The Riga Charter

Adopted by unanimous vote of FEDECRAIL members at their Annual Meeting held at Anse near Lyon on 16th April 2005 having been first proposed in Riga, capital of Latvia.

Further countries which have adopted the Riga Charter you will find here.

(Issue 2006)

This charter has been created to guide decisions that will result in heritage railways being able to be enjoyed by future generations. Heritage railways have been very successful in rescuing, restoring, preserving and operating historic equipment. We hope that this charter will help everyone involved to see opportunities for making wise decisions. It has been created to accompany the several other charters relating to heritage conservation.


The Riga Charter is a statement of principles which guide the conservation, restoration, maintenance and repair and use of historic railway equipment, which is being operated. It is hoped that this will help our members make wise decisions.


Heritage Railways referred to in this Charter, may also include historic or preserved railways, museum railways and tramways, working railway and tram museums and tourist railways, and may extend to heritage trains operating on the national network and other railways.

Railway Equipment referred to in this Charter may include buildings or infrastructure which form part of the railway ensemble.

Preservation is the process of keeping an object safe from harm and decomposition, by maintaining it properly so that its condition, quality and memory is retained.

Conservation is the process of stabilising the condition of an object without compromising the historical or material evidence in any way.

Restoration is the process of repairing or replacing missing parts in an attempt to regain an earlier sta-te of the object. The restoration may increase the strength of the object before work started, and may generally go further than conservation. It should neither be invisible or glaringly obvious.

Repair is the process of adjustment or replacement of the components. The specified standard of mechanical condition is achieved irrespective of the historic integrity of parts that may be altered or discarded.

Download of the Riga Charter as PDF

Article 1

Scientific and technical skills, together with the facilities needed to preserve and operate historic railway equipment, within a culture of safety, should be used to safeguard railway heritage.

Article 2

The aim of preserving and restoring historic railway items and associated working practices is to safeguard them, whether they are significant technological artefacts, evidence for transport history or a means of perpetuating traditional skills.

Article 3

Maintenance of all aspects of their equipment, and operation on a regular basis is essential for the survival of heritage railways. Operating historic and valuable railway equipment with traditional operating procedures, and presenting it to the public, is an important means of interpreting that material.

Article 4

Identifying socially useful purposes for historic railway items will help facilitate their preservation, but such use should involve the minimum change necessary, and such changes should be fully reversible.

Article 6

The process of restoration is a highly specialised operation. Its aim is to preserve and reveal the aesthetic, functional and historic value of traditional railway equipment. It should be based on respect and an understanding wherever possible of the original designs and specifications.

Article 7

The original or historically correct materials and techniques should be used in the conservation of historic railway items, unless they can no longer be adopted for reasons of safety, legislation or availability. In such cases appropriate contemporary substitutes for such materials or techniques should be used.

Article 8

The restoration of a piece of historic railway equipment does not require that it must be restored to its original as built state. Some equipment acquires its historic importance later on in its working life. Restoration to any period should be executed only after thorough consideration of historic records, and available documentation covering the chosen period, after which a restoration plan should be written and adopted. Material that is replaced with new should be readily identified as such with a simple permanent marking system.

Article 9

Added mandatory safety equipment should if possible blend harmoniously with the conserved or restored item but the fact that it is an addition or alteration to the original make-up of the item should be clearly indicated.

Article 10

Any other necessary later modifications to the item that are introduced for whatever reason should be as sympathetic as possible to the make-up and appearance of the original item. Ideally any such modification should be reversible and any significant original parts removed should be retained for possible future re-use.

Article 11

Every stage in the conservation or restoration work on a historic railway item should be systematically planned and recorded. The resultant record of these processes retained for a minimum of the life of the item.

Article 12

All bodies involved in the repair, restoration, maintenance, conservation and operation of heritage railways and railway equipment, must make proper arrangements for the conservation of their records and archives.

The Riga Charter was adopted as code of conduct by umbrella organisations or heritage railways in the following 24 countries:

Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Italy, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Latvija, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Spain, Sweden.

(If highlighted a local translation is available in addition to the three FEDECRAIL languages.)