Published on 24th September 2012
YORK - Steve Davies resigns, but whose fault is it?
It has been announced that The Director of the National Railway Museum, Steve Davies, is to leave his post at the end of October 2012 to pursue a new venture in the private sector.
He became Director at the York based NRM in February 2010 and inherited a difficult situation with the over-budget and over – running ‘Flying Scotsman’ restoration. The NRM also runs the Shildon ‘Locomotion’ museum where some of the repatriated ‘A4’s will be displayed soon.
This is now running several years late and possibly several million pounds over the original budget. Mr Davies did his best to keep the project going but the view is that he was let down by others before he took up the Director’s post.
Mr Davies, talking to Phil Marsh in August said that he was very proud of the quality of work staff and volunteers at the NRM had done on Flying Scotsman.
The Railfest event took place in June 2012 and as Cliff Thomas has reported on this website, made a significant loss, £200,000. This was billed as the biggest ever gathering of rail record holders and was held as an outdoor event over the sprawling NRM yard.
The weather was bad, which kept visitor numbers down but one avoidable error was the wooden Dynamometer Car remaining on outside display for the event. The rain caused an estimated £10,000 of damage to this historic vehicle which recorded the 126mph world steam record in 1938.
The NRM had applied for a multi-million pound Heritage Lottery Fund award and was not successful in getting the award. This has also not helped the NRM’s funds and plans.
The 75th Anniversary of Mallard’s 126mph record next July will be celebrated by the exhibition of all the remaining LNER ‘A4s’. This has been arranged by Steve Davies and demonstrates what he is capable of if allowed!
Another niggling irritation hyped up by the railway press is that concerning the use of the NRM ‘Royal’ class 47, No 47798 Prince William. This has been the subject of debate by former owners DB Schenker (DBs), the freight and charter train operator and the NRM.
It was accessioned by the Railway Heritage Committee after being designated as an important railway item. Ownership was duly transferred to the NRM from DBs who did not want to see the engine used on charter trains operated by competitors to themselves. The NRM’s operating partner is West Coast Railways (WCR) who is a major charter train operator.
A mechanism is in place to charge for such use but this has not been officially requested by DBs following WCR use. The NRM has had the use of 33207, a WCR Class 33 diesel for shunting at York instead of the unreliable Royal class 47.
The NRM did not have the resources to turn the Royal diesel into a reliable main line locomotive but WCR does. To cure several minor faults the engine needed prolonged use and this was the agreement the NRMN and WCR came to. One high profile failure of 47798 was on the Olympic Torch train on June 20 when a WCR class 37 diesel had to substitute at the last moment.
The faults have been rectified following use this year and it has emerged that the complaint about bits use is not official DBs policy, but has emanated from a few DBs managers.
“The National Railway Museum is a very special place in the hearts of many people in this country, with an enviable reputation internationally. I have been proud and privileged to lead a highly motivated team over the last three years, and hope that I have played my part in further promoting the Museum’s fortunes.
I have, however, decided to accept a firm offer of employment in the private sector as Managing Director of a company in the leisure and tourism industry. The job I am moving to will provide me with an exciting and enjoyable set of new challenges, which I look forward to immensely. I am sure the National Railway Museum will move from strength to strength in the years ahead.
Mr Davies’ position will be taken by an acting Director, Paul Kirkman, from 5th November 2012. Paul joins on secondment from the Department for Culture, Media & Sport.
Ian Blatchford, Director of the Science Museum Group said: “Steve’s passion for trains and the railway industry has been evident in everything that he has done at the National Railway Museum over the past two years. We thank him for his contribution and look forward to working with his successor to ensure that the National Railway Museum maintains its position as the leading railway museum in the world”.
Paul Kirkman says: “I am delighted to have been invited by Ian Blatchford to take up this position as acting Director of the National Railway Museum. I am sure that my wide-ranging experience working with the cultural sector at DCMS and elsewhere will help in the continued success of one of Britain’s greatest museums.”