At sunrise on the Brocken by steam train – that was the highlight of our anniversary conference 2019 in the Harz mountains (Germany), where 25 years of FEDECRAIL were celebrated. Early in the morning, on the anniversary day, 16 April, the traditional train of the Harzer Schmalspurbahnen (HSB) took us from Wernigerode through the darkness up the mountain to see the dawn shortly after 6 am from the summit at 1125 m altitude. The FEDECRAIL flag was unfolded in front of the historic train in the first rays of sunshine, which coloured the remaining snow pink, as a symbol for an optimistic view into the future for museum and tourist railways.
The celebration was preceded by the FEDECRAIL General Assembly 2019 and the traditional business day in a new guise with lectures and a panel discussion during which the partners were offered an attractive sightseeing programme in the Harz mountains. The conference programme included joint excursions to the Selketalbahn and Mansfelder Bergwerksbahn as well as the Rübelandbahn and the vintage trams in Halberstadt.
The 26th FEDECRAIL Annual Conference was hosted by the “Verband Deutscher Museums- und Touristikbahnen” (VDMT). On the conference business day their Chairman, Hans-Jürgen Credé, gave delegates an overview of the historical development of the railways in Germany, the current significance of the museum railways and the future challenges for the VDMT and concluded his remarks with an optimistic outlook.
The past and future in the context of environmental, regulatory and heritage issues as well as visitor and staff recruitment issues formed continuous themes throughout the business day. Steve Oates (Chief Executive of the HRA) presented a study on the origin, consumption and environmental impact of coal for steam locomotives in the UK. Mimmi Mickelsen (Museibanornas Riksorganisation, Sweden) looked back on the 2018 youth exchange in Sweden and Josep Francesc Moragrega Font (Associació Preservació Patrimoni Ferroviari Industrial/Spain) announced the upcoming youth exchange in Catalonia/Spain in August 2019.
All delegates were invited to participate in the panel discussion “In the mirror of the past – the future of historic railways”. Under this title Matthias Wagener (Managing Director of the HSB), Thomas Joindot (FEDECRAIL working group HOG/ Unecto) and Harald Elsner (Verein Verkehrsamateure und Museumsbahn, Germany) answered the questions of the meeting, moderated by Michel Dispa (Museum Buurtspoorwegen/Netherlands).
Matthias Wagener gave an impression of one of the last steam-powered narrow-gauge railways in SPNV and how it meets the challenges of the present day. Thomas Joindot, in his opinion, gave a hopeful outlook from a French perspective on the next 50 years for museum railways, which have undergone fundamental changes in their self-image over the past few years and are now facing up to the increased demands on their competences. Harald Elsner, a representative of historical trams, finally appealed to the current generation of museum railway volunteers to conserve the historical vehicle material by continuing to pass on their own expertise and enthusiasm to the next generation.
The FEDECRAIL Annual Conference 2020 will take place in Bilbao, Spain.