Festiniog Railway Heritage Group
The Festiniog Railway was one of the earliest railways to be built and today is the oldest existing railway company in the world. Any organisation with such a pedigree deserves special looking after and that is what the Festiniog Railway Heritage Group does. Unlike some other "heritage" railways, the restored Festiniog was not set up by a preservation society. The aim of those involved was to preserve the railway as an entity without any real thought to preserving specific parts. What survived did so because it was needed.
The Festiniog Railway Heritage Group was established in 1984 by a group of people who were growing increasingly concerned that important aspects of the FR's heritage were being lost, or neglected. Since the 1960s the main thrust of the FR Company's activity, apart from running trains, had been to complete the restoration of the line as far as Blaenau Ffestiniog. Along the way the railway had become involved in the second longest running legal case in history, the dispute with the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) over compensation for loss of the railway above the Moelwyn Tunnel, and the building of a Deviation to overcome the problems created by the CEGB. This latter had involved a great deal of time and money, which had not been available to maintain the other parts of the line. The Deviation was completed in 1982 and the FR of that time was a very stark and utilitarian operation.
One of the objects of the Heritage Group was to act as a pressure group, gentle not militant, to remind people that the FR had once been internationally renowned for both the excellence of its engineering innovation and for its operations. The founding members of the Heritage Group were drawn together by the shared belief that some of the features that had made the FR the railway to preserve in the 1950s had been lost, but could be regained, at modest cost and probably bringing with them some benefit in improving the customer experience. Michael Seymour was the founding Chairman and served until 1996 when he retired and assumed the position of Honorary President of the Group. Under his guidance the Group assumed the role of "the Festiniog Railway's conscience", offering opinions and advice on all manner of projects that could result in improvements to the preservation or presentation of the railway's heritage. Even today the Railway has to exist in a hard commercial world and from time to time it is necessary to remind those running the Company of the importance of its heritage. The Group has raised significant sums of money to support some of these projects, and continues to do so. The Group also undertakes some projects itself; a number of wagons have been either repaired or replicated and a station shelter has been rebuilt, amongst other things. The real measure of the Heritage Group's success since its formation is the transformation of the appearance of the railway and the changing of attitudes towards heritage of many of those connected with the Railway. Buildings are painted in traditional colours, signs are produced in traditional fashion and with traditional lettering, locomotives, carriages and wagons carry a variety of liveries, many based on traditional schemes reflecting various periods of the railway's history, instead of rigid uniformity. The railway is now completely aware of its heritage, indeed, it exploits it on a regular basis by running hugely popular "Vintage Weekends" to the delight of enthusiasts and general travellers alike.
The Heritage Group produces a quarterly Journal and is responsible for other FR related publications including the FR Chronology and this wiki!
For more details see the Heritage Group Website