The annual meeting of the European Federation of Museum and Touristic Railways (FEDECRAIL) 2014 in Budapest was a special one as the European umbrella organisation celebrated the 20th  birthday. The delegates met in early April and had a program with conferences and excursions in Hungary. This was the opportunity to look back on the past two decades of FEDECRAIL and to consider what it has achieved. 

For many years there has been cooperation between the museum and tourist railways in Europe. It all started with a Conference in 1989, organised by the British Association of Railway Preservation Societies, which was held in Utrecht to celebrate 150 years of Dutch Railways in Utrecht. What started as a first meeting of Europeans, repeated in Hameln (D) in 1991, took on added importance when a European Association was suggested. Representatives attending felt that in a developing Europe, more cooperation was needed between operating museum and tourist railways.

After a period of discussions, investigation and preparation by a steering group commissioned by the Hamelin meeting, FEDECRAIL was founded in 1994 at Leuven (B) under Belgian law. The Constitution states that cooperation and mutual support, study and resolution of common problems and representation of interests on a European Union level are the main aims.

Development was slow during the early years, but soon the impact of European Union Regulations and Guidelines went high up on the agenda. Also, the number of member countries topped 27, a figure which sees little change. The organisations in Eastern Europe were informed about FEDECRAIL thanks to the British New Europe Railway Heritage Trust (NERHT).

Over the years, FEDECRAIL achieved, largely through the good offices of Brian Simpson (Member of the European Parliament), changes to 14 draft EU directives, not forgetting the very first campaign which resulted in the withdrawal of the notorious “Hot surfaces” directive, which would have required us to lag (insulate) all steam pipes and paint all protruding paintwork and equipment in high visibility yellow.

Brian Simpson MEP also arranged a derogation from EU regulations for local stand-alone railways such as urban transport and heritage railways, so long as these obeyed national law. In particular, he negotiated a derogation from EU regulations for the separation of Infrastructure Management & Train Operation on museum and tourist railways, as well as a derogation from EU regulations for heritage railway workshops and for train driving licences. Additionally he succeeded in obtaining a derogation from EU regulations for minimum insurance cover for heritage train main line operation and for distant selling. FEDECRAIL successfully lobbied against a ban on the use of creosote treated wooden railway sleepers and an absolute ban against certain DCM paint-strippers. Moreover, Brian Simpson, who recently become chairman of the European Parliament’s Transport & Tourism Committee, arranged a derogation from EU regulations for package travel.

Most importantly, the MEP arranged a meeting with ERA (European Railway Agency) and FEDECRAIL, and ensured that the European umbrella organisation received the status of Representative Body in ERA. This means that FEDECRAIL must officially be consulted in the preparation of any draft EU railway regulations introduced by ERA. This is in part due to the higher profile enjoyed by the Federation, largely as a result of its exposure in the Report of the European Parliament’s Transport & Tourism Committee on Industrial Heritage – Rural Tourism.

Furthermore, FEDECRAIL office holders have intervened on at least eight occasions on national matters at the request of our members, including some outside the EU. In 2002 a decision was taken in Riga (Latvia) to draft a Cultural Charter, named the Riga Charter. This outlines how to deal with historic rolling stock when we restore and maintain this in running order in such a way that the cultural values are well preserved. The Riga Charter has proved a useful tool in the communication with international and other cultural institutions.

In addition to the above, FEDECRAIL has a number of other achievements to its credit, including the creation of working groups, the establishment of an annual youth camp, the publication of a newsletter, recognition by the European Rail Agency as a consultative body, representation on the Industrial & Engineering Heritage Committee of Europa Nostra and invitations to attend and speak at EU and other seminars.

Over the years FEDECRAIL has widened the range of countries from which the volunteers are drawn. Council comprises members from seven different countries. In the early years, it is true to say that the British dominated the make-up of FEDECRAIL officers, if only because the UK accounted for over 30% of the heritage and museum railway sector in Europe, but today the officers come from Sweden, Great Britain, France, Germany, Luxemburg, Latvia and Austria.

FEDECRAIL is a truly volunteer organisation and employs no paid staff. And last but not least there is the input of the working groups, particularly the Heritage Operations Group, who succeeded in clinching the deal with the ERA.

While FEDECRAIL believes that the organisation have achieved much in support of their members and, equally importantly, their members, and, indeed, all museum and tourist railways throughout Europe, there is no room for complacency, particularly as we have yet to face several new challenges.

Key Facts About FEDECRAIL

FEDECRAIL – the Federation of European Museum and Tourist Railways – is an organisation under Belgian law. It was founded in April 1994 in Brussels and was authorised by royal Belgian decree.

FEDECRAIL – is the European parent organisation for all friends of railways who are engaged in the maintenance, preservation and operation of historical railways.

FEDECRAIL - has currently 42 members from 27 countries comprising 650 heritage railways and railway museums.

FEDECRAIL – every European national parent organisation for Museum and Tourist Railways can become a member of FEDECRAIL. Individual associations can only become members if there is no national organisation. Individual members or extra-European associations can join the circle of the “FRIENDS OF FEDECRAIL“ as promoters, patrons or sponsors but only as members without the right to vote.

FEDECRAIL – is a connecting link between the national parent organisations and the European committees (EU parliament, EU commissions, EU executive boards, etc.)

FEDECRAIL – is the forum for discussions and the exchange of information for the European Museum- and Tourist Railways

FEDECRAIL – council, managing committee and technical representatives all come from European member associations and work exclusively on a honorary basis.

FEDECRAIL – publishes a bulletin with important information four times a year

FEDECRAIL – organises an annual conference with specific European topics about the Museum and Tourist Railways, such as the preservation and maintenance of the European heritage, regional regeneration, safety, financing, legislation harmonisation, environmental protection, etc. Study trips to member railways and museums with the opportunity to see 'behind the scenes' are always an element of the conferences.

FEDECRAIL Members‘ Survey – 2014 Statistics

Members from 16 countries took part in the Fedecrail survey which was intended to cover economic, cultural and social perspectives on the significance of railways represented by the European Federation. Austria, Belgium, Denmark,Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Luxemburg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Great Britain took part. The statistics come up with more than 20 million visitors per year for those responding. By some distance most, 11 million, were counted in Great Britain, followed by France with 3.7 million and Germany with 2.2 million and then Austria with 1.4 million visitors.

The railways operate altogether more than 5,200 route kilometres. The longest museum train route network with of 1,300 km is in Germany. France has almost as much with 1,200 km followed by Austria with 1,100 km, and Great Britain 890 km. In Italy, Portugal and Spain tracks owned by members are not represented. The number of steam locomotives amounts to some 2000. Far and away the greatest number of 866 exist in GB.  Then follows Germany with 320 engines which is about the same as Austria (157) and France (150) together. According to the survey across the whole of Europe there is a workforce of some 35,000 volunteers and 4,000 paid staff. Great Britain has the most volunteers with 19,100 and in France there are around 3,000 and Germany with 2,200. In addition, again GB has the most paid staff with 2,273 compared with France 800 and Germany 420.

The complete statistics of the umbrella organisations follow in detail:

Country GB F D A S DK N B NL I
Member Rlwys 179 95 80 35 36 18 7 9 29 20
Visitors 11 000 000 3 700 000 2 200 000 1 400 000 120 000 168 000 70 000 160 000 700 000 --
Railway-km in use 890 1 200 1 300 1 100 150 100 90 70 160 --
Steam Engines 866 150 320 157 120 75 11* 16* 91 25*
Volunteers 19 100 3 000 2 200 850 1 300 740 160 350 1 700 600
Paid Staff 2 273 800 420 150 45 4 12 27 85 0

* steam locomotives in running condition


updated 24.01.2016