We wrote this week about the National Railway Museum and its colossal cockup over the restoration of its famous locomotive 4472 “Flying Scotsman”, and judging from the responses we have received already, there are plenty of grumpy old steam-lovers out there who take an interest in this sort of thing.
So before the steam and smoke has even begun to clear away from that scandal, the NRM seems to be covering itself with ... well, ash and cinders ... over another iconic piece of railway history. 2013 is to be marked by steam buffs as “Mallard 75”, referring to A4 streamlined Pacific locomotive "Mallard" which in 1938 became the fastest steam locomotive the world has ever seen when it achieved 126mph on the East Coast main line.
A4 Pacific loco “Mallard”
There are still four A4 Pacifics in existence in this country, 4468 “Mallard”, 6007 “Sir Nigel Gresley”, 60009 “Union of South Africa” and 4464 “Bittern”, though not all are in working condition. The National Railway Museum have decided to collect them all together, and also to ship across from the US and Canada the other two remaining A4s, 60008 “Dwight D.Eisenhower” and 4489 “Dominion of Canada”. The last two are definitely not in working order or anything like it, and the Museum – part of the Science Museum and so a burden on the taxpayer – are spending tens of thousands of pounds to tart them up and make them look presentable, though this will be a cosmetic restoration only.
The Museum have been remarkably coy about the cost of this exercise, which will see the two locos in the UK for two years and involved rail transport on the other side of the Atlantic, and a cargo ship from Nova Scotia to Liverpool, but “Steam Railway” magazine have used the Freedom of Information Act to get the figures. In this week's edition the magazine reveals that the cost will be well over a quarter of a million pounds, a pretty high price for what will be at best a photo-opportunity for steam enthusiasts – and a publicity stunt for the Museum which presumably hopes to get plenty of press coverage out of it. Just why the sight of six identical locomotives is so much more valuable than the sight of four identical locomotives is not entirely clear. As a steam buff himself, The GOS would rather see just one locomotive in steam than six lined up to have their pictures took.
So thorough has been the investigation by “Steam Railway” reporter David Willcock that he has uncovered some surprising statistics. For instance, just one trip to America and Canada by a group of four NRM contractors when setting up the locomotive loan cost an astonishing £67,000 in hotel bills and air fares between Heathrow, Chicago, Wisconsin, Toronto, Minneapolis, New York and Halifax Nova Scotia.
Not that the £250,000 cost to the taxpayer is the end of the story. Nearly all of the contractors involved in the move donated their services free of charge, including the haulage company Moveright International, Atlantic Container Line for the shipping, and Peel Ports and CERES the owners of Liverpool and Halifax docks, at a cost to themselves of about £260,000. The Museum claim to have secured similar undertakings for the return journey in 2014 to the tune of another £240,000, bringing the total amount of other people's money spent by the NRM to a cool three quarters of a million. Brilliant, isn't it, and so easy, spending money that doesn't belong to you?
And all for a photo-opportunity for a few snappers in anoraks!
The GOS says:The NRM is no stranger to scandal, mind. It's not so long ago that they were in the papers because they'd given a £25,000 contract for painting a locomotive to a house-painter who happened to be the husband of one of the Museum's curators. No one else was asked to tender for the job. Incidentally, locomotive paint is not inordinately expensive. I happen to know that most colours of paint (not red, incidentally, which is double the price) from the main specialist supplier, T & R Williamson, costs roughly the same as any good house paint, Dulux for instance. So how NRM managed to spend £25,000 on painting one locomotive is a mystery. Me and my friends could have done it for £5k and still turned a profit. Mind you, this is not the NRM's own money either, is it, so who cares?
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