South Gippsland Railway, Is it dead?

 
  RTT_Rules Oliver Bullied, CME

Location: Dubai UAE
Well  the sign in the notice board at Korumburra station says ( along these lines from what I read an hour ago) - "due to a lack of volunteers to fulfil administrative requirements, we are unable to  run trains for the foreseeable future. The committee of management apologizes for any inconvenience or disappointment this has caused."

Be that as it may,  I suppose this is inherent in many preservation groups where older may people predominantly volunteer,  and as such would be more susceptible to things limiting their abilities,  or possibly poor health preventing attendance which may have a  detrimental  effect  on an organizations ability to operate. Whilst it's just my opinion,  time will ultimately tell what happens here.

Regards
davesvline
I had this argument with others saying that I thought at least that many Australian preservation groups were suffering from new blood and many what comes in don't have railway skills. Times have changed. I watched my 10 year old loose alot of his railway interest in last 2 years due to exposure to Playstation etc. I can push and encourage only so far, but when all his friends have other interests you can only get so far.

Even the guys coming from the railways these days to hep out would have little or no steam experience and the supply of hand me down equipment and materials must be getting harder to get as the modern railways move forward in technology. ie heavy concrete sleepers means no used timber sleepers and concrete cannot be man handled.

Lets hope they can turns things around.

EDIT: Will anyone have the cash or interest to preserve a NR class or other similar modern loco? So far Aurizon have disposed of a number of EL's with more to go and yet its unlikely even one will make it into preservation.

I strongly get the feeling that railway preservation will be cut off to rolling stock made before the late 80's as the newer stuff will be far more difficult to preserve in more than a static arrangement.

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  apw5910 Chief Commissioner

Location: Location: Location.
Well  the sign in the notice board at Korumburra station says ( along these lines from what I read an hour ago) - "due to a lack of volunteers to fulfil administrative requirements, we are unable to  run trains for the foreseeable future. The committee of management apologizes for any inconvenience or disappointment this has caused."

Be that as it may,  I suppose this is inherent in many preservation groups where older may people predominantly volunteer,  and as such would be more susceptible to things limiting their abilities,  or possibly poor health preventing attendance which may have a  detrimental  effect  on an organizations ability to operate. Whilst it's just my opinion,  time will ultimately tell what happens here.

Regards
davesvline
Wonder if SGR mean they can't find enough volunteers to deal with the ever-increasing paperwork required to run trains (administration), or they haven't got the required number of volunteers to run trains any more (drivers, guards, flagmen etc). I must admit that although I volunteer regularly at ARHS, I would hate having to do paperwork. And yes, 12 inches to the foot stuff is definitely becoming an old man's hobby.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
And yes, 12 inches to the foot stuff is definitely becoming an old man's hobby.
apw5910
I wouldn't say it's entirely become an old man's hobby. It really depends on each organisation's location, their current volunteer base and how good they are at training and retaining volunteers. Some groups are close to major population centres, so they have a large potential regular volunteer base. Some have a big public image and get volunteers from wider walks of life that way. Some are tightly knit groups that treat volunteers like family because they know that good ones are worth their weight in gold. Some are also tightly knit... and don't like outsiders much, especially if they try to shake things up.

Ultimately the preservation groups that play by the rules and have a good volunteer culture will survive. I don't know what SGR's culture is like (aside from the quite pleasant experience that I had when I visited them a year or two ago), so I won't cast the first stone. If they have a good culture then this will simply be a wake-up call and they will come back stronger than before. If not... Victoria is littered all over with the remains of former tourist & heritage railways. It doesn't matter how many people think that a particular section of railway line is historically important if none of them will put their hand up or their wallet out to keep it going.
  bevans Site Admin

Location: Melbourne, Australia
Just received this event via Facebook so perhaps given the date is April of 2016 they may be back in business?

https://www.facebook.com/events/897175663665176/
  randomnarwhal Locomotive Driver

Just received this event via Facebook so perhaps given the date is April of 2016 they may be back in business?

https://www.facebook.com/events/897175663665176/
bevans
Announced months ago. No cancellation though, and their facebook posts do sound somewhat hopeful.
  lkernan Chief Commissioner

Location: Melbourne
Updates on their Facebook over the last week:

UPDATE:
It's no secret that we are in trouble and we need serious help. We have a SGM on Sat 16th coming up to decide where we go from here.
If you can help in any way we'd love to hear from you. Admin is the major area we need to continue.
Please contact via: info@sgr.org.au
SGR facebook
SPECIAL GENERAL MEETING (SGM)
This Saturday 16th January from 09:00am
At Korumburra Station.
If you can't attend but are wanting to help in the future please write how you can help and to what extent to info@sgr.org.au
SGR Facebook
  don_dunstan Dr Beeching

Location: Adelaide proud
I once rocked up with a couple of friends of mine to have a ride on the Limestone Coast Railway when it was advertised to run from Mt Gambier - only to find it had been cancelled due to lack of people showing up (we were the only ones there!). Unfortunately there was no system in place to pre-book in those days; needless to say Limestone Coast has long ceased to exist.

All these volunteer organisations face the same dilemmas; increasing regulatory burden, lack of volunteer time/money to do the boring background stuff, heavy maintenance burden on ageing equipment. It's a shame but just a reality.
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
I reckon one of the core skills involved in running a tourist railway is marketing... of three different types:

  • Marketing to potential passengers, so they get a decent load and don't end up like Don's experience at Mt Gambier.
  • Marketing to potential volunteers. One Victorian preserved railway has many hundreds of volunteers, while others survive with only a few dozen. There's a black art in seducing interested people to give their time to a hobby or cause.
  • Marketing the railway to funding bodies. Not just to government bureaucracies that dole out cash, but also to the many private trusts that also give out grants and assistance. One railway known to all of us manages to spin themselves in just the right way to get regular generous grants, but I think they may have a specialist on the payroll who is skilled at this sort of thing. It might be an idea if all the other Victorian tourist railways collectively pitched in to hire someone to do this for them?
  don_dunstan Dr Beeching

Location: Adelaide proud
Bogong - possibly one of the most sensible posts I've ever read on Railpage.

The most successful organisations are the ones that look after everyone - passengers AND volunteers - to make sure the experience is worthwhile for all participants. But success also comes with being able to lobby through their local politicians (local council, state and federal) to get all the money they can to improve operations, particularly capital works grants, so that volunteer time and money can be better utilised with promotion and actual operations.

DSCR springs to mind as a particularly good outfit in that regard, they got Federal and State money to rebuild track damaged by bushfires a few years back but have also obtained grants to construct shedding for their rolling-stock and other various improvements. They obviously have someone there who is very savvy and knows how to procure money for their organisation.
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
Thanks for the compliment Don.
*makes note to self to try and not react grumpily when Don gets political*

The railway that is given vast wads of cash, has regiments of volunteers, and huge numbers of passengers is, of course, PBR. I wouldn't be surprised if they weren't one of the biggest and best resourced preserved railways in the world.

However I wonder if PBR's massive success sucks passengers, volunteers and funding from other tourist railways? There's no doubt that PBR attracts people who would not otherwise ride or volunteer, but I reckon their sheer size and scale does attract people who would otherwise go to other tourist railways.

Daylesford is one of the more modestly scaled operations that seems to get everything right, but I reckon even they feel somewhat overwhelmed by the 'gorilla in the room'. I know they're always keen for more volunteers while PBR seems to (almost) have too many.

Of course that's not to say Walhalla, Healesville, Queenscliffe, Maldon, Korumburra and the outfits that run heritage trips on V/Line tracks aren't also successful in their own right. But no matter how well they do things, their fate ultimately depends on their ability to attract:
- Passengers
- Volunteers
- Funding and grants.
  Graham4405 The Ghost of George Stephenson

Location: Dalby Qld
I wonder if PBR's massive success sucks passengers, volunteers and funding from other tourist railways?
Bogong
Something I hadn't considered previously, but thinking about it there would have to be some effect, no matter how small.
no matter how well they do things, their fate ultimately depends on their ability to attract:
- Passengers
- Volunteers
- Funding and grants.
Bogong
Replace "passengers" with "clients" and this applies to any non-commercial operation. Yes, very valid.
  xxxxlbear Token Booking Clerk

Location: Geelong
I totally agree with you, Bogong. Having recently completed a Cert III in Tourism (Visitor Information Services), and am in the midst of completing  a Diploma of Tourism and Travel, you are very much on the ball.

To successfully run a tourist railway (TR) these days, one does not just rely on people with railway knowledge in running trains to keep a TR alive. One also needs volunteers, and these volunteers (and indeed paid workers) need some form of customer relationship skills, PR skills, and business/tourism skills. Where I volunteer currently, there are some guys there with terrific railway knowledge/skills, but their skills with the general public leave a lot to be desired.

TRs such as Puff succeed because they do what they do well. And the good thing is, they have the manpower to do everything that TRS should be doing to succeed.

You need people with customer relations skills, people with tourism skills, and people with business skills in the right places within the railway..if any area fails, then the TR is doomed.

And lastly, personal opinion, but Puff seems to be a golden child, they seem to be able to get most of the funding that they ask for. Other TRS seem to struggle to get the funding they need irrespective of the source.
  PE Chief Train Controller

Bogong - possibly one of the most sensible posts I've ever read on Railpage.

The most successful organisations are the ones that look after everyone - passengers AND volunteers - to make sure the experience is worthwhile for all participants. But success also comes with being able to lobby through their local politicians (local council, state and federal) to get all the money they can to improve operations, particularly capital works grants, so that volunteer time and money can be better utilised with promotion and actual operations.

DSCR springs to mind as a particularly good outfit in that regard, they got Federal and State money to rebuild track damaged by bushfires a few years back but have also obtained grants to construct shedding for their rolling-stock and other various improvements. They obviously have someone there who is very savvy and knows how to procure money for their organisation.
don_dunstan
To get the grants you don't need to be savvy, you need to have an organisation that is tenacious, viable and well managed.

For the rollingstock shed DSCR received a grant totalling $90,000. To get to this point multiple (unsuccessful) applications over 25 years were made and finally with a business plan and a significance statement on the rollingstock collection a grant was obtained. However as part of this DSCR needed to commit $63,000 of its own money, not in-kind but hard folding cash. The volunteers then undertook all the track work as the in-kind contribution as well.

With regards to the bushfire monies the first $300,000 for the actual fire damage took 12 months to source but did allow the work to be undertaken by external contractors with minimal commitment from the railway. However the second grant of $141,000 for the section to Bullarto which had fallen into disrepair over the 18 months works were focused in the Musk section took another 2 years to get and required DSCR to commit $50,000, once again of actual cash, and the volunteers to undertake all the work.

The days of getting money just because you say you should have long gone and even the 'political' reasons are fading. You really now have to show value for money, how it aligns with regional or local priorities and plans and how the project will leave you in a position where you have less need for funding into the future.
  don_dunstan Dr Beeching

Location: Adelaide proud
PE, thank-you for that informative post, you obviously know a lot about this kind of thing.

The thing that really gets up my goat is the fact that organisations with great connections to their local communities, good historical collections and sound business practices often get overlooked in favour of others - simply because a competing group is in marginal Liberal/National Party seat (cough cough... Federation Fund). The amount of money shovelled at some projects during that particular election cycle was ridiculous.
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
Many tourist railways rely on ticket sales, chook raffles and very occasional government grants for funding.

BUT one funding source that shouldn't be overlooked is the vast amount of cash parked in trusts that is looking for a way to be spent.

We've all heard stories of elderly women women dying without any close family and leaving a couple of million to the Lost Cats Home. That is just the tip of a huge iceberg. Lots of people don't have kids and when they die they often set up a trust to fund their favourite cause. Quite a few of them want to leave their life savings to vaguely heritage causes.

Some people leave a lump sum, but those with over about a million often set up a trust with instructions to invest the money in safe blue chip shares and pay (say) a 5% dividend every year to heritage causes. They often have names like "The Joe and Jane Bloggs Trust" or similar. Now 5% of a deceased estate of $2 million is $100,000 to be distributed every year... and there are dozens (probably hundreds) of trusts like this in Victoria.

Of course the key is to find out what trusts have money to distribute and how to persuade them that a tourist railway is a worthy recipient. e.g. If a trust is just for heritage buildings then apply for money to renovate a railway station. If it's for landscape protection ask for financial help to plant trees and improve the appearance of the shunting yard.

Discovering these trusts and then spinning an argument to get money from them is another black art. But I reckon it would certainly be worthwhile for heritage railways to explore this area. A bonus is that they don't have the insanely detailed and complex documentation requirements that getting money from any level of government has.
  LancedDendrite Chief Commissioner

Location: Gheringhap Loop Autonomous Zone
I very much agree with the above posts on tourist railways. These days they aren't just a railway that the 'weekend warriors' help out with; they are fundamentally tourism businesses.

Establishing and sustaining a tourist railway in a region that isn't well known for tourism is hard. Puffing Billy certainly put their part of the Dandenong Ranges on the map, but they've been going for 54 years (and got a hell of a lot of help along the way). South Gippsland is not a tourism region. It's traditionally been an agricultural area with a history of coal mining. That doesn't scream 'tourist drawcard' to me, sorry. It's a bit too far away from Melbourne for day trippers (unless you live out on the fringes of the South East) and they don't have a lot of 'destinations' to draw people, especially compared to the other regions nearby that compete for tourist dollars. For instance, Phillip Island has the Penguin Parade - one of the most popular tourist destinations in Victoria, the Phillip Island raceway and a bunch of good beaches. Then again, the Mornington Peninsula is really establishing itself as a competitor to the Yarra Valley when it comes to gourmet tourism, but it doesn't have a big drawcard. It has a lot of smaller destinations - wineries, breweries, beaches, resorts... and it has a tourist railway as well.

Tourists on the eastern side of Melbourne are spoiled for choice. Only the fittest regions will survive.
  don_dunstan Dr Beeching

Location: Adelaide proud
Discovering these trusts and then spinning an argument to get money from them is another black art. But I reckon it would certainly be worthwhile for heritage railways to explore this area. A bonus is that they don't have the insanely detailed and complex documentation requirements that getting money from any level of government has.
Bogong
Thanks for yet another informative post - I think you and I have finally found a topic of mutual interest. I actually did know about the kind of thing you're discussing because I've been involved in procuring money from these trust funds before; not for tourist/preservation societies but on behalf of social services type organisations looking for money to run community projects for teenagers, people leaving prison, that kind of thing.

Some charities I've worked for actually employ people to professionally lobby these trusts on their behalf but as you pointed out it does mean getting a professionally presented and costed business case together. Some so-called 'not for profits' are really good at doing this and I've seen heaps of things get paid for that probably (from a worker's point of view) really have marginal value but were just 'spun right' to the funding organisation.

As Lanced Dendrite also discusses above, it's survival of the fittest - the most successful organisations spin all sorts of benefits to the community and the nation, it's natural that if you radiate that kind of success and are good at articulating it that you will attract money to your cause.
  PE Chief Train Controller

Discovering these trusts and then spinning an argument to get money from them is another black art. But I reckon it would certainly be worthwhile for heritage railways to explore this area. A bonus is that they don't have the insanely detailed and complex documentation requirements that getting money from any level of government has.
Thanks for yet another informative post - I think you and I have finally found a topic of mutual interest. I actually did know about the kind of thing you're discussing because I've been involved in procuring money from these trust funds before; not for tourist/preservation societies but on behalf of social services type organisations looking for money to run community projects for teenagers, people leaving prison, that kind of thing.

Some charities I've worked for actually employ people to professionally lobby these trusts on their behalf but as you pointed out it does mean getting a professionally presented and costed business case together. Some so-called 'not for profits' are really good at doing this and I've seen heaps of things get paid for that probably (from a worker's point of view) really have marginal value but were just 'spun right' to the funding organisation.

As Lanced Dendrite also discusses above, it's survival of the fittest - the most successful organisations spin all sorts of benefits to the community and the nation, it's natural that if you radiate that kind of success and are good at articulating it that you will attract money to your cause.
don_dunstan
These trusts (and like philanthropic groups) have been investigated by some of the railways in the past. However unlike the UK where heritage is high on the list it is not here. As per don_dunstans experience most of these in Australia are targeted towards social programs, medical research etc. If there are any specifically for heritage or tourism projects (I have not come across any that are that specific) they very well may be geographically based e.g. Nth Western Victoria.


If memory services me correctly the Andrews Foundation contributed a significant amount to Puffs extension to Gembrook as they fund only projects in South Eastern Melbourne.

The other significant issue is that these trusts usually have very limited amounts of funding to distribute over a 12 month period and quite frankly $5,000 is a piddly amount when it comes to a railway which are horribly expensive things to run that are incredibly infrastructure intensive.

If everything is up to scratch some money to paint a building or plant some trees would be fine, but if you need extensive repairs to a bridge, replace 1,000s of sleepers ($5,000 will get you 71 A grade sleepers) a new boiler or wheels for a locomotive you need to be looking not at $1,000s but $100,000s and that gets back to my post of yesterday.
  hbedriver Assistant Commissioner

Hate to spoil the comments about which railway gets funding, but I have to point out that PBR actually doesn't get all that many gifts from politicians. They were promised a grant from John Brumby just before he lost office. They were promised a grant by Kevin Rudd just before he lost office. They were promised a grant by Dennis Napthine just before he lost office. The incoming Governments didn't seem that interested in keeping the promises made by "the other side". Major applications for capital funding have been rejected many times over the years, even when prepared in accordance with government's wishes, and even when local MPs have thrown their support behind them. There haven't been too many times that PBR actually got decent grants over the years. Maybe that forced them to be largely self-dependent, certainly they didn't get where they are now by begging governments.

As to SGR; maybe as Lady Macbeth remarked, "if it were done..."; it could be that it is better to close the place down earlier while everything is in fair condition and readily used elsewhere. The membership might negotiate with other b.g. railways for automatic membership for their people in exchange for the transfer of equipment; 3 goods wagons may give us 12 months membership, a loco may be worth 2 years, etc.

Would be awfully sad to see the members persist and watch their dream rot away, and end up with nothing recoverable. Still, they may get lucky, Saturday is Tattslotto night, a few million could change things.
  michaelgreenhill Administrator That's Numberwang!

Location: Melbourne
It's no secret that PBR has drawn a lot of manpower and funding over the years. Some people might be envious of their position, but the fact is they've had decade after decade of driven, passionate people fighting for funding, marketing the railway, and recruiting (and keeping!) volunteers. They have 900 registered volunteers, but that's not 900 active people: some visit once a year from the UK, or others, like myself, volunteer their time in other ways. Like any group of volunteers, it's the same faces which keep the place running.

I recently looked around Facebook to find the social media footprints of the various TRs in Victoria. PBR and YVTR stood out as the leaders of the pack, with PBR heavily marketing families and YVTR commendably showcasing the line rebuild on a weekly basis. Mornington has recently started to ramp up their presence, but it's not been of the same quality as the PBR and YVTR. Bellarine has a good Facebook presence, albeit very heavily focussed on Thomas. VGR's is very text heavy, but it's updated fairly regularly.

SGR has no official Facebook presence, symptomatic of a poor marketing campaign. Yes, they have a public discussion group, but that's no different than having a forum on here devoted to SGR.
  michaelgreenhill Administrator That's Numberwang!

Location: Melbourne
As for soaking up the pool of potential volunteers: the only reason I volunteer my time for PBR is that I live 1km away. I spend enough time commuting to/from work that I don't want to "commute" to my volunteer job too.
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
PE, I doubt any responsible trustee would bother with a tiny memorial foundation that only distributes $5,000 per year. My understanding is that the bare minimum to establish one of these is around $1 million (which would distribute at least $50,000 annually). Any smaller trusts would get court approval to be merged into something with enough size to have critical mass.

Don and I both know of groups that have benefited from these trusts and PE cites a tourist railway that got a 6 or 7 figure amount from one of them. Anecdotally, I've heard that some trusts have a hard time finding projects to give money to and years ago, I even saw one advertising in a major newspaper for groups that might want to be given money.

In summary they ARE out there, they give out quite generous amounts of money, so go out and look for them!
  don_dunstan Dr Beeching

Location: Adelaide proud
There's a lot of public and private grants that can be tapped into if (as PE correctly points out) you're persistent, know who to apply to/market your projects to and can also show how it benefits everyone in the surrounding community as well as tourism in general. It's also helpful if you can demonstrate a history of successfully using these grants for their intended purpose.
  PE Chief Train Controller

PE, I doubt any responsible trustee would bother with a tiny memorial foundation that only distributes $5,000 per year. My understanding is that the bare minimum to establish one of these is around $1 million (which would distribute at least $50,000 annually). Any smaller trusts would get court approval to be merged into something with enough size to have critical mass.

Don and I both know of groups that have benefited from these trusts and PE cites a tourist railway that got a 6 or 7 figure amount from one of them. Anecdotally, I've heard that some trusts have a hard time finding projects to give money to and years ago, I even saw one advertising in a major newspaper for groups that might want to be given money.

In summary they ARE out there, they give out quite generous amounts of money, so go out and look for them!
Bogong
Sorry, should have been more clear, the $5,000 was the maximum you could apply for. It was an actual case I was referencing where there was a yearly distribution of $50,000 (as per your example) but to spread it amongst as many organisations as possible the maximum any one group could apply for was $5,000.
  Bogong Chief Commissioner

Location: Essendon Aerodrome circa 1980
Unless you are talking about 50 years ago, $5,000 is such an absurdly trivial amount, I doubt any not-for-profits would waste time and resources applying for it.

While I have only a very limited knowledge of these trust/foundation thingys, it's my understanding that they generally give away loot in minimums of 50 or 100 k, so it will make a real difference to recipients. i.e. by allowing them to hire an extra staff member or funding a major capital purchase.

Of course the really cashed up foundations and trusts give away ten times that amount annually, but as has already been observed, they tend to be for health, social welfare, artsy-fartsy, or cat related causes.

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