Sunday, October 01, 2006

Help Save the Historic 3801 Steam Train

A quick look at my travels, shows I like trains. Not to the "standing beside a line in the rain wearing an anorak writing down numbers" extent, but to go to some trouble to travel by train across Australia and Europe.

At present there is a campaign underway in Sydney to save Locomotive 3801. It was built, and is still maintained, at the Eveleigh Railway Workshops in Sydney. The Locomotive is used to run tourist steam train tours around NSW by a non-profit company of railway enthusiasts.

Part of the workshops were sensitively converted into the Australian Technology Park, for computer researchers. But the rest of the site is under threat from development.
SYDNEY may lose a large part of its railway heritage under plans to revamp Redfern and Waterloo, the National Trust has warned. ...

Ms Goddard said the trust was particularly concerned about the fate of the railway yards, tracks and warehouses in North Eveleigh, most of which date from 1887.

"We have been lobbying for a long time to retain the Railway Heritage Group's storage and workshop facilities and this wipes them out completely," Ms Goddard said. ...

From "Revamp for Redfern ignores railway heritage", By Bonnie Malkin, The Sydney Morning Herald, February 13, 2006

I was asked to help with the campaign to convince the NSW state government to allow the rail tours to continue and applied my experience in running the campaign web site to get Steve Pratt, Branko Jelan and Peter Wallace out of a Yugoslavian jail.

3801 Limited, the non-profit company which leases the locomotive from the government, have a very good web site, to promote their tours. They added a page about the campaign to save the train. But this was a web page by and for rail enthusiasts and a few changes were needed to make more attractive the average reader.

Some suggestions I made were to:

1. Replace the video of the train on the web page with a still image: There was a short video of the train steaming impressively through the NSW countryside. But loading the video was slowing down the web page. I suggested the video be replaced with a still image and
played on demand. This was done.

2. Change the title from "Help Save 3801 Limited" to something like "Help Save the Historic 3801 Steam Train": Most people would have no idea what the "3801" was.
Web search engines (and people) would more easily understand what a "Historic Steam Train" was. This wasn't done. Perhaps the rail enthusiasts felt it diminished the dignity of the train, but they did mention "steam train" in the link to the video.

3. Insert a one paragraph summary of the campaign at the top of the page under the photo: The web page had a list of media releases and a details of the campaign. This was fine for those already involved, but would confuse the average reader. I thought it needed a quick and easy to summary; something like:
"Locomotive 3801 and its historic carriages have been maintained and operated for 20 years by the non-profit 3801 Limited company. In November, the lease of locomotive 3801 from RailCorp will end and it faces an uncertain future. 3801's carriages are to be listed for disposal by RailCorp and the historic home of 3801, is to be demolished. Please let the NSW Premier and State Government representatives know you want 3801, its carriages and workshop saved for future generations."
This was done.

4. Move "How Can You Help?" to above "Media Releases": With a campaign such as this, once you have given people the gist of the problem you need to say what they can do. Previously the web site gave them too much detail.

5. Invite people around the world, as well as NSW residents, to write: State governments are worried about a tourist slump. Rail enthusiasts make good tourists. So I suggested the millions of rail enthusits around the world be enlisted for the campaign.

No doubt the NSW government ministers will be getting a few mail messages from rail enthusiasts from the four corners of the earth asking about the 3801. While these people don't vote in NSW elections, they can vote with their tourist dollars by coming to NSW for a rail holiday.

6. Add an on-line petition: Preparing a fax or mail message is a lot of work to ask people to do and the campaign will have no idea how many did it. Adding your name to an on-line petition is quicker and easier and allows the campaign to see how many people filled it in (which can then communicated to the media). 3801 haven't done this, but they have provided a suggested wording for a message to the government.

7. Tell people on-line: With the campaign web site in place, the next step is to tell people, by mailing lists and the like. Which is what I am doing here.

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