New Europe Railway Heritage Trust(NERHT)
Our Annual General Meeting; Chairman’s Report
Once again, we were fortunate to enjoy the hospitality of the Model Railway Club for our AGM, which was further entertained by a talk by Andris Biedrins about restoration projects in the Baltics. Stephen Wiggs presented the Annual Report:
In the past twelve months we have continued to pursue our objective of helping railway preservation in our area of benefit, the former USSR and the ex-Communist countries of Eastern and Central Europe.
The Autumn of 2014 saw the 20th anniversary of the first meeting of the informal ‘Russian Committee’ which eventually became NERHT, and this seemed a good time for the Committee to carry out a strategic review of our position. We concluded that there is still a job for us to do and we are able to do it. Our Trust of course was one of numerous initiatives, in all sorts of fields, which were set up after the end of Communism to build bridges across what had been a divided continent. Despite the changes and indeed the progress of recent years we have to acknowledge that new challenges and new difficulties have arisen which affect NERHT along with other organisations.
Sadly, these include the very grave situation in Ukraine, a country where NERHT has been active for the past decade and more. As a non-political association and a registered charity we must not take sides in political disputes, and the Committee has resolved that where possible we should continue to support railway preservation throughout the New Europe despite the current difficulties. Our Ukrainian friends are still working to safeguard their country’s railway heritage, and there can be fewer more impressive examples of dedication that that of the staff of the Donetsk railway museum who have carried on working throughout the armed conflict which resulted in damage to the museum.
At the request of AZIZU (the Ukrainian railway heritage association) we made representations to the authorities early this year urging them to save steam locomotives threatened with scrapping. Members of NERHT have recently shown their sympathy with our colleagues in Ukraine by responding generously to our appeal for donations to enable young members of AZIZU to attend this Summer’s Fedecrail youth camp in Hungary, and we are most grateful to all who have made donations.
Obviously, railway preservation is closely linked to the tourist industry which in Ukraine has been badly affected by the current unrest, and it is good to report that railway tourism continues there, including steam specials around Kiev and tourist trains on the scenic Vygoda Forestry Railway which NERHT delegates will be visiting again in June.
In June 2014 NERHT helped arrange a highly successful conference on the Latvian narrow gauge railway (‘Banitis’) which was attended by some extremely eminent participants in the field of railway preservation from Britain and elsewhere; this event is a good example of how we can act as a catalyst making things happen. Our links with Banitis go back to 1997, and it is good to welcome their delegates who are now with us as guests of NERHT.
Also in June 2014 it was a privilege for our representatives to attend the celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Romanian National Railway museum, when guests had the pleasure of riding behind the Canada Works-built Calugareni 2-4-0 locomotive of 1869 in contemporary carriages. We continue to support the Romanian Museum and the Train Club of Romania (the national railway heritage association), and the leaders of both organisations were here a year ago on a study tour taking in NRM York, Shildon and other museums. Still in Romania, we continue working with the Sibiu Agnita railway project, and while we cannot claim any credit for the impressive lobbying carried out on behalf of this scheme by Fedecrail President David Morgan and by SAR UK Chairman David Allan, leader of SAR UK (the British support group) we were glad to be able to give them logistical and other support.
Elsewhere, we keep in touch with old friends in Russia, Poland and elsewhere, and are always seeking new contacts, with a view to giving active support when the time is right.
As always, we must remember that our work would not be possible without those who assist us in all sorts of ways, including railway companies and museums in Great Britain and elsewhere, other helpers of all kinds, and above all NERHT members. On behalf of the Committee I should like to thank all of you for your support.
Stephen Wiggs Chairman, NERHT. 7.5.15