Oh no I can hear you mutter to yourself what’s the old duffer on about now?
Well I thought the title would have given it away, I am on about football clubs and heritage railways, or more specifically Peterborough United and Nene Valley Railway.
Now before we start, any railway directors or others who consider themselves the great and the good of the railway need not panic, I am not going to rip the railway apart with sensational text, revealing stories of what is really put in visitors tea and how we paint white lines on platform edges in the rain. No, these are just some of my thoughts comparing football with heritage railways.
Are you sitting comfortably? Sit straight at the back, I will say this only once… (That would make a great line in a comedy series, don’t you agree?).
Anyway I am digressing which many will say is something I am good at.
Now unless you live on another planet you will, by the time you read this know that Peterborough United have been promoted to the championship league today after a game of two halves against Huddersfield Town that took place in Manchester.
Right you don’t need to put your hand up to answer this question nor ponder on the answer as I will give it to you straight after the question.
The question is…. What do Peterborough United and Nene Valley Railway both rely on to survive?
The answer is Supporters…. See that was not too hard was it!
Both organisations need supporters or as we call them on the railway members! Without them neither organisation would survive.
Ah your thinking I bet this posting was prompted by the Peterborough United victory today, well sorry you are wrong, it was prompted by two middle aged gentlemen who were leaning against the station fence awaiting the arrival of the diesel service to Wansford.
I was sitting on a bench out of their sight also awaiting the service and at the same time trying to follow the footie and the F1 race on-line on the smart phone.
Now the essence of the conversation these two chaps were having was this. The one chap was going on about how he supported the railway by being a member, and that because he was a member he could travel cheap on the trains, and the number of trips he took meant that he paid less to be a member and travel at members rate on the train than if he was not a member and paid full fare for each journey. Or for those who are not good at maths he was saying that he saved money and spent less supporting the railway and being a member than if he did not in his words support the railway by being a member.
Now my brain points out to me that if he pays less overall by being a member than by not being a member how the hell can he be supporting the railway?
I am sure that there are many what the railway call “armchair members” who pay up each year and say travel once or even less, they are supporting the railway to my mind because they give us money we would not otherwise get.
But there are many others who save more than they pay, such as the chap at the fence, now I am not saying that they would travel as much as they do if they had to pay full price but the fact remains certainly in this chaps case that he joined to save himself money. I am sorry but in my eyes and I am sure many others he is not supporting the railway.
Right at this stage your no doubt saying to yourself, where the hell is the connection with football?
Well here is the connection. I wonder how many people tonight are in Peterborough pubs drinking themselves silly saying they are supporters of Peterborough United but have never been to a match this season, or for that matter bought anything from the club shop?
My bet is there are a good number, a true supporter of a football club is a supporter who goes along to matches in all weathers both home and away irrespective of how well the team are doing, they support the club by their attendance or other activities that benefit the club no matter where they are in the league or whether they are on their way up or on their way down.
The same with the railway, our supporters are those who join as members not to make savings but instead to give something to support the railway and help it’s continued existence and growth. So if your an armchair member for what ever reason and I know some who live a long way away and others who through health grounds can’t do practical things at the railway. Why don’t you become a working member? Without working members there would simply be no railway, there would be no trains, no manned stations, no gift shop, no magazine, no special events, there would be nothing!
In these difficult economic times that all of us are going through any help you can give the railway would be of benefit. So the next time you visit the railway, or even for that matter hear a passing train or read your nice new copy of Nene Steam, just remember that without the working members or if you prefer for the sake of this posting working supporters, there would be no magazine to read or no train to listen to.
Take time to think and if there is anyway you think you could help the railway, from making tea, to painting fences to clipping tickets then please ring the office at Wansford. I am sure they would love to hear from you, or if you just want to find out what being a working member can involve then come along to Orton Mere Station or any other part of the railway any weekend for a chat and either myself or any other volunteer there will be more than willing to answer any questions. It does not matter how much or how little time you can give, all time is welcome.
For those Peterborough United. supporters who are not really supporters go along next season to some of the matches and actually support the club.
Just for the record, Old Arkwright is not a football supporter and I would never claim to be though I have been following the progress of the city’s local club with great interest.
But I am a committed working member of the railway.