With the flurry of news about the return of Flyibg Scotsman, I thought I’d have a quick break from modelling to ask a question or two about preservation policies.
Personally I don’t like Scotsman. It’s like a bloke in a flashy car or a woman who’s wearing a low cut top. It says look at me but it really isn’t that special. It was widely reported by crews back in the day that it was a bag of nails. I wonder if the publicity department of the LNER got confused. All the loco crews were going round in amazement that Scotsman could actually achieve 100 mph and so they made it a news story thinking it was some big deal to reach 100. The fact that Papyrus did 108mph shortly afterwards shows it wasn’t actually that big an achievement by such a large loco.
The problem I have these days with Scotsman is the fact the NRM have spent a vast quantity of money to restore a loco using as much original as possible but with the intention to run it on the mainline. To me, that’s nuts. With all the recent attention on mainline running following the various West Coast Railways incidents, you can see the day coming where steam is banned from the mainline unless it is new build. And fair enough I say. Tornado is currently the only loco that is built for today’s operating railway. All other locos were built for an operating environment long gone and most are geriatric to say the least.
The NRM has spent a fortune on Scotsman but it will fall apart again in a few years and the day will come when it is too expensive to maintain. Then what will they have preserved? Nothing. The millions they spent they could have built a new one with a much better life span and preserved Scotsman. But instead they’ve got a glittery turd.
Secondly, the NRM also recently unveiled their Eurostar powercar. The problem I have with this is that it isn’t significant. Much of the stock in the NRM is significant – First in class, fastest, oldest, last off the line, etc. This power car is no 3308.
When I saw it it immediately rang alarm bells with me. It’s not that I know Eurostar numbers off by heart or anything but the 33xx Eurostars were the North of London ones which were built for running Glasgow and Edinburgh to the tunnel via the WCML and ECML. They were never used for this and the first 3 sets (6 power cars) were eventually painted blue and used by GNER as additional capacity. 3308 wasn’t even one of those. The last of this sub fleet was named Entente Cordiale and used to transport the Queen to Paris, but 3308 wasn’t in this set either. One of the 33xx Eurostars set the UK speed record. But not 3308. There is nothing significant about 3308 at all.
3308 has only ever been used in revenue service on domestic TGV services in the south of France, yet the NRM have it as an example of the Eurostars that run London – Paris.
(It is also recorded by both the NRM and Eurostar to have been a gift from Eurostar. One hopes SNCF gave it to Eurostar first so they could give it to the NRM…)
Given that all but 8 of the Eurostar sets are being scrapped, if it were me, I’d have asked for 3313 or 3314 which are the power cars from the set which holds the UK speed record (208 mph) and formed the set for transporting the Queen.
So to summarise from these ramblings, the current NRM policy is:
1. preserve something as original as possible (hence why Scotsman cost so much to restore and why Green Arrow won’t be restored to running condition)
2. not keep something as original as possible if they think it is a money spinner. (As proved by Duchess of Hamilton. Apart form Scotsman which is a money spinner but had to be as original as possible (see policy no 1 above))
3. not to bother preserving significant vehicles. Any old tat will do as long as it’s shiny and gets the public through the door.
This rolling stock is our National Collection. The question is do we care what is preserved. Do we care how it is preserved. Do we care?