Although the overall effect is extremely challenging to the sector to varying degrees in different parts of the world, it was most encouraging to note the mutual support offered, and the innovative ways different heritage railways and museums are coping in an effort, where possible, to keep a flow of visitors through their particular locations.
The 90 minute meeting, hosted by Courtney Wilson (Patron, WATTRAIN) was moderated by Stefano Benazzo(President,WATTRAIN.) There were 26 attendees from around the world, representing (almost) every continent.
Speakers included: Yasamuri Nakajima(JRE Paris) , Carlas Espulgas(FGC) Chris Smyth, Domingo Kauak(Chile) Jaap Nieweg(Fedecrail) G Mark Ray (HRA-US) Pierluigi Scoizzato(Italy) Shaun McMahon(Argentina) Steve Oates(HRA-UK) Vanessa Perez(UIC), Sanjiiv Goswami(India) Christopher le Marshall, Vicky Ducrow,Robert Shearer,Joe Kellet (all Australia) and Bob La Prelle(US).
Most reported on the extra challenges of coping with second periods of lockdown, in some cases hurriedly introduced by governments, just as the railways were prepared with Covid-19 protection systems in place.
Some operations (Australia, and Argentina) are hoping to resume limited operations next week.
Indeed, the UK , according to Steve Oates, has enjoyed some good visitor numbers, with the hope that the December Christmas Specials will be able to operate successfully...though it has to be admitted that the outlook is still challenging.
Bob La Prelle noted the challenges to museums in particular, but limited visitor numbers provide some income, and the Museum is developing virtual programmes to keep in good contact with local schools. It is hoped that furlough scheme support will help them reduce raiding their capital savings...The downside of the situation, according to a survey, was that a third of preservation operations didn't expect to be in business within a year...
G Mark Ray provided some useful connections with "Fogging" systems..
And Chris Smyth noted that in an effort to maintain some activity, the railway he is associated with brought former static compartment coaches out of storage for use .. thus releasing space in their "shed" to set out "socially distanced" restaurant /cafe and shop.
A full report will follow... and additional material referred to will be available to attendees in due course, and posted on the WATTRAIN website and newsletter.