that essential magic ingredient, whilst keeping everyone safe. No stone was left unturned as we looked at different options. We even considered changing the programme completely to a train ride and Santa’s grotto at Northiam, before finally agreeing on what we thought was a deliverable formulae: Santa on the train with two elf helpers with a 50% of normal capacity.
With the proposed programme agreed and formally signed off by Trustees, work started to get everything ready. Every team across the organisation pulled together to make things happen in record time, far too numerous to mention everyone here but you know who you are. Suffice it to say this was the perfect demonstration of teamwork. It was an incredibly satisfying moment when we finally went on sale, initially only to those customers who had subscribed to our Santa Special mailing list. The response was remarkable, with over £74,000 worth of tickets purchased online in a single weekend, creating an all time record. With beautiful new Santa artwork, coaches prepared, marquees and gallopers arriving, work underway on the Model Railway display, elves briefed and the whole site being cleaned, decorated and set out, it was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas.
That was until the Government announcement that Kent was being placed in Tier 3, forcing us to cancel the first weekend. Further announcements meant taking the incredibly difficult decision to cancel the whole of our Santa programme. This not only left a huge hole in our purse, but also provided further challenges: contacting everyone who had booked to arrange either refunds or to move their booking to 2021, plus getting everything on site taken back down and packed away. What to do with thousands of mince pies, hundreds of selection boxes and a shipping container full of presents?
Tenterden Town Council came to our rescue on the mince pie and selection box front, offering to purchase almost all of these to donate to those most in need in the local community, which was a great positive outcome. Staff and volunteers also offered to buy many more. Although we still have lots of the present stock, which we can use for 2021, Keith Jones and our Retail team worked hard to sell quite a bit in the Gift Shop which opened (whilst we could) at weekends.
The amount of man (or should I say woman) hours that has gone in to contacting all of our customers to either move their booking or arrange refunds is quite extraordinary. A huge vote of thanks must go to Lin, Caroline, Tracy, Rosemary and Matsya for the sterling job they have done with this whilst working from their home 'offices'.
One thing I haven’t mentioned yet is all of the disappointed families who were eagerly looking forward to meeting Santa, only to find their hopes dashed. Their patience & kindness has been truly superb and many have left heart-warming messages of support for us.
We arranged for Francis Armstrong, (seen with mince pies above!) and Neil Jackson with his video kit to produce a short video (below) to send out to all of those disappointed families. This meant everyone who had booked with us received a message from Santa himself, which was very positively received.
We continue to face a challenging climate in 2021 but I am sure we will again rise admirably to this. The real positive to take away from this experience is what can be achieved when we all pull together. My thanks to everyone for their support and here’s looking forward to a successful and magical Santa 2021!
Commercial & Events Officer
Carriage & Wagon news
The Woolwich Coach repairs continue
Image courtesy of Peter Blythe
The re-paint of the Woolwich coach is progressing. The space freed up when this is done will be allocated to the SR brake van so it can be lifted to see what axlebox repairs are needed and how they might be carried out. In the meantime the wagon group stalwarts contine dismantling the van to establish what else needs to be done. Once finished it will be turned out in Longmoor blue livery.
Mk1 CK 86 overhaul continues with the bogies receiving attention at the moment. In line with policy, we are renewing where required to produce equipment that is as good as it can be to avoid failures later on and hopefully build in many more decades of service.
Thre are a number of coaches to put through for classified exams before April and Alan Brice also hopes to get a coat of varnish on Maunsell NBO 54 before the resumption of Wealden Pullman services.
A lot of work is going on behind the scenes on competence management, procedures and the department standards manual. Once we are able to resume working you may well find things are a little different. Not onerous but making us more compliant with the requirements of the modern world.
Carriage & Wagon Delivery Manager
2678 nominated for Steam Railway - Heritage Railway Association Awards
The Terrier Trust and The Kent & East Sussex Railway are delighted to be amongst the ten nominees for the coveted Steam Railway magazine prize in the annual Heritage Railway Association Awards 2021.
The rapid restoration of 2678, including the reinstatement of the Isle of Wight style bunker, has made the shortlist. As you will see, there is some stiff competition and any one of the ten will be a worthy winner - but we would love it to be 2678.
The magazine is asking its readers to vote to decide which of the projects picks up the trophy. For further details and to vote, click below
George Moffat learning how to heat and bend metal under the supervision of Richard Moffat
Rolvenden Depot re-opened on the 4th January only to be hit with the latest lockdown the next day. Most staff are on now back on furlough, but we are keeping a presence to safeguard our assets and carry out some minor works.
Locomotive Delivery Manager
K&ESR ‘Second Thursday’ Meetings
Thanks to all those who attended (via Zoom) the first 'Second Thursday' meeting, hosted by Chairman Simon Marsh and General Manager Shaun Dewey.
The meetings are intended to keep everyone in touch with events on the Railway and behind the scenes and the intial meeting was positively received.
The next 'Second Thursday' Zoom meeting will be held at 7pm on 11th February 2021 and will be hosted by Safety Trustee Neil Sime giving a presentation entitled ‘It’s a Risky Business’ looking at the Office of Rail and Road’s ‘RM3’ model as relevant to the K&ESR and how it will be rolled out to involve the workforce in 2021.
Future '2nd Thursday' meetings planned to cover Strategy, Volunteering, Signalling and the Wagon Group. If you have something you would like to see covered, or would like to volunteer to give a presentation, please contact Trustee Robin via e-mail: [email protected]
The project team owe a big thank you to Wealden Pullman volunteers Kevin Bulled and Elliot Waters for creating the video below, which is to be used as part of our social media campaign to attract donations from business and the wider railway community.
This video will be part of a series promoting the railway to a wider audience using various social media channels.
The Kitchen Car project progress over the last few months has been more planning than implementation. The drawings detailing the diesel generator installation identified some issues that prompted us to consider a greener/cutting edge design.
We are now pursuing two options for an “off grid” battery solution design and await detailed costings before selecting a solution.
Once the “off grid” supply is installed the only outstanding task for our contractors, before the vehicle can be returned to KESR, is to paint the carriage.
Once back at KESR we will then have the task of installing the kitchen, some of which will be transferred from Diana. In addition, we will refurbish the bogies, commission the steam heat and vacuum brake, undertake the signwriting and fit saloon tables and lighting.