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Held at Neuadd Pendre Social Centre, Brook Street, Tywyn, Gwynedd on September 27th, 1997

On the platform were Jeremy Wilkinson, President, in the Chair; Keith Theobald, Chairman, TRPS; Winston McCanna, Chairman, TR Co; Colin Roobottom, Hon Treasurer, TRPS and Accountant, TR Co; and John Robinson, Hon Secretary, TRPS and Secretary, TR Co. There were 199 members present. Mr Wilkinson opened the meeting at 3.30pm, and asked the meeting to stand in memory of Vice-Presidents Wilbert Awdry and John Adams. He thanked John Slater for taking the minutes of at least 36 previous Annual General Meetings and explained the presence of Mark Stevenson on the stage as the new minute-taker. The floor of the meeting gave resounding applause for the work of John Slater over the years.

1. Apologies

Apologies were received from Vice-President James Boyd and two other members.

2. Minutes of the 46th AGM

The Minutes of the 46th AGM of the Society, held at Tywyn on September 28th, 1996, having been circulated to members of the Society at that date, Mr Wilkinson proposed that they be taken as read. There were no points of accuracy from the floor and he signed the minutes as being a true record.

3. Matters arising from the Minutes

George Gardiner asked about the progress on the new toilets at Dolgoch, as the funding had been obtained last year. Dave Scotson, Engineering Manager, reported that some delay had arisen from requests by members to add facilities to the female toilets; no contractor in the Tywyn area had tendered for the building, so the decision had been taken to fabricate it “in-house” at Pendre. He urged interested members to look in the North Carriage Shed where the panels were being built. He hoped that the new toilets would be in a usable condition by this Winter.

4. Election of President

Keith Theobald took the Chair and asked the meeting to endorse the Council’s recommendation that Jeremy Wilkinson be elected President. This was agreed. Mr Wilkinson resumed the Chair and hoped that he would continue chairing the annual general meetings in a consistent pattern.

5. Election of Vice-Presidents

John Robinson read out the names of those nominated for election as Vice-President. Don Newing proposed that they be elected and this was seconded by Michael Howard. The following were elected: John Bate, James Boyd, Pat Garland, Dai Jones, Major P M Olver OBE, Sonia Rolt, Roy Smith, Don Southgate and Colonel J F Williams-Wynne CBE DSO JP.

6. Appointment of Auditors

The appointment of Silver and Co as the Society’s Auditors was proposed by Bob Cambridge, seconded by Mike Davies and agreed by the meeting. Peter Silver thanked the meeting for re-appointing his firm.

7. Election of Honorary Treasurer

Colin Roobottom had been nominated and was willing to continue after 32 years of service. his election was proposed by Sue Whitehouse, seconded by David Mitchell and agreed by the meeting.

8. Election of eight members of Council

John Robinson read out the names of the ten candidates for Council and they stood to be recognised. Ballot papers were collected. Later in the meeting Peter Silver announced the result. 218 papers had been completed, the votes being cast as follows: Roger Whitehouse 172, David Mitchell 162, Maurice Wilson 156, Steve Powell 152, Don Newing 145, Winston McCanna 136, Joy Bowles 126, Peter Mintoft 123, John Slater 115, Simon Jenkins 87. Mrs Bowles and Messrs McCanna, Mintoft, Mitchell, Newing, Powell, Whitehouse and Wilson were declared elected.

9. Reception, Approval and Adoption of Reports

Before Jeremy Wilkinson had a chance to ask for a proposer and seconder for the adoption of the reports, Chris White asked if it was in order to propose an amendment to the report. Mr Wilkinson replied that the report of Council could either be accepted or rejected; it could not be amended. Richard Hope proposed the adoption of the Report of the Council, seconded by Maurice Wilson.

Keith Theobald presented the report of Council, giving supplementary information to that published. He lauded the magnificent work of the Area Groups in their parts of the country, publicising the Talyllyn and raising funds to support the Railway; he congratulated the Railway Letter Service on its work and fortieth anniversary; recognising that the future of the Railway lay with the younger members, he also commended the work of the Talyllyn Tracksiders and the Talyllyn Navvies, both groups of junior members, for their sterling efforts in performing much-needed lineside clearance work.

Richard Hope reported on progress with the Nant Gwernol Woodlands, thanking the membership for the sum of over ?7,000 that had been given in response to the appeal. The plans for safeguarding the eastern side of the ravine were going well and the land would be acquired by the Woodland Trust, via Talyllyn Holdings. The access rights to the public footpaths and both footbridges would also be secured in perpetuity for the Railway. He was confident of the Trust hearing soon from the Heritage Lottery Fund and that the scheme would come to fruition.

Keith Theobald reported on the special events that had been held during the year: the Rolt Rally, Victorian Week, Race the Train, Landrover Rally and photographic special trains all helped to raise the profile of the Railway. The passengers attracted by these special events were now able to see more of the valley as a result of our ongoing hedgelaying programme. An application had been made to the Countryside Council for Wales for funding for further work, in addition to that carried out by our volunteers and visitors from the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. In order to carry on this magnificent work he asked for further donations, plastic bags were circulated and the collection raised ?333.40.

Maurice Wilson reported the current traffic position: as of Friday 26th September 34 more trains had been run, but on the cumulative comparison with 1996 there had been 1,538 fewer passenger bookings, 2,658 fewer journeys and traffic receipts ?9,431 or 4.38% lower. This was in line with other tourist attractions in the area that were reporting, on average, a 5% reduction in takings. However all was not gloom and despondency; the week immediately before the meeting saw a ?987 increase, due to the Indian Summer that Tywyn was enjoying, and those over Easter had been 18% up.

Colin Roobottom presented the Treasurer’s Report, giving a short report on the current state of the Railway’s finances. Although traffic was slightly down, gross takings in the Railway Shop were 7% more than the previous year. Expenditure had been relatively quiet: the largest items had been for Dolgoch toilets, covered by the appeal fund, and buying the new diesel locomotive, an advantageous purchase. Progress had been made on the flail mower with most of the components having been purchased. The income of the TRPS had increased, following the subscription rate increase; there had been no unusual Society expenditure. The current financial position was very healthy, but this gave no grounds for complacency.

Mr Roobottom then presented the Hon Treasurer’s Report. As already noted, traffic and income in 1996 was up on 1995, but so was routine expenditure although there were no remarkable items such as boilers this year. Spending on air brakes continued and we had bought new carriage wheels; more money would be spent on Dolgoch toilets. No new rail had been bought but existing stocks had been laid in the track. Shop and Catering expenses were in line with last year.

Jeremy Wilkinson invited questions on the reports.

Michael Howard had compared the 1996 accounts with the 1956 accounts; the Society was faced with similar problems then as now. Expenditure had increased then, but the net result was a loss of ?157. He had also analysed the 1897 accounts and these showed a loss of ?109. The losses incurred in 1897 and 1956 were in real terms much worse than that in 1996. He stated that a loss on the Railway’s trading account was part of our heritage and that, perhaps, the profitable years should be viewed as aberrations. He asked when stabilisation would come. Colin Roobottom replied that he had no concerns about the most important criterion in this type of operation, covering the cash requirements, but that a forecast would not be worthwhile.

Martin Flach commented that it was pleasing to start on a positive note with an improvement of ?20,000, but he stressed the need not to be complacent. He noted, with interest, that the Staff Costs for 1996 were 15% more per capita. He asked if Chris Price had managed to persuade the platform of the staff’s worth. Winston McCanna responded that the staff could never be paid what they were worth, this could not be afforded.

Chris Price wished to thank the Electrical Staff for mending the heating cables that Michael Howard had damaged when he last guarded a train, commenting that perhaps the 15% was worth it after all.

Chris Parrott commented on the Museum report, thanking the attendants for their work, but said that the Museum was open for 230 days per year, taking ?2,300 in admission charges, equivalent to 25-30 people per day, 4 per hour. He asked how the Museum could be made more inviting, considering that it took up half of the covered area at Wharf, and also what items were being offered for disposal.

Chris White, Secretary of the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Trust, replied that nothing from the Museum collection was being sold; the items that were being disposed of had gathered at Wharf over the decades and were not of narrow-gauge interest. It was a matter of concern that not as many people visited the Museum as we might hope, one of the reasons for this being that repeat passengers do not tour the Museum on every occasion, and not everyone who did actually paid. He suggested that the true figure would probably be double the number; if entry were free it would be over-run by people with the attendant problems of supervision. He would like Traffic Staff to publicise the Museum.

Jon Richmond suggested that the Museum be made more interesting and attractive by having more interactive displays. Chris White responded that he would welcome practical and realistic suggestions for them.

Simon Jenkins suggested that the time had come to get rid of the Museum from Wharf as part of the forthcoming re-development; Sue Whitehouse shouted “Shame”.

Neil Killip asked about subscription income and the trends in the future. Arthur Johnston replied that the subscription rates were reviewed every two or three years, comparing with the Retail Price Index and other factors.

Neil Killip asked how many members were represented by the income generated from subscriptions. Arthur Johnston replied that the membership had been increasing steadily for the past five years, the peak number of members being reached last year. The current membership level was within 100 of the peak.

Martin Flach congratulated the Railway Letter Service on its fortieth anniversary and asked what was its profitability. Sara Eade, Postmaster, responded that income thus far this year was ?8,100, from 1990 to the present ?42,000, of which one-half to two-thirds was profit.

Mr Wilkinson put the adoption of the Report of the Council and the Financial Statements of the Society for the year ended 31st January, 1997 to the meeting and it was agreed.

10. Discussion of Millennium proposals and the celebration of 50 years of Railway Preservation

Don Newing gave a report on suggestions for celebrations, it being coincidental that the Millennium celebrations are happening when the Railway will be commemorating in 2000 the fiftieth anniversary of the Society’s formation and in 2001 that of the first train under the auspices of the TRPS. The Talyllyn would hopefully be well-represented at an exhibition held at the National Railway Museum in the year 2000; Council had given outline approval for a locomotive, coach and wagons to form part of it; the exhibits would also go to the National Model Railway Exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham. That Autumn it is also hoped to hold a meal in Birmingham, to celebrate the inaugural meeting of the TRPS. Those present in the hall were asked to complete a pro forma to elicit their preferences for the type of meal and when it would be held.

Mollie Price stressed that if the meal was held over the Warley exhibition weekend, then the Midland Area Group Committee would not be able to attend, as they would have been run ragged manning the TRPS stand.

Don Newing also asked for suggestions for events other than the running of trains, and for those to be held in 2001.

11. Future Publicity Distribution

Eddie Castellan spoke about the timetable leaflet: 40% of the 1998 Marketing Budget of ?25,000 would be spent on printing it; the timetable was the single most useful tool in attracting passengers to the Railway, but useless if not distributed; almost 250,000 timetable leaflets were delivered by just four people before Easter. More were needed for this distribution to tourist sites all over Wales and the Border, especially as two of the four people were beyond their three-score years and ten.

12 Other Business

Peter Stowell, from the Puffing Billy Railway and a member of the Emerald Tourist Railway Board, passed on their official message: “Kindest regards, as your twin Railway, for the next twelve months of the operation of this Railway and the Preservation Society”. He also forwarded apologies from Don Marshall and Phil A’Vard of the Puffing Billy who were regretfully unable to arrive until Monday 29th September.

Jeremy Wilkinson returned those sentiments to the Puffing Billy and this was greeted by applause from the meeting.

Bob Hey announced the results of the Traffic & Operating Committee election. Out of 290 papers issued 121 were returned with the following result: Traffic Dept: John Sloper 105, John Burton 87, Mark Stevenson 73, Walter Crowe 59, Justin Adams 50, Steve Saul 18; Messrs Burton, Crowe, Sloper and Stevenson were elected. Loco Dept: Julian Stow 90, Peter Mintoft 86, Bob Cambridge 81, Chris Price 76, Simon Jenkins 57; Messrs Cambridge, Mintoft, Price and Stow were elected. He also reported on the Young Members’ Group election. 22 papers were returned with the following result: Lizi Whitehouse and Mark Stevenson 16, Anthony Coulls and Andrew Young 15, Joe Edwards 10, Gaz Hope 9, Steve Saul 8; Miss Whitehouse and Messrs Coulls, Edwards, Stevenson and Young were elected.

During the commercial break Chris Price publicised the evening entertainment, Tony Randall promoted the sale of knitted jumpers via the London Area Group and the Steampipes organ and film show. David Mitchell mentioned the evening photographic session at Wharf Station and John Smallwood that David Lowe would be performing on the Wurlitzer organ that evening. Edwin Price gave the results of the Midland Area raffle and announced that the organiser of the raffle, John Kugler, would be retiring at the youthful age of 80.

Wendy Marshall replied to letters published in the March edition of the Talyllyn News expressing doubts about the financial viability of Victorian Week; the accounts were displayed at the side of the hall: in 1996 Victorian Week made a profit of ?400, and in 1997 over ?500. She also promoted the last two remaining Victorian Week commemorative dishes.

Jim Wood wished to extend votes of thanks to John Kugler, on his stepping down from the Midland Area raffle, and Wendy Marshall on her retirement from the Victorian Week group; the meeting applauded their work over the years.

Ian Evans announced that the Tracksiders would be meeting again over the Bonfire weekend and also during Spring Bank Holiday week 1998.

Owen Prosser spoke at length about corporate membership of the TRPS, not only as a means of gaining more money from subscriptions, but as a means of furthering our publicity. He said that he often addressed groups of people about the Talyllyn Railway, from which groups one would not gain individual members, but one could gain some benefit from corporate membership. The Railway would benefit, in his opinion, from ?inertia selling?; corporate bodies would continue after individual members were deceased.

Arthur Johnston responded that Mr Prosser?s comments should be noted and passed through the committees. Corporate membership had been dropped in the 1973 revision of the Rules because little used. The “Talyllyn Friends” scheme had existed since September 1988 but without much success. The idea certainly needed re-examination.

Phil Guest spoke on the presentation to Maurice Wilson, from the Locomotive Department, on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. This appeal had raised ?680, and Maurice had requested that the remainder of the money, some ?476, be donated to the Railway Company.

Maurice Wilson said that the presentation had come as a complete surprise to him and thanked all those who had contributed, commenting that it was the best kept secret on the Railway! He had been presented with a commemorative Royal Doulton plate and a Hornby limited edition model of an A4 locomotive; his wife Sheila had been presented with a microwave oven. He requested that the balance of the fund be put towards new tubes for locomotive No. 2 Dolgoch and this was greeted by applause from the floor.

Michael Howard spoke; he stressed that he was deliberately trying to be non-controversial, but as the Railway was currently benefiting from the presence of Peter Sam, he would like to propose that four of the modern bogie carriages be painted in the attractive blue and cream livery of the Skarloey Railway. Chris Price said that he was wholeheartedly in favour of this.

John Burton asked how long locomotive No 6 Douglas was going to remain with the smokebox facing downhill and whether it would be so seen in regular passenger service. Jeremy Wilkinson suggested lightheartedly that it might be mysteriously turned around one evening.

Mike Davies proposed, seconded by Russell Prince, that the locomotive remain turned until the start of the peak timetable in 1998 and perhaps run as a regular feature at weekends.

This was put to the vote, 150 were in favour of the motion and 5 were against.

Phil Sayers enquired about engineering priorities at Pendre; he had understood that the first priority was the flail mower, but had now heard that the new diesel locomotive would take precedence. He would like to see more projects finished before new ones were begun.

Dave Scotson responded that the flail mower had priority, so that our passengers would see more than just a green tunnel; No. 10 was only in the workshops so that it could be put into an operational condition.

Mike Davies was concerned that the unauthorised yellow paint had been scratched on the new diesel, like an unauthorised livery sported by diesel No. 9 in September 1985.

Peter Stowell gave a progress report on the Puffing Billy?s extension to Gembrook: completion was expected to be two years and two months ahead of schedule, in October 1998. He hoped that any visiting party from the TRPS would use him as a contact as he was on the Puffing Billy nearly every day.

John Cox expressed concern at the tone of the responses to a letter, written by his wife, published in the ?Talyllyn News?. He stressed that Jan Cox was not trying to stop Victorian Week altogether, merely that she wanted to try another era, such as the 1930s or 1940s. He was also concerned at the confusion at Pendre when members wanted to show visiting parties around the Workshop and perceived pronounced shortages in the traffic roster.

Jon Richmond responded that the Victorian Week Group are in favour of other such weeks, and would welcome people to come forward and organise these events.

John Smallwood said that the shortages in the Traffic Department were not as bad as John Cox portrayed, but we were still short of volunteers and any offers would be warmly received.

Sue Whitehouse announced the results of the framed Cuneo print raffle that had been held during the meeting. The winning ticket, chosen by Alison Wilkinson, belonged to Carol Ashdown.

Bob Cambridge spoke about the trip that he was organising to go to Australia, either in the opening year of the Gembrook extension, or in the centenary year of the Puffing Billy. Interested parties should contact him.

Simon Jenkins asked about the name of the new diesel, noted that it had already been informally christened and wondered if the locomotive could keep this name. John Robinson replied that the name of the new diesel would be decided at the 1998 AGM.

Chris Price thanked Michael Howard and Martin Flach for their attendance at the past 25 AGMs; this was warmly applauded by the meeting.

There being no further business, Jeremy Wilkinson closed the meeting at 5.25p.m.