Steam Railways: Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Development and Promotion

Steam Railways: Cultural Heritage and Sustainable Tourism Development and Promotion


P Loukissas, University of Thessaly, GR; D Morgan, FEDEECRAIL, BE; J Hett, Midland Railway Trust, UK; O Janeuax, MTVS, FR; A Biedrins, IHTL-Banitis, LV


SteamRail.Net, a project in the EU Culture 2000 Programme, aims to preserve, restore and promote historic railways as cultural heritage of strong European significance. The paper demonstrates the sustainable development of tourism by steam railways


Prof Philippos Loukissas, Dr Nikolas Bogiazides, Manos Vougioukas
University of Thessaly, Department of Planning and Regional Development, Greece

David Morgan MBE
European Federation of Museum and Tourist Railways (FEDECRAIL), UK

John Hett
Midland Railway Trust, (Midland Railway ? Butterley), UK

Carles Salmeron i Bosch
Fundaciỏ Museu del Transport - Catalonia Transport Museum, Spain

Olivier Janeuax
Musèe des Tramways à Vapeur et Secondaires, France

Ben Heerink
Museum Buurt Spoorweg, Netherlands

Andris Biedrins
Industrial Heritage Trust of Latvia and Gulbene-Aluksne ?Banitis?, Latvia

Railways and trains have played an indispensable role in the growth of human civilizations. They have facilitated the spread of human settlements, lightened our burdens, fostered communication, and sped transportation. In today?s world, historic railways and trains still spark our imagination and remind us of our common heritage, for the key role they played in the Industrial Revolution and the development of modern cities.

Groups in different parts of Europe acted to save and preserve the railway environment and to show its impact on our cultural and social history. They seek to recreate the era of unhurried travel and an atmosphere which often mixes the hiss of steam with the noise of clanking piston rods, the smell of burning coal and hot oil and the colours of a more individual age. All this has been achieved by the commitment of individuals prepared to spend time and money restoring railway artefacts and buildings to their former glory. Operating heritage railways requires teamwork, and administration is usually implemented through organisations whose constitutions prohibit the distribution of profit, thus ensuring that any surplus is reinvested in the heritage railway.

The real value of steam railways in cultural terms is that they not only preserve the artefacts and equipment but also the skills of maintaining and operating the trains. By bringing these old machines into operation, we not only show how they worked and what they sounded and looked like, but we also involve a wider audience who are attracted by the colours, sounds, smells and the very vibrancy of an engine in steam.

We have over 175 years of railway history to celebrate. Railways enabled people to travel over land at a speed faster than the horse for the first time. Not only did they enable people who had never travelled before to visit other parts of their country (and others) with relative ease, they also provided a means of delivering goods at speed, highly important if they were perishable. Indeed, the transport of freight was the prime reason for their early development. Their impact on society was enormous, facilitating as they did, the industrialisation of our civilisation, which in turn lowered prices bringing many products within the reach of large parts of the population for the first time.

Heritage railways provide a welcome boost to tourist facilities, often in areas devoid of the more traditional attractions, as well as a rewarding leisure pursuit for both visitor and volunteer worker. Old skills are maintained and passed onto younger generations. Employment is generated not only indirectly by their activities, but also directly for specialist contractors, and in some cases for a small nucleus of essential staff. In Europe, the number of passengers now travelling over historic railways exceed 20 million each year.

The SteamRail.Net Project (Industrial Heritage of Steam Railways ? Co-operation Network), funded in part by the Culture 2000 Programme of the European Union, seeks to preserve, protect, restore and promote six historic railways, as cultural heritage of strong European significance. Heritage railways and railway museums from across the Continent have formed this Co-operation Network, working towards the goal of restoring steam locomotives and other equipment of historic trains and railways, to service or rehabilitating them to the point where they make informative and active museum pieces and cultural assets.

The activities of the SteamRail.Net project include: development of common methodology; conservation, restoration and enhancement of industrial heritage monuments; documentation of restoration process and results; investigation of the historical, technical and socio-economic context; co-production of exhibition materials; production of multi-lingual books, audio-visual and multimedia products; staging of touring exhibitions; and exchange of information and experiences.

The wide array of cultural products decorating, portraying and inspired by heritage railways will be documented, as it has ranged from architecturally significant stations, sculptural ornaments and promotional posters directly relating to a particular railway, to feature films, television series, paintings and even musical compositions invoking the railway as authentic subject. And indeed, it should be shown, this iconic elevation of railways lies at the root of their successful transition from an original strictly transport-oriented function, ancillary to industrial production, to their present-day vocation as key tourist attractions enabling the sustainable regeneration of regions.

The paper will present the results of the SteamRail.Net project and will demonstrate the contribution that heritage railways can make to sustainable regional development in terms of cultural and sustainable tourism development potential, employment generation, multiplier effect, lessons for other heritage railways, etc.

The paper will provide a good insight into the benefits of railway heritage work and will, perhaps, excite transport professionals to become more involved in the romance of steam-powered trains.


Association for European Transport