Firstly, don’t read too much into the title of this blog post, and also please do not misconstrue it as a plea to be patted on the back either. It’s now very nearly a year since I set this website up, and it’s an appropriate time to look back at what it has (and has not) achieved so far, and also where it proceeds from here.
The website was set up with two primary aims – firstly, to give wider publicity to haulage opportunities across the Continent to make it easier for enthusiasts of European locomotives to travel behind different or interesting ones, and secondly to serve as a platform to encourage enthusiasts who have not travelled overseas much (or at all) to do so, by showing them what there is to experience and advising how to go about it.
I would like to think that it has so far been successful on both counts – I’ve certainly received a lot of messages advising that users have ridden behind locos that they would otherwise not have done were it not for this site, and the previously oft-heard quote “I’d have done that if only I’d have known about it”, uttered for years by enthusiasts seeing photos retrospectively of events or railtours that had simply not been known about in advance, is almost a distant memory! Equally, it has led to greater support of overseas railway events – for example, the Bocq railway “Festival”, widely publicised via this site, had an approximately seven-fold increase in the number of British visitors it received in 2017. Positive feedback from a number of angles has been extensive and I am very grateful to everyone who has taken the time to give it.
It is fair to observe that there has been some isolated (but fairly vocal and public, it must be said) criticism of the mere concept of this website online, with the view expressed that it is futile and, indeed, counterproductive to set something up that is “in competition with European Rail Gen“. My personal view is that it simply is not in competition with anything, otherwise it would not exist. “ERG” exists to share urgent and interesting information on loco workings and trip reports – the former with brevity the key, given the format – and indeed I do share much of the information to be found on this site to the group myself.
The utility of this website is to bring together (including from existing internet resources – saving you the effort of trawling and translating yourself) forthcoming haulage opportunities in an easily-referenced calendar format, usually with a link to more information about the loco involved, that – in my view at least – does far more to entice novices to get involved than a list of numbers of locos they’ve never heard of and places they’ve never been. There are also a number of (I feel, interesting) articles on more general locomotive-related subjects. It is also worth saying that my distinct feeling is that preservation groups/railtour organisations are far keener to share information for a semi-journalistic article searchable across the web, than to an individual in another country who may not even then visit.
The other aspect that has received some (again, isolated) criticism is that I ask for voluntary donations to cover the costs of having and keeping this website online. I don’t personally see this as unreasonable – I have always been entirely honest about the costs involved, and this is in my time as well as money. I emphasise that I am not out to make a profit in any way – if I was, I certainly would not go about it this way! I merely take satisfaction from the knowledge that it is helping others, however I do need to acknowledge that it does cost me a considerable amount of my own money to do this: over £200 so far, and I have a further significant payment due to go out for website hosting next month.
With that in mind – what’s your view on these issues? Is what is contained on ERG and elsewhere online sufficient for your needs as an enthusiast – or do you need this site? If so, I would be delighted to continue with it – however, if you don’t, then it seems sensible that I spare myself the effort before the next sizeable bill is due. Equally, if there’s anything you would like to see me do differently – or additionally – with the site, please do let me know.
Thanks for reading – I’d appreciate your thoughts?