The National Traction Engine Trust

Communication Updates

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 ( 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 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