Thursday, 10 July 2014

Training the industrial heirs

A recent Making History programme drew attention to a problem faced by industrial conservation groups, especially historic railway societies. As we lose the last generation of people whose real job it was to operate machinery or drive trains, there is a need to pass on their skills to another generation - and to ensure that there is a generation of volunteers to maintain and in turn pass on that skill set. As the Radio 4 programme explained, the well-funded organisations like the Bluebell Railway (and, from what I have seen, the Ffestiniog/Welsh Highland group) can afford to run their own training programmes, but this may not be true of smaller groups.

Even where that training is available, there is a second dilemma. It is all very well catching the interest of volunteers when they are young, but there comes a time when they need to support themselves and probably a family as well. There will be little time for actively supporting industrial heritage. The groups can only hope to maintain their interest and draw them back into volunteer work when other responsibilities diminish in later life.

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