Friday, 11 October 2013

An act of Selfish Vandalism?

The underground forums were a-buzz today, because someone well-known for his work in narrow gauge railway preservation circles had posted the above shot on his Flickr stream here.

A group of people went in to the Lower Balls Green stone mine, near Nailsworth, Gloucestershire and took a Hudson WW1 skip wagon. Except that they couldn't recover it in one piece, because it lay the wrong side of a collapse. So they cut away the castings and pressings and dismembered it, carrying it back to the surface.

Mr McAvoy, of the Flickr photo stream, is a little coy about whether permission was given for this exploit, although admits in his Flickr stream that it will be "preserved" and used on a line that he is connected with.

I don't really care whether permission was granted or not. It is an unspoken rule among the mine exploration fraternity that nothing should be taken from underground except photographs. If permission was granted, then he has stuck the finger up to the rest of us. The message is: "I'm more important than you lot and I can take what I want." Of course, if there was no permission, then criminal proceedings seem appropriate.

It reminds me very much of the incident at Cwt-y-Bugail, when an early Aveling traction engine in a very advanced state of decay was taken by a group of enthusiasts for "preservation". The resultant pantomime as they tried to move it down to the tramway was worthy of the Chuckle Brothers, and did more damage than the elements had done in all the years while it had lain idle. That had the blessing of Greaves, the owners. It was still a supremely selfish act and nothing good has yet to come out of it, despite the high aims of the folk who "rescued" the loco.

More recently, several items have been stolen from Maenofferen and Wrysgan mines. They were significant items with a high curiosity value for those who appreciate such things. They were probably stolen to order by people with questionable philosophies on archaeology and preservation..

Of course, Mr McAvoy comes from the field of  railway preservation, where it is seen as the done thing to rescue things like engines and restore them. In this he can be forgiven to some extent, as he has strayed into a different culture. I just wish he'd taken the time to test the water before wading in with his angle grinders whirring. 

Perhaps I'm being too sensitive. I don't like seeing things stuffed and mounted, miles away from their context. Judging by some of the comments on Flickr, I'm not the only one. But I'm sure it will all blow over and folk will forget and forgive. There will be a replica Hudson Tipper somewhere, running about behind a over-polished pet locomotive, while in the mines, the water will still drip and darkness cloak the rest of the treasures down there. Until someone else decides they're up for grabs, that is.

Oh, and the header photo is from the photostream. I took it because, well, it was there, wasn't it?


Anonymous said...

Considering how much anger this caused, you've presented that in a pretty fair-minded way, especially with the point about the different cultures of railway preservation and mine explorers. As you say, both sides can muster a coherent (at least to themselves) argument for what they believe is the right thing to do.

Personally I think leaving things where they are would be my preference, and making a replica, which the railway preservation industry is getting rather good at these days. It would seem better to keep relationships intact than do your own thing and leave people hurt and angry. but that's just me.

I just hope the bits don't turn up on Ebay or similar...

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks, Andy...I'm glad it doesn't come over as too much of a rant. Mr McAvoy is a very clever chap and I am sure he and his crew could have measured the skip up and, as you say, made a replica.

Anonymous said...

Interesting thread of comments on the F****r page.

Seems reminiscent of various 'preservationists' recovering (aka plundering) wreckage from WWII aircraft crash sites.

Iain Robinson said...

I agree, Graham. I've just seen a photo of what he left behind in the mine. Most of the skip, minus castings, left in an untidy heap, looking just as if they had been vandalised.

Neil S said...

Just for the record - there is an informal agreement with the landowner for people to visit the quarry. They certainly DID NOT have permission to vandalise and steal parts of the truck.

The other person involved with the theft is called GARETH ROBERTS of MOSELEY RAILWAY TRUST.

Absolutely disgusting behaviour and totally unacceptable - the truck was in no danger of being lost so others could not see it.

I'm sure they wouldn't bat an eyelid if a bunch of people turned up at Apedale Valley Light Railway and started to cut bits out of their loco's. Or would they?

Be careful where you take these two individuals or what you show them in future, things might just 'disappear'...

They have not done MRT any favours. It makes one wonder how much of their other preserved loco's, trucks etc are actually comprising of stolen property?

Iain Robinson said...

Thanks for that, Neil. It's not one of the MRT's best moments and I certainly begin to look at "preservation" now with a jaundiced eye. Looks to me like this was a theft, pure and simple.

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