Colonel Stephens Railway Museum Survey: the Results
Members will recall that a survey form was included in the spring issue of The Colonel. The intention was to help planning the future development of the Colonel Stephens Railway Museum at Tenterden. The concept was prompted by the thought that members of our society, committed as they are to perpetuating the memory of Holman F Stephens and his works, would be more likely than most to participate enthusiastically in such a survey. If successful, it might have been the prototype for a bigger survey in the future.
When the survey closed on 26th April (we continued, a bit like the Referendum website to accept entries for a little while after the announced deadline), we had received 31responses. The total membership at that point was 392, so the percentage return was only 7.9 – rather disappointing, given that all members had to do was to fill in a simple form and post it (admittedly with their own stamp). Alternatively, those with the appropriate equipment could have scanned it, completed it and sent it in without further ado.
The first question asked whether the member had visited the Museum and, if so,
was it within the last two years or 5 years? Ten had visited within the last two years, 14 said within the last 5years, three said longer ago, while 4 said never. So 87% of those responding had visited the Museum within the last few years, while 13% said they had not visited at all.
Plans to visit in the future were the subject of the second question. Members were asked if they expected to visit during 2016, in the following 5 years, never or never again. It was also possible to answer ‘don’t know’. Eight members (26%) planned to visit this year and 12 (39%) within the following 5 years. Encouragingly, no one said they did not intend to visit or visit again. However 11 said that they did not know.
Reasons for not visiting
Of those who said that they did not expect to visit, 11 cited the distance they would have to travel as the reason. Two said that lack of time was the reason.
One member said that the fact that the Museum closed during the winter was the reason. It was pleasing that no one cited lack of interest. Distances from Tenterden included Guernsey, Ludlow, Cardiff and Peterborough. Those who lived nearer cited mobility problems. While one said that the lack of a good west to east road from West Sussex to Kent, coupled with his age, limited his visits. Another said: “I was favourably impressed with the Museum, though I find Colonel Stephens and his doings historically fascinating, the K&ES is not one of my favourite preserved lines. Frankly I’m not a big fan of Kent.” Ah, well!
How good are the displays
Those who had visited the Museum were asked to rate on a scale of 1-5 (1= high, 5 = low) how well they thought the displays in the Museum present the story of the life of Colonel Stephens and his railways. 17 (63%) gave them the highest rating, 7 (26%) rated them at 2, while one rated them at 3 and another one rated them at only 4. None gave the lowest rating. One said that it was thoughtfully laid out. Another said: “ Love the Museum, nearly always buy a railway book from the foyer. I joined the Colonel Stephens Society after seeing the Museum. Keep developing it and keep selling books.” Another rated it as 2 on the grounds that “there is always room for improvement”. One member said: “Good on some lines, but not all”. True, but that reflects what we’ve been able to collect.
Are you willing to help?
The final question asked members if they were interested in helping the Museum and, if so, what they would be able to help with. Fifteen replied that they would not. All of them cited distance as the limiting factor. Disappointingly, nine did not answer this one. However two said they would be willing to help if ways could be found to do so remotely. There was one big success; one member did volunteer to help and has since been recruited as a Museum Attendant. Another took the initiative to send an email to ‘Broadcasting House’, the BBC Radio 4 Sunday morning programme, to nominate the Museum to feature in the small museums series they were running. So far, they haven’t taken up the idea.
So, overall there was a disappointing response rate, but those who did respond seemed to rate the museum highly, even though many could not visit often or volunteer to help. Well, it was worth a try.
I would like to acknowledge the help of Peter Southgate in preparation of this report. Because of the low response rate and the small numbers involved please treat the percentages with a pinch of salt. Admission to the Museum is now free to all, so you can bring friends and family – even if they don’t have much time. Researchers can make use of the archives and extensive photographic collection on application to Brian Janes, the Curator. The Museum is always keen to acquire more artefacts, documents and photographs that relate to the Colonel and the railways associated with him. Contact the museum at; Tenterden Town station, Station Road, Tenterden, Kent TN30 6HE o1580 765155 www.hfstephens-museum.org.uk
THE COLONEL STEPHENS SOCIETY
The Society for enthusiasts of the light and narrow gauge railways of Colonel Holman F Stephens
3 June 2015
For Immediate Release
30 YEARS OF CELEBRATING THE WORK OF
The 30th anniversary of the birth of the Colonel Stephens Society was marked during our now traditional Members’ Weekend in May. We usually visit a railway with a strong connection with the Colonel. This year we toured the route of the long-closed North Devon & Cornwall Junction Railway, which once ran between Halwill Junction and Torrington, stopping off at points of interest, including the remains of several stations and halts. It was the last railway engineered by the Colonel, opening in 1925 and operated by the Southern Railway. Regular passenger services were withdrawn in 1965.
To mark our anniversary, we decided to award founder member, Jon Clarke, Honorary Membership, only the third such award in the Society’s history.
Over the years, we have made modest donations to several projects to preserve and restore relics of the lines of the light railway pioneer Colonel Holman F Stephens. This year, at the Society’s AGM held in Barnstaple, a decision was made to contribute towards the re-creation, by Colin Shutt, of a Ford rail lorry as once used on the Colonel’s Shropshire & Montgomeryshire Railway.
We spent the following day at the Lynton & Barnstaple Railway. Members were so impressed with the restoration work that, although the line was not directly associated with the Colonel, the committee decided at a special meeting held on the platform at Chelfham to make a contribution to the cost of making new doors for the station.
Ross Shimmon, Publicity Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org 01795 533137
A photographic record of the weekend appears on our website at:
Notes for editors:
We have contributed to a number of restoration projects, including:
•The restoration of a Ryde Pier Drewry tram
•The re-creation of a Ford railmotor
•The restoration of KESR’s Terrier No.3 Bodiam
•The restoration of the Welsh Highland Heritage Railway’s Russell
•The creation of a mannequin of Colonel Stephens for the Colonel Stephens Museum at Tenterden
•The restoration of the Shrewsbury Abbey Foregate station by the Shrewsbury Railway Heritage Trust
•The restoration of the Ashover Light Railway’s Planet diesel shunter Ashover
A full list appears on our website at:
We continue to provide modest donations to projects with a strong connection to the railways of Colonel Stephens. Projects seeking support should contact our Secretary: David Powell, ‘Gateways’, Bledlow Road, Saunderton, Princes Risborough, Bucks, HP27 9NG. email@example.com
Colonel Holman Fred Stephens was born in 1868 and died in 1931, while resident at the Lord Warden Hotel, Dover. He was a promoter, engineer, locomotive superintendent and director of light railways. He was connected in one or more of these capacities with 17 such railways, both standard and narrow gauge, in England and Wales. His office was in Tonbridge, Kent.