A Leadership Crossroads?

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Ex LNER Thompson Buffet Lounge Car E1706E (Photo courtesy Murray Brown)
Management Issues - Are we at a Leadership Crossroads?

Thinking about three of the news items that emerged from the Open Forum meeting last Monday has set me pondering about the future management of the NYMR. These particular items are:
1. Philip Benhams’ announcement that he will be retiring at some point in 2015,
2. Our inability to recruit a Production Director and
3. The impending retirement in January, of the acting Production Director, Phil Crawshaw,

The structure in place at the moment was agreed by the Trust Board as recently as the Autumn of 2013 and comprises a Managing Director with five people reporting to him. Of these, three are Executive Directors (Commercial, Production and Infrastructure) and sit on the Plc Board. Unfortunately it has not proved possible to recruit a person to the Production Director post, despite repeated advertising. Unusually the person spec calls for formal qualifications in both mechanical engineering and railway operating. Many on the railway do not believe that chartered mechanical engineers with a background in railway operating at a senior level even exist, let alone would be willing to come and work for the NYMR. If this really is the case then perhaps now is the time to alter the management structure to reflect this.

Possibly as a result of this lack of high level leadership the engineering side of the Railway has not shown signs of being part of a mature organisation this year. Too many resources seem to be concentrated in the MPD to keep the steam engines operating and not enough in Carriage and Wagon. The result has been a better performance by ‘owned’ steam engines that have, for the first time, covered more than 50% of the diagrams but at the expense of an entire rake of carriages out of use with wheelset and bogie problems. Add to this our regular difficulty in keeping the carriage lights working and you see signs of a department being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of work it is expected to get through. Most of the wheelset and bogie problems have been exacerbated by the lack of a working crane at Pickering. It is understood that repairs so far have taken thirteen months to complete and are still not done! Why are we apparently so powerless to deal with this problem and why is no member of the senior management team giving this problem the attention that it deserves? Do we not employ our managers to lead us out of difficulties like this or is it all too difficult?

With an upcoming vacancy for a new managing director we, on the Trust Board, should be getting our heads together and deciding what sort of person we wish to appoint. Whoever is selected they need to show inspirational leadership skills, regard no problem as being ‘too difficult’, demonstrate a ‘can do’ attitude and be able to motivate other members of the management team to ‘think outside the box’ and show some respect for the work that staff and volunteers currently put in that is way beyond the normal call of duty.

Opportunities to change senior managers don’t come very often, let’s not waste this one!

Cutting Back

Ian Wallis is again organising cutting back of the lineside this winter. The first session of the project was last Thursday at Darnholm and attracted eight volunteers. Next session is Thursday 20th November between Bridge 32 Thomasson Foss and Bridge 33 Beck Hole. Parking may be Beck Hole Bridge area or Water Ark Lodge, Goathland or Darnholm. New faces very welcome. For a nice day out with like-minded people just turn up, with hand tools, lunch, suitable clothing and footwear and a PTS. The next three sessions will be from Bridge 32 to Bridge 34 (Beck Hole) Unless the weather wrecks the programme it is planned to hold 17 sessions along the whole length of the line throughout the non running period improving views for us all and improving sightlines for footplate crews including safety improvements at crossings. You will be made very welcome and appreciated, gaining satisfaction from participation.

Catering Vehicles

I’ve recently been discussing with Murray Brown (Chair of the Carriage Committee) the sadly neglected state of our Pullman Parlour Car ‘Garnet’, bought at the same time as the other Met Cam vehicles in the Dining Train in 1979. Since the asbestos was removed in the 1990s it has been standing in the long siding at Pickering as an empty shell. As a heritage railway I think that we have some sort of duty to stop the deterioration of these irreplaceable artifacts and where possible restore them and put them to beneficial use. I’m told that it would cost about £100,000 to bring the vehicle back into traffic, but then it would be capable of earning about £40,000 per year in bookings on our very successful dining train. As mentioned at the beginning of this post we need a bit of ‘can-do’ attitude here, even the Trust Chairman, John Bailey, was beseeching us last Monday to adopt a Bob the Builder approach and say “Yes we Can”.

Another idea discussed with Murray (and it was his suggestion) was that we should be running a second dining train using vehicles from the teak set. The beauty of his scheme is that it would run at the same time as the Pullman Diner, but in the opposite direction, catering for a totally different market for those who cannot afford the Pullman prices at £60 a head. Offering quality meals (Steak pie, Chicken pie, veg, boiled or roast potatoes with a hot sweet and a selection of real ales/wine) which would be well within the pockets of a great many more people. It would be diesel hauled from Pickering at marginal costs - because the Pullman is already running and the signal boxes are open for it.

To augment the consist for such a train we even have other ex LNER carriage owners wanting to bring their restored vehicles to the NYMR. The excellently restored Thompson Lounge Buffet Car 1706 shown at the head of this post could be one of them.

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