The latest update from the Friends group appeared over the weekend. As you’d expect, there was a fair amount of space dedicated to the approach from Capital Holdings as well as the protestations over the inclusion of the End Platform cars in the Auction on August 2nd.
There is no questioning that the four cars that make up Set 52 are highly suited for operations on the Canberra branch. However, their condition is average to poor with issues identified with structure and integrity, this is the reason they were withdrawn from Society service in the first place. It is not impossible that the cars could be refurbished, however, repairs of this scale and nature have not been attempted in the preservation era and there would be few around today that retain the know how ex Railway to do it. This also makes for a difficult job in convincing the Network owners and the regulator that they would be safe to operate once repairs have been affected. It is also worth noting that of the many other preserved examples around the state, there is just one end platform car in operation. It travels up and down a private siding (Maybe 10kms a day) once a month. Even the far better resourced NSW Rail Museum no longer uses its 8 car set on the loop line, primarily due to the same concerns that forced the withdrawal of Set 52.
The other question mark lies over what would happen to the cars once retained. During their operational lives, the cars were housed in the long shed between trips. The Shed road is just long enough to fit the 4 cars plus the BVJ and BJ first class cars. Once the set was out of use however, increasing pressure required the shed to also function as a workshop, meaning the cars had to be parked outside. The CEO was given the task of arranging protection for the cars but like many other things, failed to follow through and they were exposed to the elements. So the question arises that if the Museum restarts, what will be the priority? Protecting the cars at the expense of having a work area close to the machine shop and other facilities? And if the cars are to be left outside, what resources are there to protect them from the elements, taking into account that there may be higher immediate priorities?
The rest of the document broadly follows what occurred at the recent meeting and it is the last personal comment that is of interest, essentially being a call for unity. There can be no disputing the value of a united front but sadly, in the case of the Friends, behind it lurks an agenda. If their interest was in a united front, it should have been so from the very beginning, ie not setting up a splinter group that excluded certain members, trying to do secret deals with the liquidator behind closed doors and challenging the liquidator legally at every step, adding to the total bill. The Society is still (as of this date) an entity in being and its membership remains intact until the liquidator takes the final step to wind up the business. Why then set up an association with a selective membership to contest control of the assets in Court?
There is also comment made about this blog being wasted energy. It is reiterated that this blog was set up to make sense of the question as to why the Society failed, as answers were not forthcoming and in the opinion of many of the membership, there were some dreadful decisions made stemming back a number of years. As to the decision to keep it anonymous, if the identity of the writer(s) was known, some members would instantly align it with one faction or another. The object is to have members question why, not dismiss it as up there because one person has an issue with another. It is also noted that no attempt has actually been made at contacting the writer(s), despite there being a contact function on the front page.
Fundamentally, you cannot move forward from an event such as this without examining what led you to this point to start with and an acknowledgement that mistakes were made and some degree responsibility accepted. Not doing so leaves the possibility that the same mistakes may be made again and an acceptance that the actions were correct.
Once this occurs, people may find that the Unity desired is much more forthcoming as some levels of trust may return between the divided members.
To make a fresh start, one thing is also abundantly clear- Whatever form a new organisation takes, is that it must not be managed by Volunteers, from board level down. Anyone who has served in a council position in the past 15 years should be automatically disqualified from any position beyond an advisory. This would be a bitter pill for some to swallow but it would ensure that any rifts in the membership, be they personal or professional, can never be allowed to interfere with the running of the business and end the cycle of ‘my way or the highway’ that had crippled the ARHS for many years.