The project can be explained in three inter-related areas:
Interpretation (telling the stories), Activities (engaging with people and developing skills) and Buildings (making Boston Lodge work better).
Principles underpinning the Interpretation and Activity Plan are
- Supporting visitors to learn about the history and heritage of the railway and Boston Lodge Works
- Engaging and inspiring volunteers to ensure the story grows into the future
- Working in partnership with the local community to better engage and involve people with the railway and its heritage
- Inspiring people to think about a career with the railway or Boston Lodge Works
- Supporting the resilience and sustainability of the organisation
These principles have informed decisions on what activities to include in the project and the ways in which the railway will be interpreted.
There are five strands to the Activity Plan
- Traineeships in project management, operations, and interpretation contributing directly to the project and addressing skills gaps in the sector and developing skills suitable for high level jobs in the area.
- Work placements and outreach so young people particularly can learn practical skills that are focussed on the needs of the railway including infrastructure, works, marketing, interpretation and administration.
- Volunteer projects in interpretation and engineering which include the development of volunteer leaders. This will include research, capturing stories from local families, developing interpretation and guided tours and learning how to guide and lead workshops.
- Skills training and workshops including specialist heritage learning, project tours during construction to raise awareness of heritage skills, schools’ workshops and experiences and public workshops.
- Guided tours of Boston Lodge.
To deliver this ambitious program will be the Project Manager along with an Interpretation Officer, a Training and Events Supervisor, an Engineering Volunteer Supervisor and a Work Placement Officer.
Interpretation (telling the stories)
Interpretation is all about telling the stories of the railway and we want to ensure that every point of contact is an opportunity to find out more. The visitor journey from website/poster to the stations, on to the trains and afterwards is being thought through to ensure visitors have a rich and rewarding experience that leaves them wanting to come back to visit or even volunteer.
A fundamental part of interpretation for FFWHR is story telling by staff and volunteers and the project will provide support to train people in both the key stories and how to tell those stories. Clearly there are far more stories than we can tell but the project will enable a good foundation of stories to be used effectively that can be added to over time. The stories will draw from those relating to the slate industry, the challenges faced by the railway (building and restoring), carrying passengers, the skills needed (then and now) the network of volunteers and their stories and links to local families and their stories.
To support the story telling there will be additional interpretation at the most visited stations (Caernarfon, Beddgelert, Porthmadog, Tan y Bwlch, Blaenau Ffestiniog) and picking up local stories at a some of the smaller stations. We are also looking at a simple app that can be downloaded onto mobile phones before a journey that will help people spot interesting features, without having them glued to their screens!
The project will see more regular tours of Boston Lodge giving people unparalleled opportunities to see behind the scenes and understand more about the development of the railway and what it takes to keep the wheels turning.
The new website had to be restructured to cope with Covid in 2020 and never had a proper chance to bed in but as we move thorough 2021 it will be adapted and developed to help visitors find out more as well as book trains and give opportunities for feedback and sharing of experiences afterwards.
Buildings at Boston Lodge
The work at Boston Lodge will support the underlying principles for the Activity and Interpretation Plans bringing historic buildings back into use, creating space for projects and making the site work better.
The restoration and building work at Boston Lodge includes:
- Completing restoration of the Blacksmiths to create space for volunteer projects.
- Building a new extension to the Blacksmiths to create the NLHF training and research centre that has storage space behind it for pallets.
- Repairing the Iron Foundry for use as both storage and space for volunteer projects
- Repairing the Brass Foundry and continue to use it for storage
- Demolishing the current Den and creating a new building expected to be used for storage displaced from elsewhere.
- Repairing the current electrician’s workshop and oil store and extend it to provide better mess facilities, toilets and electrician’s workshop.
- Building a new storage and visitor orientation area where the Old Waggon Shed used to be in the Top Yard (in-line with Plas Smart but on other side of roadway)
- Creating a small interpretation area at the end of the Old Engine Shed where guided tours will end.
- Building the new NLHF Small Loco Shed.