The idea for WATTRAIN as one of our founders Mr Enrique (Quique) Diaz noted at our conference in York in 2012 WATTRAIN, was an idea that was curiously devised in 1999, by an Englishman and an Argentine in Cuba. The Englishman was Mr David Morgan and the Argentine Mr Diaz. The idea remained dormant until Mr Diaz and Mr Morgan were in Australia and met Mr Chris Le Marshall at the Railway Heritage Conference: Opportunities and Challenges held in Brisbane in October 2009, where the following motion was passed unanimously:
‘This meeting endorses decisions made at the previous two World Congresses to form a world-wide organisation to promote the interests of the owners and operators of heritage and tourist trains and trams, and that the three proposers ie. Quique Diaz (Latin America), Chris Le Marshall (Australia) and David Morgan (Europe) be invited to establish an organisation along the principles set out in their paper. Furthermore, they should report back to all potential and interested candidates for membership at least three months before the next plenary session in 2012”.
So WATTRAIN was set up in the UK in 2010, the reasons for its formation were set out by Mr Diaz in his speech to the 2012 York conference which are. Tourism is the third (3rd) largest industry in the world in terms of cash flow. As indicated by the international organizations that monitor the flow of tourism, the sustained growth of this industry will not suffer a downturn. Worldwide, steam tourist railways are increasingly becoming more relevant and are strongly preferred by people of all ages and social backgrounds.
However, the proper knowledge to promote such growth is not being consistently developed, nor is there a clear international union to overcome the drawbacks of the railway system. We are all working separately and individually. For example, ski resorts, cruise ships, hotels chains, are all organized under associations. Yet, an organization that would unite the interests and objectives of the world of railways, trams and rail museums was non-existent before the creation of WATTRAIN.
The initial Statement of Objectives for WATTRAIN included:
- to facilitate the exchange of information amongst member organisations for their betterment;
- to promote, represent and act as an advocate for the heritage and tourist sector to ensure optimal outcomes in the international arena;
- to develop an internet-based information source to provide members with a full range of information relevant to their needs (Alexandria Library);
This has been developed into the WATTRAIN Strategy and Business Plan:
- to assist development of the sector to facilitate exchange of individuals between members so they improve their understanding of heritage and tourist operations;
- at the request of members, to provide access to specific advice and information as a respected consultancy;
- to facilitate twinning arrangements between heritage and tourist operations to improve understanding;
- to create and develop a database of specialist suppliers of goods and services utilised by the heritage and tourist rail sector with a facility to access feedback;
- to gather and, where necessary, commission research into financial / economic benefits of operations, environmental and other important issues relevant to the sector;
- to negotiate on behalf of the sector arrangements for insurance and other key services or products to secure favourable terms due to bulk purchasing;
- at the request of members, to assist in formulation of policy positions and to assist where requested in the presentation of those positions to government and others; and to promote conservation on the basis of the Riga Charter.
During 2013 David Morgan attended the APTHRO conference in Taiwan with one of our Patrons, Lord Faulkner of Worcester, which attracted considerable media coverage in that country. He and I have also intervened by supporting a campaign to prevent the closure of the Taipei Railway Museum.
In May 2013, following Mr Morgan’s visit to Taiwan, he spoke at a well-attended conference in Sydney, New South Wales and hopefully addressed some of the issues facing heritage railways in Australia. The following day he attended a series of meetings in Brisbane in support on the transfer of heritage rail stock and operation from Queensland Rail to the Rail Works Museum in nearby Ipswich.
In September 2013, Gabriela Galizia also attended a conference in Patagonia on tourist trains and made a presentation on behalf of WATTRAIN, which created an increased interest in WATTRAIN, aided and abetted by Luis Gutierrez.
Use of Coal
During our conference in Japan in 2015 it became clear that there is world-wide concern in heritage railways that in protecting the environment from climate change caused by carbon emissions that use of coal in steam locomotives could be reduced or even banned. WATTRAIN is of course as concerned for the health of the planet as everyone else. However, a meeting with the world coal association revealed that the use of coal by heritage railways is tiny both in absolute terms and when compared with the burning of coal for electricity generation. The WATTRAIN board is committed to lobbying for the continued use of coal in steam locomotives on the basis the effects on the climate will be minimal and so the planet can tolerate the emissions in future. To support this, we are developing our strategy along with organisations such as Fedecrail in Europe.
We have held two successful conferences in York (UK) in 2012 and Tokyo (Japan) in 2015
Wattrain Congress 2012
The first WATTRAIN CONGRESS took place in Leeds and York, U.K., between 29th September and 6th October 2012.
The main theme for the conference is sustainability of all areas of railway heritage. The four main topics are:
Financial & Commercial Sustainability & Economics – International Comparisons
What partnership opportunities exist which might ensure the continued prosperity and long term financial sustainability of railway heritage?
Rail museums and heritage railways are largely fixed cost, capital intensive operations. One bad season or a major equipment or infrastructure failure can represent the difference between profit or loss, not only for the organisations concerned, but also for the communities in which they are located.
People Issues – Training & Regulation
What creative solutions exist to meet the training and staffing in an increasingly regulated environment? Should WATTRAIN offer solutions?
Accessing / retaining the skills and knowledge necessary for maintaining heritage railway equipment and systems, and meeting current regulatory requirements is a major challenge for the sector. Until now, heritage railway operations have relied on vast numbers of former railway employees with the training, knowledge and experience to volunteer. As the number of people who have experienced working on mainline steam diminishes, training the next generation and meeting future regulatory requirements presents a significant challenge.
Who are the environmental innovators and what can we learn from them?
New challenges are emerging for heritage railway operations - the introduction of new environmental standards and carbon tax, use of recycled water, management of trackside vegetation, fire prevention/control, and noise and pollution management.
How can “Heritage” railways adapt to new materials, and abolition of older materials?
How do railways meet the challenges of new boiler technology and the reduction of skills within the boiler manufacturing and repair industry?
- David Morgan Chairman of the Heritage Railway Association, President of Fedecrail and Wattrain.
- Steve Davis, Director of the National Railway Museum, York.
- Lord Richard Faulkner of Worcester.
- Sergio Zubietta, Vice Chairman Tranex Turismo South America.
- Courtney Wilson, CEO of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum, USA.
- Mark Smith, Vice Chairman of the Heritage Railway Association.
- Rienhard Serchinger from Germany.
- Marcelo Zuliani from Argentina.
- Richard Barnett from UK.
- Quique Diaz, Owner, Train del fin del Mundo, Argentine, Vice President, WATTRAIN.
- Ms Ella Ubaidi Executive Vice President of Conservation and Heritage Centre, Indonesian Railways.
- Chris le Marshall, CEO Linquage International, Vice President, WATTRAIN.
- The Hon. Tim Fischer, Former Deputy Prime Minister of Australia.
- Phil Girdlestone from South Africa, talking about steam locomotive development.
- Junichi Yoneyama from Japan.
- Golich Tatache, General Manager of Corporate Affairs Division, Kenyan Railways.