Letter from Michael Whitehouse

Dear Passengers & Friends,

I would like to explain in a little more detail about the Vintage Trains Community Benefit Society and how it encompasses more than just our Train Operating Company.

We want to preserve our express steam trains, keep them operating on the main line, teach and transfer skills. This is our Vision for the future and is at the core of our Community Benefit Society. The railway heritage movement as a whole needs to create an organisation capable of delivering express steam trains on a sustainable basis integrated with passenger, freight and community services. The challenge and opportunity to everyone passionate about the subject is to join in: buy a share and volunteer in our charitable co-operative society. We will use the funds, not only to establish a train operating company but also to improve our Tyseley depot and so the local community.

Much of what we seek to accomplish has been steered by community input. During the creation of our masterplan, I opened a dialogue with all stakeholders including Birmingham City Council, the University of Birmingham, Bournville College, Network Rail, the Department for Transport, the ORR, the Birmingham business community, local residents and most of our passengers and volunteers to find out what we could, or should, be offering. Their feedback has been very encouraging. Express steam trains fall slap bang within the City of Birmingham's 'Midlands Engine' growth strategy: developing engineering and encouraging tourists. Moreover, Birmingham has a tremendous but understated railway heritage pedigree: Boulton & Watt developed the steam engine to enable the City to become the ‘Workshop of the World’ and engage in mass manufacture, it developed the first Inter City railway hub at Curzon Street (which will be re-incarnated by the arrival of HS2) and the City was the manufacturing base for carriages delivered worldwide. Our development strategy will enable all these threads to be joined together for the benefit of society.

Opportunities for people to develop, particularly younger people, is a significant driver for us. This is particularly important as Birmingham is, and always has been, a diverse and welcoming city. It is essential, for the wellbeing of the community, that everyone understands their roots and how and why they came to live here. We already have a well established apprentice scheme in our workshops, which we will expand with the development of our carriage business under the internationally famous name of Metropolitan Railway Carriage & Wagon Company. We are proceeding to define and implement a volunteer strategy and we plan to set up a ‘Youth Board’, intended to shadow the CBS board, thereby allowing its members to learn business skills and participate in the development and steering of the CBS, subject to aptitude and ability. We have to prepare now to hand over the management of our priceless collection and teach skills so that our Vision can endure. As we are a charitable foundation, we are well placed to do this. My family and friends have given the Tyseley collection and workshop equipment to the charitable foundation so the next generation can have the opportunity to succeed and learn how to innovate for themselves within a charitable but also business environment. Please help us deliver this opportunity and join in yourselves by buying a community share and volunteering your time.


Michael Whitehouse
Vintage Trains