By Stefano Benazzo, President of Wattrain
History of Wattrain
The idea of an association gathering individuals and entities from all over Europe with the aim of fostering Heritage Railways was born in 1989. David T. Morgan, a well-known British lawyer, was the originator and became in 1994 the first President of Fedecrail (European Federation of Museums and Tourist Railways). In 1999, it was proposed to create a World Railways Organization. During a series of conferences (Switzerland in 2003, Australia 2005, Argentina 2006, Australia 2009) the structure of Wattrain (World Alliance of Tourist Trams & Trains) was set up; it is incorporated in London and is meant to be a worldwide organisation to promote the interests of the owners and operators of Heritage and Tourist Trains and Trams and to ensure that heritage rail is valued and sustained.
Apart from its Annual General Meetings, Wattrain holds triennial conferences: York (UK) 2012, Saitama (Japan) 2015, Frisco, Texas, 2018 – brilliantly organized with the assistance of the Museum of American Railroad. Wattrain includes among its members Fedecrail (European Federation of Museum & Tourist Railways), UIC (Union Internationale des Chemins de Fer), HeritageRail Alliance, HRA Europe (Heritage Railway Association), ATHRA (Association of Tourist and Heritage Rail Australia), ALAF (Associacion Latino Americana de Ferrocarriles), and APHTRO (Asian Pacific Heritage and Tourist Railway Organisation). The next Wattrain Conference will take place in Italy in 2021: we would welcome the participation of the HRA Members, as I mentioned during my presentation at the HRA Conference in Santa Fe in November 2018, having being graciously invited to take the floor by President G. Mark Ray.
To effectively represent heritage rail on global issues achieving outcomes optimal to the sector; and to engage and support the sector across borders to facilitate the ongoing sustainability of the sector through the development of people, the sharing of knowledge and the exchange of information. We aim to be the predominant point of reference for owners and operators seeking specialist advice, information on sources of supplies, equipment and services, data on financial, economic and environmental and other issues and to carry out research as appropriate.
Wattrain’s main focus: to give priority to the protection of our historic right to use our traditional fuels such as coal and oil, to ensure that the next generation is trained to restore, operate and maintain our historic or traditional stock and equipment, and to improve the viability of our members by helping them promote their services, thus increasing their revenue, and to reduce or at least to contain their costs.
- To facilitate the exchange of information amongst member organizations for their betterment.
- To promote, represent and act as an advocate for the Heritage and Tourist sector to ensure optimal outcomes in the international arena.
- To develop an internet-based information source to provide members with a full range of information relevant to their needs.
- To assist development of the sector to facilitate exchange of individuals between members so they improve their understanding of the Heritage and Tourist operations especially.
- At the request of members, to provide specific advice and information as a respected consultancy.
- To facilitate twinning arrangements between Heritage and Tourist operations to improve understanding.
- To create and develop a database of specialist suppliers of goods and services utilized by the Heritage and Tourist sector with a facility to access feedback.
- To gather and, where necessary, commission research into financial / economic benefits of operations, environmental and other important issues relevant to the sector.
- To negotiate on behalf of the sector arrangements for insurance and other key services or products to secure favorable terms because of bulk purchasing.
- At the request of members, to assist in formulation of policy positions and to assist where requested in the presentation of those positions to government and others.
- To promote conservation based on the Riga Charter.
We encourage our Members to share and exchange information, expertise and knowledge and to ensure that this information is passed on to the younger generation.
- Persistent: we are committed to ensuring the sector is sustainable.
- Transparent: our activities are totally transparent and open for review at all times.
- Non-partisan: our organisation operates independently and is free from any political, religious or other affiliations.
- Culturally Considerate: we uphold and advocate the intrinsic importance of culture.
- Dynamic: we continuously innovate to meet the changing needs of our members.
- Respectful: we recognize that all members are unique and we value their differences.
- Passionate: we pursue our goals with passion, drive and an open heart.
Wattrain’s Membership and Structure
There are many possibilities to become a Member of Wattrain: Associate; Affiliate; National, International or Organization Member; State Regional Member.Wattrain’s structure is simple: a Board of Directors (their CV are included in the site) belonging to six different countries, partially subject to reelection every two years, some eminent Patrons, Consultants and Advisers. Our Members include International, National, Regional and Local Federations and Associations, Museums, Railroads, individuals and companies.
Wattrain’s site (www.wattrain.net) is continuously updated, as is its Strategic Plan. Its Newsletter is available to its Members in English and Spanish. An increasing number of links has been set up, in order to ensure the widest possible dissemination of our activity; a Business Directory has been set up. We are actively pursuing a number of projects, related to Latin America, Awards granting, a World Steam Locomotive Hall of Fame, the use of YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. We are of course available to offer advice and information about national legislation, insurance matters and financial matters. I look forward to seeing you in Vancouver, at the next Heritage Rail Alliance Conference.