Q1: What condition do you want the vehicle to be in?
We want the original windows in, but we will have to add something protective on top. One option would be to add shutters, but the preferred option would be to add Perspex glass on top of the existing windows for aesthetic reasons. Shutters would communicate “keep out”. The Perspex glass would prevent the current safety windows from being pushed outwards and if anything was thrown at the windows it would just bounce off. However, we will need two windows on each side that can be fully opened to improve natural ventilation (see below).
We want any dangerous fluids removed, including the pneumatic system. We also want the engine and any related parts, underneath or above the carriage, such as cables, pantograph, etc. Removed. However, we would appreciate advice from Nexus’ engineers what is best to keep and what to remove. For example, we will need electricity on board the train, so it might make sense to keep some of the existing wiring.
We want to keep the original doors, but the opening mechanism will require adjustments so they can be opened because the pneumatic system will not be working.
We would want approximate half or even more of the original seating removed. The exact number of seats to be preserved will be determined once the plans for the interior are finalised. Seats that stay in the carriage may not be used in their original location.
We would want at least one of the driver’s cabins preserved to visit and perhaps install a train simulator.
We would want any handrails and poles removed.
Q2: When do we want the vehicle?
We are flexible about when to get the vehicle. A two-year timeframe would be ideal to finalise the designs, secure funding, acquire planning permissions, and prepare the ground.
Q3: What are our requirements in terms of technology and facilities?
We will need access to a toilet somewhere, inside, outside, or by maintaining access to the main building outside of opening hours. Putting a toilet inside the carriage seems to be the most complex solution. We could explore putting a compost toilet outside. There are dehydrating compost toilets that are more hygienic than traditional ones. This option will need more research.
Irrespective of final plans, we will require electricity in the carriage. We would like to install photovoltaic panels on the nearby food bank building and use overhead wires to connect them to the carriage for a sustainable energy source.
Wifi will be provided by installing a range extender that connects to Meadow Well Connected’s existing Wifi network.
Getting tap water to the carriage will be difficult. Instead, we will collect rainwater in butts and install a camping water tank and sink for simple uses (such as water for an electric kettle to make tea and coffee).
Electric heating will be required, but to improve its efficiency and sustainability we will explore different options for insulation, e.g., cork-based solutions.
We will not install air conditioning for environmental reasons. However, to improve natural ventilation, we will adapt two windows on each side of the train so that they can be fully opened.
Q4: How do we organise ownership and governance?
Initially, the carriage will be Meadow Well Connected’s responsibility, because it will be on its land. It should however be a joint venture between all three charities from the start, forming an independent governing body with representatives of all three charities and members of the community, including young people.
The independent body could even become its own separate entity, for example a charity or a community interest company (CIC). Meadow Well Connected would only maintain a caretaking agreement with this entity.
Decision-making would be shared among all representatives on the governing body, with no charity having more power than others.
To invite community members to join the governing body, we will start an engagement process. We will first reach out to ‘community leaders’ who are passionate about the carriage.
Q5: How might we maintain and repair the carriage?
The intention is to preserve the carriage as a permanent structure on site, at least for several decades. MWC will be responsible for
MWC (or the independent governing body) will work with tradespeople, preferably from the local community, to refurbish, maintain and repair the carriage.
We aim to recruit community caretakers/volunteers to oversee day-to-day operation and maintenance. Involving local people as volunteers not only reduces maintenance costs, but it also increases a sense of ownership by the community.
In case the carriage gets into a state beyond repair, for example due to fire damage, it will be insured to cover removal and scrapping costs. To estimate disposal costs, we will ask Nexus to advise us.
Q6: What health and safety measures will be necessary?
We will undertake surveys and risk assessments for all required safety issues, including fire, electrics, security, and other hazards. There will be code of conduct and a sign-in register.
The specific measures will depend on the final design and usage.
During MWC’s opening hours, the centre will manage health & safety and security risks. For out-of-hours access (evenings and weekends), we will recruit and train a group of trusted community members to manage those risks (including locking up).
CCTV will be considered, but previous experience in the Meadow Well Connected’s garden has shown that they do not deter vandalism. Instead, the primary strategy needs to be to gain the support of a wide group of residents, including young people, to take responsibility and protect the carriage.
Windows will be made safe as outlined in Q1.
Similar to the window shutters and CCTV, fencing the carriage off would be aesthetically unpleasant. Temporary fencing might be necessary during the installation and refurbishment period. There is even the possibility to create an access to the garden nearby the Metro carriage to connect the two sites.
External lighting, possibly with movement detectors, will be considered as a deterrent.
Q7: What risks are there to be considered?
Vandalism: We hope to address through the measures described in Q4, Q5, and Q6.
Ground not suitable: We will survey the land for suitability (e.g., mine shafts) before preparatory work begins.
Lack of funds: Two years will allow for enough time to apply for Big Lottery Heritage funding, as well as organise a crowdfunding campaign. Meadow Well Connected has a long track record of applying for funding for their work.
Long-term financial sustainability: Whatever the final design, the use of carriage will at the very least contribute to income generation through a community business (see the four scenarios).
Maintenance costs too high: The final design will be assessed financially not only for installation costs but also for running and repair costs.
Lack of planning permission: We will invite the Council’s planning team to conduct a site visit to reassure them that the wildlife corridor will not be affected, and that earlier work (tree planting, wildflowers) have in fact already improved wildlife on the land. We’ve already won the support of two councillors. The community engagement plans aim to get broad support from residents.
Lack of community engagement: We will continue the process we started this year which informed this application. The activites and information put out (working group, scenarios, survey) already sparked interest and debate in the community. If we are successful, attention and interest will further rise. In collaboration with researchers from Northumbria University, designers, and artists we will develop a broad engagement programme both online and face-to-face (e.g, social media groups, drop-in design sessions, presentation and discussion events) to involve residents as the usage designs shape up.
Further ideas we re-iterated
We’d like to explore the option to create a green roof and/or a green wall on one side of the Metro.
Previous experience with the two legal graffiti walls in the area shows that the spaces are respected and do not get covered in profanity or vandalised.
If successful, we plans to establish a nature walk to the Stephenson Museum to connect the new Metro (of which there is a drivers cabin there) with the old Metro in Meadow Well. Long-term we would even build a trail connecting all five sites housing the old Metro carriage.