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?