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CILT Scottish Region webinar - "The National Transport Trust" by Jerry Swift, trustee, the National Transport Trust: Thursday 15 April 2021

Unveiling a Red Wheel at Burntisland, with on the left Ian Archibald of the Burntisland Heritage Trust and on the right John Cameron, Vice-President of the National Transport Trustd

Unveiling a Red Wheel at Burntisland, with on the left Ian Archibald of the Burntisland Heritage Trust and on the right John Cameron, Vice-President of the National Transport Trust

© John Yellowlees 2021

The Transport Trust was first proposed in 1963 by a Mr R E Wilsdon who was concerned that records, drawings and photographs from those times of rapid change should be preserved for posterity. He had received support from the British Railways Board, London Transport and others, but there was of course no digital dimension in those days and the Trust diversified from archiving into skills development, with awards for young preservationists as well as for lifetime achievement, offering loans funded by its benefactors at very low rates of return.

In the early days it also organised displays and rallies before handing these over to others better placed to do so. Its profile was maintained by successive patrons, initially HRH the Duke of Edinburgh who was very active in the early days, then HRH Prince Michael of Kent and most recently the Princess Royal. Its recent awards have recognised a broad cross-section of transport heritage, with one for lifetime achievement going to Alan Winn, former director of the Brooklands Museum while the Young Preservationist of the Year in 2019 was Josh Smith aged only 19. The Trust also aims to provide leadership in providing independent coordinated advice on transport heritage matters to government agencies.

Inspired by the English Heritage programme of blue plaques, the Trust's Red Wheels have been rolled out over the last dozen years to denote sites of transport heritage, and works in conjunction with back-up material on its website to inform, educate and enthuse visitors about turning-points in our nation's transport history so as to help preserve such places for the enjoyment of future generations while motivating young people to pursue careers in the STEM subjects on which our futures depend. A QR code will direct visitors' mobiles to the relevant page of the database on the Trust' s website.

Scotland has come late to the game, but the first Red Wheel north of the border unveiled at Paisley Canal Station in August 2019 celebrated a site of multiple canal and railway significance. Two days later it was joined by Glenfinnan for its world-famous viaduct, and later that year by Wemyss Bay, an ultimate in transport interchange: while notwithstanding the pandemic two more were unveiled in socially-distanced fashion during 2020 by the Trust's vice-president John Cameron for Scotland's first railway opened in 1722 at Cockenzie and for the world's first seagoing roll-on roll-off ferry in 1850 at Burntisland.

Others already delivered but not yet unveiled are of the UK's only turntable ferry, the Glenachulish operating between Glenelg and Kylerhea, and of Orkney's wartime Churchill Barriers - now a key road link - and the Alloa Waggonway whose route is etched into the townscape. Awaiting installation are those for the Leamington Lift Bridge on the Union Canal in central Edinburgh, and Madelvic, Britain's first car factory in Granton, Edinburgh which for short time made early electric vehicles. Another early car factory was the magnificent Argyll Motor Works, now a shopping centre in Alexandria, and other upcoming Edinburgh possibilities are the Innocent Railway and Scotland Street Tunnel and the very grand private station for workers at Granton Gasworks, while recognising nearby HMS Claverhouse as once a railway hotel built by the Duke of Buccleuch will mark the southern end of the ro-ro ferry.

Scotland's road-building pioneers could be acknowledged with Wade's Bridge at Aberfeldy and Telford's carrying the A68 at Pathhead, while Barra Airport is the only one in the world where flights are governed by the movements of the tides. Sometimes external funding can be helpful to move a location up the priorities, and Friends groups are supporting inclusion of the Duke of Sutherland's railway at Dunrobin and the Anderson's Piano tripwire signalling in the Pass of Brander, while Network Rail is paying for the Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway to join the programme at the newly-rebuilt Glasgow Queen Street Station.

East Fortune is Britain's best-preserved Second World War airfield, and now houses the Museum of Flight, while the Signal Tower Museum at Arbroath which was the shore-base for the Bell Rock might be the most accessible location for a Red Wheel to celebrate Scotland's famous Stevenson lighthouses. The Trust does not normally recognise museums as such, but an exception might be made of Fairfield Heritage for its commemoration of Clyde shipbuilding just alongside a working BAe yard, while the Finnieston Crane similarly recalls Glasgow's role as locomotive builder to the Empire, with the Big Cran Company aiming to create a heritage centre. Locations do not come much more celebrated than the Forth Bridge, but the opportunity could exist to provide a Red Wheel to Network Rail's proposed visitor centre which has recently been put on hold Recognising the pioneering Kilmarnock and Troon Railway is being progressed with East Ayrshire Council, while the nearby Caledonia Works of Andrew Barclay now sympathetically restored by a housing developer is another place that might benefit from external funding.

The Avon Aqueduct is a worthy location, being Scotland's tallest and Britain's second-longest, (but given light usage of the towpath where would one place the Red Wheel?), while Neptune's Staircase is another possibility for Scottish Canals, with whom it is hoped to build a successful relationship, reflecting the very positive one that the Trust has enjoyed with the Canal & River Trust south of the border.

The Glasgow Subway at St Enoch will be taken forward with SPT - what a shame that the former mainline terminus alongside has been lost - and Subsea 7 in Caithness is perhaps worthy of inclusion as almost Britain's last-surviving industrial narrow-gauge railway. Moy Viaduct is the last timber-encased structure on a Scottish railway, but Highland Council worry that a Red Wheel might be a distraction to motorists on the nowadays minor road that passes the site.

Upcoming Red Wheels elsewhere in Britain included Markham Moor Starbucks built as a petrol station on the A1 around the time that Britain's first motorway, the Preston Bypass was opened, and reflecting the new-found optimism for roads. A garage for electric buses provided by the Brighton, Hove and Preston District Omnibus Company because the locals did not like the fumes of petrol buses, and Shoreham Airport, the first in Britain to provide for passenger flights, are both being recognised. There are now 130 Red Wheels across the UK and Isle of Man, with 15 more in delivery and 5 in development. The Trust would like to support more in Wales, but who would fund bilingual coverage? Additional nominations were always welcome, using the form on the Trust's website, and where a location does not justify a Red Wheel it could still be added to the website coverage of our transport heritage.

Jerry concluded by inviting his audience to nominate additional possibilities, in Northern Ireland where there are currently no Red Wheels as well as in Scotland, by using the form on the Trust's website. The pandemic has made all of us more appreciative of our inheritance, and Red Wheel locations provide many destinations for exploration during staycation holidays. Indeed perhaps somewhere there should be a Red Wheel to commemorate the response that we have made in terms of transport and logistics to the greatest national peacetime emergency in a century?

Notes by John Yellowlees.

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