Making the connection using Action Research: serious leisure and the Caledonian Railway

Sandro Carnicelli*, Siobhan Drummond, Heather Anderson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
9 Downloads (Pure)


Among the many different types of heritage activities, railways have been drawing interest from researchers over recent years with the focus ranging from volunteering to sustainability. This paper considers the value of Action Research (AR) to the wider field of leisure through the prism of Serious Leisure (Stebbins, R. A. 1992. Amateurs, professionals and serious leisure. McGill-Queen’s University Press) participants in the heritage railway sector. Using AR methodology, it discusses the importance of local community engagement and the dedication of leisure time in providing a range of benefits to local heritage sites. The focus of the research is on the engagement between the Caledonian Railway and the local community in Brechin, Scotland. The railway is a non-profit organisation, with funds being reinvested into restoration and preservation. In this sense the participation and effort of the community is essential for the survival of the heritage site and activity. The use of AR as the methodological approach enabled this project to follow a recurring spiral process of planning, acting, observing (or evaluating), and learning. The AR contributed to re-think the development of the railway’s activities as a transformational Serious Leisure experience to locals and recommended focusing on fostering social cohesiveness with stronger links with schools and other community groups.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-631
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Heritage Tourism
Issue number6
Early online date17 Sep 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Sep 2020


  • heritage railway
  • action research
  • serious leisure
  • heritage
  • Scotland


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