Heritage Operations Processing System

What is HOPS?

HOPS - Heritage Operations Processing Systems - is an accessible solution for preserved and heritage railways to manage their operations, including timetabling, competence assessment and management, rostering, control logging, fault management, etc. Virtually all aspects of railway data processing and recording and ancillary administration relevant to the heritage sector are within the ultimate scope of this system.

HOPS is continuously under development by railway operators for railway operators.

Industry Position

Heritage Railways are not toys.

Over 50 years ago heritage groups started running a loco and brake van running up and down 200 yards of track, in 2020 the heritage railway industry collectively owns, operates and maintains:

route miles
depots and workshops

Every year the heritage railway sector uses this mighty asset base to:

8.5 million
6.1 million
1.1 million
train miles
13 million
passenger journeys
95 million
passenger miles
Contribute over
to local economy

This does not happen accidentally. There are over 1,500 full-time staff and over 16,000 volunteers managing and operating over 150 heritage railway centres in the UK. The operating standards, requirements and responsibilities are those of a full-size, main line, commercial concern.

Heritage Railways are big business.

With big business comes big responsibility. Running a railway is a massive administrative and procedural task before a single wheel starts to turn, and that's where HOPS comes in. It's easy to find people who want to be engine drivers, guards or signalmen, but it's not so easy to find someone to sort out who will work on which days, someone to assess and monitor competence, someone to distribute notices and instructions. For every 'fun' task on a heritage railway there are two not-so-fun tasks that have to be done to keep the railway running.

On most railways, the less-glamorous jobs are shared around, so each department has their own standards or competence manager, inspector, roster clerk, etc. This means that almost every administrative operation is being duplicated a dozen-or-so times on each railway, multiplied by the number of railways. In each case the person responsible is inventing their own 'system', with varying degrees of effectiveness, which differ from the other systems for the same task in other departments, and from the systems in use on other railways.

Take rostering for example:
Let's say there are about
ten rostered

on the average railway
(signalmen, guards, TTIs, steam crew, diesel crew, station masters, platform staff, booking office, permanent way, the list soon mounts up)
x Let's say each of those requires about
2 hours a month
organising rosters, a conservative estimate in a lot of cases
x There are about
operating heritage railways in the UK
= That's 1300
rostered departments,
requiring an
eye-watering total of
31,200 hours
a year

in the UK on rostering alone!

The same is probably true of competence management, distributing notices, controlling timetables, the list goes on.

How much more productively could that time be used?

How is HOPS useful?

A lot of these ancillary and administrative tasks, such as rostering and timetabling, are mathematical processes, so in a lot of cases it is true that a well-programmed computer system can carry out repetitive tasks with far greater accuracy, stamina and speed than a human being. It is also true that best-practice can be taken from the many people and organisations carrying out these tasks in different environments with different requirements.

Best practice, accuracy, stamina and speed.

Heritage Operations Processing Systems was formed to provide administrative and business-management tools specifically designed for use on heritage railways. If HOPS can take the strain out of some of the more onerous tasks then the staff currently carrying out those tasks can be released for other, more enjoyable, more useful railway purposes.

As well as making administrative processes easier, HOPS also makes them better. There are significant benefits to a railway for having a single system in use for defined information. For example, all railway rosters, competence records, in one place with controlled access, instead of being kept by a few people and not being available when required.

It really is not appropriate in this day and age for railway management systems to be unaccountable or unavailable or 'in people's heads', and that extends far beyond the Safety Management System. How commercially damaging would it be to your railway if, on one particular day, a crucial member of staff fails to arrive for duty? Does your duty manager have an up-to-date copy of every roster to know who should be there and at what times? Have they got an up-to-date list of contact numbers to contact that person? Have they got details of other staff who could stand in? For most railways that answer is 'no' to most of those. All these things rely on volunteers doing often boring and often unrewarding jobs, circulating endless updates that end up swamping the recipients. HOPS automates these processes so that, without anyone taking any specific contingency action, all the required information is already and always available at the click of a mouse.

HOPS' Aims

The Heritage Operations Processing Project aims to bring computerised solutions for railway ancillary administrative tasks within the easy reach and use of heritage railways.

We believe that HOPS should meet the needs of the subscriber railway, and help them to manage them in a professional manner.

What HOPS is not:

HOPS is NOT about controlling heritage railways, it is not the case that a railway joins HOPS and then a computer dictates what to do and when to do it. HOPS is about giving all railways access to the tools to run their railway more effectively and with greater control, making the best use of best-practices from around the industry.

Who runs HOPS?

HOPS is a registered company, set up specifically for the purpose of operating this website for the benefit of heritage railways. Our income comes from our tools and consumables shop, and advertising on this site.

The Chairman of the HOPS company is Danny Scroggins, a career railwayman from Network Rail Operations and keen enthusiast of railway operations, Great Western signalling history and heritage railways.

(Statistics source: Heritage Railway Association)