The National Traction Engine Trust

Communication Updates

It Doesn't Go Quiet In The Winter For The NTET - (Vintage Spirit May 2018)

You would think with the rally season still being a distant dream or a long off memory, life here at the National Traction Engine Trust would be calmer, and easier going than at the peak of season and activities. In truth, that’s about as far from reality as can be imagined.

The last few months, for many officers of the Trust and their amazing teams who do so much behind the scenes it has been relentless. We’ve had the Engine Owners Conference, The Safeguarding Training, various online team meetings, Rally Organisers Conference, General Council Meeting, London Model Engineering Exhibition and another return to the Practical Classics Restoration Show at the NEC in Birmingham.

The latter, it’s fair to say was as successful as ever with a small team not only presenting the Trust and Steam Apprentice Club to a wider audience than we usual meet on the rally field, but also representing the steam world in general to people that have little knowledge of our activities other than causing the odd delay out on the road.

This year the team tried something different and as well as having two Foster Tractors on static display with two Living Vans, they also had two engines in steam running around the roads of the NEC giving the general public a chance to ‘have a go’, and raise nearly £2000 in the process for the Sporting Bears. Even the most sceptical of sceptic has to raise their hat to not only the idea, but the owners and crew for that achievement alone.

Unfortunately, the reality of finance is starting to rear its head in some of the things we do, and although the Trust is not in financial difficulties, we are aware our membership continues to decline and it’s something we are all addressing as we move forward. We need to attract new members and adopt revenue streams we have thus far avoided. It is fair to say we are in a constant state of revue at present, continuously improving how we do things, and indeed what we actually do.

Without turning this into a sales pitch, we need members. The value to all engine owners, crew members and the general enthusiast is self-evident, so please give us a go.

Turning the heat down a little now, and focussing on the PR and Commercial sides of things, preparations for the busy summer are in place and we plan on getting out and about with the Exhibition Unit as much as we can. Again, though it’s an expensive thing to move around, and ideally, we could do with a dedicated team to do it as opposed to our current method of using commercial hauliers. If we could get a small group of folks together it would save us a great deal of money. A fact I may well get into trouble for sharing here is that after haulage, expenses, stock and man hours the unit just about turns a small profit each year. Fantastic, no problems there but with a good team behind the logistics side we could turn that into a solid profit margin and still pay for fuel etc. There is of course the added advantage of the social side of the hobby coming to the fore. You never know, there may well be a transport manager somewhere reading this that can see the advantages of moving the unit for us? Well if you don’t ask you don’t get.

For those of you reading this that are members, the next issue of our journal Steaming is about to land so keep an eye out for that. Included are a few special treats for you, including a special discount for the Severn Valley Railway ‘Steam on The Road’ event where you can get a third off your ticket price for a day on the line! It’s one of many things we are adding to the members portfolio, adding value to all who take out a subscription.

As ever, both members and non-members can keep on top of Trust activities via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube – all free of course. Emails are answered as quickly as is humanly possible considering we are all volunteers and have jobs, families and steam engines to maintain (not always in that order admittedly). Finally, we are soon to be launching an email newsletter which will be sent to those that want it on a monthly (is) basis. Is simply designed to keep both members and non-members informed as to what we are up too and inform you of some of those upcoming advantages being a member gives you, or if a non-member what you are potentially missing out on. To join the mailing list email: fromthefootplate@ntet.co.uk

That’s it for another month, questions, criticisms, offers of help – public.relations@ntet.co.uk

 

Training To Safeguard Children & Vunerable Adults - (Vintage Spirit April 2018)

Safeguarding, or to be more precise Safeguard Training, for Children and Venerable Adults. Firstly, it’s not something you’d automatically think of when volunteering for a role in your local, regional or National heritage organisation of choice. However, in this day and age it is as important a subject matter as any other within any organisation or event large or small.

Saturday 24th February saw a number of delegates from as far afield as Cornwall, Cambridge and County Durham gather in Warwickshire under the various NTET sections of Steam Apprentice Club, Authorised Events and Partner Clubs. Basically, various representatives from clubs, museums, sections and those that expressed an interest. A short, and very sharp training session ensued and a lot of valuable information was obtained in identifying and managing situations that may well occur within any organisation. Yes, it was hard listening, yes is posed a lot of questions in how our hobby manages this sort of thing, and yes of course at times some of the examples listed by our trainer, Steve (a retired Children’s Protestation Police Officer) were frankly frightening – however it is all important stuff. As I said at the outset it is perhaps things that not everyone will be thinking of when they raise their heads above the parapets and offer help in activities that they consider to be solely fun based. Awareness, and in truth the knowledge to be able to protect yourself as much as anything else, is invaluable.

The course is just one of several that the Trust run for aforementioned organisations and individuals. This one was essentially free, as officials of the Trust and the Steam Apprentice Club all felt it needed looking at closer. Other parties were invited, and I do not think anyone left the room having not learnt something new and important. If other organisations would like to find out more about this particular subject matter, we here at the National would welcome your enquiries. We can facilitate similar training sessions, in regional locations. Obviously, the more delegates, the cheaper it’ll become for individuals. It doesn’t only need to be ‘Safeguarding’, it could be anything that is associated with our hobby and lifestyles. As an organisation, the NTET is not out to make money from such activities, we are simply keen to promote best practice and clear understanding amongst our partners and associates.

This is all part of the ongoing review of how we do things at the Trust. This particular element stems from our ‘Rally Organisers Code of Practice’, which in itself has recently undergone a huge review, to the extent that the old version was taken down from our website as some of the information included was ‘dated’ to say the least. The new version is ready to be rolled out by our new Head of Rallies Section Charlie Cribbes, who together with David Smith and a number of others have put a great number of hours into bringing things up to scratch. Obviously, the CoP feeds directly off of our invaluable Authorisation Scheme, but copies will be made availavalbe in due course to all who would want a copy.

In associated news, the Rally Organisers Section is looking for an Authorisation Administrator. It’s not an arduous role, but one that requires computer literacy and good communication skills to be able to administer and manage the events scheme, which feeds into so much of our activities at events up and down the country.  For further information or to enquire about the position, please contact Charlie via rallies@ntet.co.uk

That concludes this month’s ramblings. As ever all our latest news and announcements can be found via our website and various social media channels, not forgetting a more detailed summery of our activities in our quarterly journal, Steaming which comes free with every membership.

 

Improving Our Communication -  (Old Glory - March 2018)

It’s been a long time since the National Traction Engine Trust has submitted anything to Old Glory for publication, and for both organisations a lot of water has travelled under various bridges and a lot of changes have occurred.

Uttering the very words ‘National Traction Engine Trust’, at one time was a code word for let’s have a bun fight. However, as we have all grown a little and to some extent realised that the internet isn’t always the greatest forum to get your opinions listened too with any real degree of understanding, things in recent years have quietened down and the Trust has resumed its position within the road steam movement where it sits well with the vast majority of people, be they members or otherwise.

Of late our actions are speaking louder than our words, and we are more results based than ideas driven. That said we are not averse to throwing the odd howler, or putting a spanner in the works here and there, the difference is we possibly acknowledge it a little more these days.

Our membership numbers, although are nowhere near our heyday figures are on the steady rise again, and the feel-good factor surrounding the organisation is pretty consistent. Mistakes and miss communications of the past are still remembered but in many detractors, eyes we are viewed upon in a far better light than recent times.
This is not to detract to the work put into the organisation over previous decades, far from it. All that has gone before has made us what we are today and we are as grateful to previous incarnations of volunteers as we are today. In the modern era, of course we have a lot more tools at our disposal in which to communicate better, but we still acknowledge that the written word and ability to write like this is still vital to our future.

So, if this is the first you have seen or heard from the National in recent years, or if you are one of those that lost faith or simply forgot to renew, come and give us a chance. We openly welcome new members and we are delighted to receive ideas, thoughts and constructive criticism. We can be seen throughout the Spring, Summer and Autumn at various steam and non-steam events, exhibitions and even the odd village fete. If you see us in 2018, come and have a chat. We are not all about look at us, listen to us – do what we say. We are just here, we are doing what we are supposed to do, what we were formed to do quietly and confidently and yes like many others we need your support.

If you are interested in joining, visit our website ntet.co.uk or email memebership@ntet.co.uk

Any questions or comments, public.relations@ntet.co.uk is where you’ll get hold of us.

The Rate of Conversions - (Vintage Spirit March 2018)

For this months set of ramblings I am going to touch on what seems to be the hot topic here at NTET HQ, that of the current rate of Conversions. No matter how hard we seem to try or how often we change our viewpoint we just can’t shake the fact that as it stands the numbers of conversions from the Steam Apprentice Club to the National Traction Engine Trust is never smooth (Sorry couldn’t resist it).

Joking and chairman bating aside, it is a pretty serious subject and one which I for one can’t fathom. Of course I am coming at it from an older age perspective and there are plenty of the younger generation who could cast a more honest light on why the transition seems so difficult.

As we have touched upon in this column numerous times before, the state of the Steam Apprentice Club was questionable a short time ago, but now things are looking far more positive with some long term goals and ambitious plans afoot. A fresh injection of enthusiasm has come with the addition of several new committee members, and the support of some clubs and organisations has been an important step forward.

So what is the issue? The Steam Apprentice Club, is part of the National. We have made the first years subs for those moving across, the same price as SAC over 18’s get a copy of Steaming as well as Raising Steam. The core values of the National are unchanged, and we are far more open than we were previously. Some may disagree but we have a more balanced way of communicating with both members and non members and we are not afraid to have some fun in the things that we do nowadays – but still our age demographic remains at the higher end of the spectrum.

Why, some ask is it important to have the younger generation as members? Well as much as I hate the term ‘it’s a no brainer’, it actually is. The SAC is there for a purpose, it serves our aims and the hobby itself well. Yes there are plenty of young adults to be seen on engines, yes many have been through the SAC but sadly many of them are not actually members of the Trust. Its not just the faces seen on engines either. Non engine owning/driving folk have as much a role to play in the future of the Trust as anyone. Those with just a passing interest have just as many thoughts and ideas and when they are sent this way, get a fair rub of the green as much as anything else.
So what are we missing? Are we actually missing anything. Is it just the way things are?

The answers as ever may be totally different from what we expect, they may be just what we don’t want to hear but to ignore it or dismiss it as just an age blip thingy, would be wrong so it’s something worth exploring.

Any insights or observations are as ever welcomed. Honesty and bluntness are the key here and as chief fence sitter I’ll happily listen to what anyone has to say on this particular subject.

Public.relations@ntet.co.uk

 

Lines Of Communication - Vintage Spirit (February 2018)

It’s the day after the day before, or what is more traditionally known as Boxing Day as I sit and write this latest set of notes from the National Traction Engine Trust and the Steam Apprentice Club. To say I am feeling slightly delicate this morning is a bit of an understatement, but at least the wife is talking to me so last night Guinness intake could not have been that dramatic. I’m sure in a few more hours I’ll recall in detail, or indeed will have been reminded in some way.

Publication dates will undoubtedly negate my opening lines somewhat, so I offer my apologies not only for reminding you of your own Christmas misdemeanours, but also for once again harping on about anything but the very reason why I am actually writing this set of notes!


Business does though begin with an apology from the Trust to everyone who has attempted to partake in our much heralded ‘Water Extraction Scheme’, or ‘Hydrant Use’ as must refer to it as. It would seem as though we jumped the gun in respect of this. We were talking to the right people. We had everything in place, we thought all information had been filtered downwards, and through the various culverts that make up the water industry. We were wrong. We unreservedly offer our apologies to everyone who got involved, and offered us congratulations in finally getting things up and running. We hit an iceberg which has halted any real progress, but despite what some will have you believe has not sunk the ship, or contributed to a catastrophic failure for that matter. It’s just made us slow up a little and proceed with a little more caution than we were doing so. Talks are still going on behind the scenes and progress is expected, but as it currently stands it isn’t exactly as we sold it and for that we acknowledge we may well have fired a shot towards our feet a little.

Without doubt, it isn’t the first time we have got it a little wrong, and it’s a fact that we will probably do so again on more than one occasion as we continue the transition of bringing the Trust into a modern age and the expectations that people have with that. Although I am personally loathed to offer up excuses for mistakes of the past both ancient and more recent, everything that gets done here gets done with the right intentions. Sometimes we are victims of our own enthusiasm but more often than not we find ourselves being subjected to lack of time, or day to day life getting in the way. Yes those that stand above the parapet have obligations to honour what they say they are going to do, but they also do so at the expense of family, work and engine time. It’s always worth remembering this when it comes to what I refer to as ‘venting’.

There are a couple of formal announcements coming over the next few weeks from us with regard to how a few things will move forward in the coming years. On the surface they look like quite big steps but it is for want of a better expression all part of the modernising programme and making the organisational side of what we do better and potentially more pro active on some of the other things we pride ourselves with. It wouldn’t be the right thing to make such announcements in this particular line of communication, as it wouldn’t be fair to those that subscribe to the organisation and in effect keep it running. Any official announcement will always be via the Trusts highly acclaimed journal ‘Steaming’, or on our official website news stream which will then filter down to our other lines of communication such as Social Media and of course here.
This is then possibly as good a place as any to thanks the good folk at Vintage Spirit for their support of our activities over the past twelve months in publishing this ‘column’. We are delighted to say that they have invited us back for a second year, which can only aid the way in which we communicate to not only our members, but also those that watch from just outside the circle. To those I’d like to invite your feedback on any level to not only what we do here, but elsewhere on our communications front. I could get accused of sitting in an ivory tower, or being blinkered but I’m pretty sure that over the past two or three years, our way of getting your attention has improved, and the way in which we take on board your thoughts and criticism is far more akin with the image we are trying to portray. 

If you get a chance to tune into our Social Media channels, please take on board some of the information we are trying to get across to you all. Likewise, our news feed on the website (ntet.co.uk) is an important link to keep an eye on as we continue our march into the modern age. Our big thing at the moment is our ‘Rally Authorisation Scheme’, which is having a big injection of work put into it, which will benefit the many events that use the much valued scheme – but more of that next time!

As ever, if you feel the need to send an email, I can be got at public.relations@ntet.co.uk be you a member or otherwise. Members can get me on the phone or via the written word from the address found inside each issue of Steaming.

 

A Different Sort of Week. - Vintage Spirit (January 2018)

Three days to go until the latest edition of Vintage Spirit goes to the printers and here I am sat in the Living Van trying to think of something seasonal to write yet fully aware that the date cross over for when you actually read this may not dovetail perfectly. I guess the question to be asked is why on earth am I sat in the Living Van on a rather chilly November evening. No its not a dog house job, nor that I am burning the midnight oil attempting to get the ‘next phase’ of the NTET Public Relations grand plan launched (yes there is a plan – honest), no I’m actually looking out the door and being treated to the sight of my own engine gently ticking over as it sits amongst all kinds of festive cheer and goodies. Towering above me is a rather tidy Ferris Wheel, doing good trade and to my right a TGI Fridays and to my left a Nandos and a Café Bar called, Portivo Lounge which it has to be said is doing a brisk trade although in not serving Guiness have somehow missed a trick with myself in residence. Yes its Christmas Fair season, and although we won’t be alone in spreading good cheer this year with an engine we are the only one to be found at the Gloucester Quays Christmas Victorian Market. Yes a 1921 Fowler isn’t Victorian, but it matters not to most people (to those that its does the standard “its Victorian engineering” usually sees them on their merry way). We are here to add atmosphere, a bit of banter, a smell or two and of course the sound of an engine ticking over, perhaps every now and again opening the drain cocks and without a shadow of doubt the ‘whistle’.

All the trimmings in the world though can’t hide the fact that in 2017, a Fowler Steam Roller is well out of place in a city centre event where the emphasis is on rush rush rush and money money money. People are here to enjoy the day and we add value to that, but as the real world goes on beside us ninety percent of those that glance at us as  they pass have no real idea of what it is they are looking at, let alone have a clue as to what it did/does or where or when. Okay we are here, we are talking to people, we are telling stories, most factual some tall. Most people want toknow if we knew Fred, how much its worth and did we really drive from Leeds!

The point of this waffle? Well its obvious that away from our safe environs of the Rally field, Country Show or Village Fete, the vast majority have no idea of the copious amounts of history, skill, craftsmanship and hard graft that goes into our hobby. It has me thinking that for the most part today the Trust is preaching to the converted (sorry). We seen focused on justifying what we do and how we do it, to those that for the most part already know. Perhaps turning it on its head every now and again and engaging with a wider, more intrigued but less knowlegable audience would do this organisation and the wider interest group a bit of good. Yes the Trust has gone a long way in recent years with displays at the NEC in Birmingham and our soiree into CarFest North & South this year. However when you take the novelty factor out, what actually is our message to those that are convinced what they are looking at is a ‘Steam Train’. How many people that pass us on route to our summer engagements think the same?

Perhaps I am thinking too hard, perhaps after 8 days on the engine (with five more to go) my at the best of times limited thinking capacity is maxed out, but perhaps the big picture needs looking at closer. Perhaps we should start to worry less about how we sit within our own natural audience and look outside to how we all sit in the real world. Maybe its time to bury hatchets and move on from something that happened in 1972, 1981 or 2015. Maybe the time is right for the various steam organisations to look at each other and combine our strengths to work on our weaknesses. Perhaps this is just me suffering from a lack of iron intake this week and thinking to much, but then again maybe I have hit upon something that needs exploring further. Whatever it is, it is of course just one opinion of just one person who happens to hold the keys to this particular forum. However that’s what I’m here for I guess.

Just in case anyone has gotten this far, 2017 has been a good year for the Trust on many levels and we thank everyone who has had any involvement at any level. However you celebrate the holiday period, we hope you have a great time and wish everyone and fantastic 2018.

Matt S – Head of Public Relations & Commercial at the NTET