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Today’s been another glued to my office chair sort of day as I’ve waded through various files, folders and general paperwork whilst trying to clear my desk of various old tasks as well as book some new ones. The diary’s now looking fuller as a consequence. The day started off as miserable as yesterday weather-wise but picked up by the afternoon, although the sun was beaten back by a cold wind so temperatures remained on the chilly side – something I really noticed when Dee and I broke away from or desks to venture into Halifax in order to sort out various chores. Dawn dropped me off in the town centre so I could pick up a parcel and wend my way back via my bank. Gone are the days when I was a regular at my old bank in Crouch End in North London, paying in a stream of cheques from various clients. Not only is the Crouch End branch of Natwest now history but I can’t think of the last time I was paid by cheque. I visit the Halifax branch around once a year and that’s only to deal with issues with bank cards as I happen to be in town. Even they can be dealt with online nowadays either via the internet or banking apps on one’s phone. The days of imposing (and busy) bank branches are long gone. Sowerby Bridge doesn’t have a single bank left and Halifax is losing many – including branches of the Halifax! Walking home in order to boost my daily steps gave me time to reflect on these things. I’ve only lived here for 13 years but the changes I’ve seen in that time are many. Talk about time flying…

One change that seems to be taking one step forward and two steps is the treatment of women in the railway preservation movement. Today, Twitter has been all aflutter over the treatment of a well-known woman fireman (Joanne Crompton) who’s up for a Women In Rail award due to her fight against discrimination in the preservation movement and to improve the lot of female volunteers. Having won a case for unfair treatment and unacceptable behavior against the East Lancashire Railway she was promptly sacked as a volunteer.

The news soon went viral. The negative reaction to the news was compounded when it was discovered that the Chair of the ELR board had been on a pre-emptive spree on Twitter, blocking dozens of people in the rail industry and rail media, many of whom had never interacted with him or even heard of him. The block list even includes rail company MDs! Talk about an own goal!

The ELR have yet to make any public statement about the matter (unless you count the Chair of the board frantically blocking people as a statement) which has compounded the problem – and outrage. Of course, every story has two sides – as Joanne herself has said – but many of us who have been involved in railway preservation in the past feel uneasy about this, because we know what it can be like.

I was a teenage volunteer in railway preservation back in the 1970s when the landscape for women was bleak. If you volunteered you’d end up in the shop or the cafe – forget about getting anywhere near the footplate. Misogyny was commonplace, as was racism. I’d hoped times had changed but I know the problem with the ‘nostalgia’ sector is that sometimes it isn’t just about recreating the positive things about the past, there’s a hard-core who want to preserve less inclusive social attitudes too.

Joanne is one of those people whose been brave enough to challenge these attitudes and even gave a speech about her experiences to the Railway Heritage Association in 2021. Here’s a link via Youtube.

Joanne’s no wrecker. Her passion and commitment shine through, as does her sense of justice. If it’s to survive, the railway preservation movement needs to listen to Joanne and all those other people who want to volunteer but who feel excluded for a number of reasons (including gender, and sexuality) because in voicing these problems Jo is not alone.

So, today’s picture is another video – and it’s dedicated to Joanne and the work people like her who to try and drag railway preservation into the modern era…

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