Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Preservation, Reconstruction or Recreation?

(Who cares? It's brilliant!)

One of the random steam train posts. Hurrah!

There is kind of a conceptual - and indeed, existential - question about preservation of things. Nowhere is this more heated than amongst railway enthusiasts about their hobby. Don't ever get confused that the most passionate thing is what colour do you paint it. And exactly what period condition are you preserving?

Why? Well, preserving things is the point of preservation. One would think so, at any rate. If not then why would you seek to preserve it?

And then I saw this photo this morning on the Welsh Highland Railway website. The Welsh Highland Railway itself now runs from Caernarvon to Portmadoc via the southwestern side of Mt. Snowdon, Wales's highest peak. Created in the 1920s by public funds from defunct slate railways to promote tourism, it was a magnificent failure, and was all ripped up in the 1940s to support the war effort. Preservationists / idealists / dreamers began trying to rebuild it as early as 1964, and after legal battles and chaos and stuff, it was physically completed late last year. The result is that, with £12m or so of public funding, it is finished.

So to the picture above. The first engine is called Lyd, and is a 2010 recreation of a Manning Wardle locomotive from the much lamented Lynton and Barnstaple Railway in Devon. The second engine, K1, is of significant historical importance, as the world's first Garratt locomotive, originally built for the North East Dundas Tramway in Tasmania. K1 was reimported to the UK, and has been rebuilt for the Welsh Highland, and is operational for the first time since the 1929. The coaches are modern 2ft gauge stock built for the Welsh Highland and Ffestiniog Railways.

In other words, nothing in this picture is original. But who cares? It's all brilliant and makes thousands happy every year (as well as providing an all-weather attraction, which is pretty key in this part of North Wales...). And it allows you tell the history of the area, the economy and the Empire.

And the paint? Lyd's forebears were scrapped in the 1930s and therefore never saw the nationalisation of Britain's railways in 1948, and thus never saw BR black. But no problem, she looks great!

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