What is HOPS?

HOPS is an online solution for preserved and heritage railways, museums and centres to manage staff, operations, and compliance. 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 all online, no special software is required in client offices. It is continuously under development by heritage and profesional railway staff.

Althought primarily aimed at heritage railways, HOPS is also used by a number of non-railway volunteer heritage museums and centres.

Industry Position

Heritage Railways are not toys.

The heritage railway industry collectively owns, operates and maintains over 500 miles of track, 700 steam locomotives, 900 diesel locomotives, 2000 carriages, 350 stations and 180 depots and workshops. That is more than many main line operators.

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 22,000 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 to provide a solution to ease the administrative burden of compliance with an ever-tightening regulatory net.

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. All this duplication is a massive waste of effort and time that could more productively be spent elsewhere in the business.

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?

HOPS was formed to make administrative processes easier, by provision of tools, and better, by provision of expertise in the creation of tools, and sharing of best practice around the industry. 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. Many administration and data-handling functions are now absolutely business-critical to heritage railway undertakings.

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 several heritage railways and keen enthusiast of railway operations, Great Western signalling history and heritage railways.

History & Growth

The programming of HOPS started in August 2009 on the rostering functions. By January 2010 it was ready to be opened to a small testing group of Gloucs-Warks volunteers for the first few months of 2010. The reception was excellent. In the spring of 2010 HOPS Rostering was rolled-out to the rest of the signalling department at the GWR, followed by several other departments.

Towards the end of 2010, some other heritage railways made enquiries about the use of HOPS (even though we still weren't really open to new railways yet). One of these was the South Devon, who requested us to produce an assessment module, where staff could take online tests, which we did.

In January 2011 HOPS opened its doors for the world to share its skills. We now welcome new railways to enjoy the tools and facilities of HOPS, we hope we can help more railways to take greater command of their operations, to make some of the more laborious jobs a bit easier, and to learn from new contacts in new railways to conitnually develop HOPS for everyone's benefit. Please see the Join HOPS tab, above, for information on how to do just that.

In June 2016, HOPS launched the Support Licence Scheme (later to become Advanced HOPS membership). A programme through which user organisations obtain a robust level of support in their use of HOPS, and access to advanced features. Both Basic HOPS and Advanced HOPS are available.

If you would like more information about HOPS, please contact us.

(Statistics source: Heritage Railway Association)