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Held at Neuadd Pendre Social Centre, Brook Street, Tywyn, Gwynedd on September 25th, 1999

On the platform were Jeremy Wilkinson, President, in the Chair; David Mitchell, Chairman, TRPS; Winston McCanna, Chairman, TR Co; Colin Roobottom, Hon. Treasurer, TRPS and Accountant, TR Co; John Robinson, Hon. Secretary, TRPS and Secretary, TR Co, and Mark Stevenson as minute-taker. There were 193 members present. Jeremy Wilkinson opened the meeting at 3.30 p.m.

1. Apologies

Apologies had been received from 6 members, including the Webmaster who was on his honeymoon.

2. Minutes of the 48th AGM

The Minutes of the 48th AGM of the Society, held at Tywyn on September 26th, 1998, having been circulated to members of the Society at that date, Richard Hope, seconded by John Slater, proposed that they be taken as read. There were no points of accuracy from the floor and Jeremy Wilkinson signed the minutes as being a true record.

3. Matters arising from the Minutes

Michael Howard thanked Dave Jones and Chris Price for putting his whistle on locomotive No. 2 Dolgoch for two days during August 1999. Whilst he was speaking he also thanked Dave Scotson, David Leech, Chris Price, David Jones and Mark Stevenson for all the assistance and support they had given with the painting of locomotive No. 3 into its historic Corris Railway livery and running two photographic charter trains that had raised ?1,125 for the Railway.

4. Election of President

David Mitchell took the Chair and asked the meeting to endorse the Council’s recommendation that Jeremy Wilkinson be elected President. This was agreed. Jeremy Wilkinson resumed the Chair and thanked members for their continued confidence in him.

5. Election of Vice-Presidents

John Robinson read out the names of those proposed for election as Vice-President. Maurice Wilson proposed that they be elected and this was seconded by Keith Theobald. The following were elected: Christopher Awdry, John Bate, James Boyd, Pat Garland, Dai Jones, Major P M Olver OBE, Sonia Rolt, John Slater, Roy Smith, and Don Southgate.

6. Appointment of Auditors

The appointment of Silver and Co as the Society’s auditors was proposed by Howard Fuller, seconded by Maurice Wilson 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. His election was proposed by Jeremy Wilkinson, seconded by Bob Cambridge 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. Later in the meeting Peter Silver announced the result. 210 papers had been completed with 1548 votes cast as follows: David Mitchell 182, Roger Whitehouse 157, Peter Mintoft and Steve Powell 148, Don Newing 147, Maurice Wilson 142, Joy Bowles 136, Murray Dods 120, Tony Thorpe 106, Russell Prince 52. Mrs Bowles and Messrs Dods, Mintoft, Mitchell, Newing, Powell, Whitehouse and Wilson were declared elected.

9. Reception, Approval and Adoption of Reports

David Mitchell presented the report of Council for the year ending 31st January 1998, adding to the information published that traffic bookings were down by 8.2%, traffic revenue by 3% and Shop and Catering takings by 4.5%. He commented that Tywyn illustrated the general decline in domestic coastal holidays, stressing that the Talyllyn did not have the resources to do the Tourist Board’s job of attracting tourists to this part of Wales, but could play a significant role. Ray Reid’s customer survey had shown a growth in repeat visits and favourable comments on the cleanliness of the trains and the friendliness of the staff; the work of the flail-mower had resulted in a great reduction of complaints about the rampant lineside growth. Mr. Mitchell observed that the timetable leaflet was the Railway’s most important marketing tool; distribution was good within a forty mile radius of Tywyn, but offers of help from further afield would be warmly welcomed. He congratulated John Smallwood for being the leading light in the production of the leaflet, especially as it had just won an award. He thanked Eddie Castellan for his work as Press Officer and asked his successor, Graham Jennings, to stand for recognition. David paid tribute to Winston McCanna for his work on the Board of Directors and eighteen years on Council from which he was standing down at this meeting. For the first time all six engines were in steam, and David thanked all the technical and artistic volunteers and staff for making this possible. David expressed the sympathy of Council to the family of the late Arthur Johnson and its gratitude for all the behind-the-scenes work that he undertook whilst he was Membership Secretary. David Mitchell stated that, having taken legal advice, the Board and Council had decided to continue to run Peter Sam for 2000. He noted that there was a pleasing increase in the Catering income at Abergynolwyn as a result of the new extension.
Maurice Wilson reported the status of the season?s operations to date: traffic revenue was up 0.4%, but passenger bookings were down 4.2%, Shop takings by 7.4%.

Colin Roobottom presented the Treasurer?s report, commenting also on 1999 so far. At first sight the reports seemed rather gloomy, but several factors had come together. He was confident that although income was slightly down the Railway was financially secure and expenses would also be down as there had been no repetition of the unusual items of expenditure during 1997. The major item of capital expenditure during the year had been the extension at Abergynolwyn station, which had cost approximately ?19,000. Colin was pleased to see that the expenditure at Abergynolwyn was bringing beneficial results in Catering receipts. He also mentioned the imminent purchase of fresh rail, commenting that the Rail fund had closed, having exceeded its target, and the donated money was currently in the bank earning interest.

Jeremy Wilkinson invited questions on the reports.

George Gardiner congratulated the Wessex Area Group on their twenty-fifth Model Railway Exhibition, however the Bristol and West Area Committee would have liked to see their 19th exhibition mentioned in the Annual Report.
Michael Howard wished to know the age profile of the stocks of goods for resale, valued at ?60,433 in Note 8, what provisions had been made for write-downs or write-offs, whether the Auditor was happy with these provisions and what was the value of stock written off during the year ending 31st January 1999.
Colin Roobottom answered that provisions had been made in previous years when certain items of stock had been purchased at an advantageous unit price in the clear knowledge that the stock would take a long time to clear; in 1996 certain stock had been consciously devalued by ?2,000 and at the end of 1998 ?1,600-worth of this devalued stock was still to hand at no value in the accounts. He stated that as it was a case of not attributing value to items, rather than actually putting a line through a figure and saying it should be nought, he could not state the value of stock written off; the Talyllyn did not work that way. David Mitchell commented that he inspected the annual Shop Stocktaking sheets, unsaleable items were recognised and a depreciation in their value was noted. This was not technically a write-down or write-off, but the result was the same. Peter Silver confirmed that he was happy with the system.
Mr Howard expressed his concern that the stock should not be overvalued, from his business experience he felt that this policy of no-value accounting was not prudent. He requested the Finance & General Purposes Committee and Council to examine the question and report back at the 2000 Annual General Meeting. David Mitchell said that Mike had made a valid point and this would be done.

Steve Vince proposed the adoption and approval of the Report of the Council and the Financial Statements of the Society for the year ended 31st January, 1999. This was seconded by John Slater and agreed without dissent.

Jeremy Wilkinson made a short speech thanking John Slater for the thirty-six years, from December 1963 until retirement from the post in September 1999, that he had been Editor of the Talyllyn News. He had an immense record of service to the Railway, not only as Editor for 144 issues, but also as the prime producer of specialised fishplates in Pendre Works. Jeremy presented John with an inscribed clock as a token of the Society’s gratitude for all his work. Mr Slater replied that he was very grateful for the clock and urged all those present to support the new Editors; the News was in good hands but without articles could not serve the 90% of the membership who did not visit Tywyn.

10. Tywyn Redevelopment and the Golden Jubilee Appeal

Roger Whitehouse summarised progress with the redevelopment programme since his article in the September 1998 News: the scheme was the result of a review from first principles, starting at Wharf, rather than piecemeal adaptation. Council, in December 1998, accepted and endorsed the scheme as a long-term objective. Philip Sayers was Redevelopment Project Co-ordinator, whose objective was to see the planning carried out thoroughly and without delay. Roger also reported on the existence and work of the Financial and Buildings Task Forces and the discussions between the Talyllyn Railway and the Welsh Development Agency. The Golden Jubilee Appeal had been launched in the September 1999 News to raise funds for the project; in conjunction with the appeal a charitable trust would be set up to support the continued preservation of the Talyllyn Railway in general.
Steve Powell, administrator of the Golden Jubilee Appeal, reported that he had already received ?2,099 with eleven members interested in the charitable trust and two in the loan scheme.
Jeremy Wilkinson threw the discussion open to the floor with the request that it concentrate on the principles of the redevelopment and announced that the collection this year would go towards the Golden Jubilee Appeal.
Walter Crowe said that he had been following the lively debate on the Talyllyn electronic mail discussion group about Ty Mawr; he felt that there were two major concerns: the expense of the project and the apparent lack of consideration of alternative sites, although he conceded that it might be easier to start with a greenfield site.
Roger Whitehouse responded that the consideration of options began some five years ago, the item that had taken up the longest amount of time was hunting for additional space, which the Talyllyn Railway did not own at present. The Architect’s advice was that the site at Wharf was not large enough to build what was wanted so a search was undertaken to find additional land that could be used to cater for some of the facilities. The only solution that had been found was the site at Ty Mawr.
Adrian Tebby commented that the site at Ty Mawr was awfully big; he wondered if the size of the site was fixed and if consideration had been given to acquiring any smaller parcels of land. Maurice Wilson answered that the site hatched on Roger’s hand-out diagrams was a logical guess, bearing in mind the need for road access by extending the existing estate road; a definitive answer was still awaited from the W.D.A.
Ian Howitt, declining a microphone, felt that Ty Mawr would enable the railway to move a few sleepers, a few tons of ballast and a bit of junk from Wharf. What had not been explained was where the extra 436m? of accommodation was coming from at Wharf; he wanted far more information on those plans, rather than just a sketch of a field at Ty Mawr. He reminded those present of the Macdonald Report (in the September 1977 News) which was rejected as being far too grandiose; in relation to the current scheme it was akin to sticking up a garden shed in the corner. He was a great believer in buying land but he returned to his original question: “What is to happen at Wharf?”. He sat down to applause.
Roger Whitehouse said that there were no building drawings for Wharf as we would be foolish to waste money on them until there was a reasonable certainty that the South side of the site could be released for the kind of development envisaged. The style used for the new toilet block at Wharf would be his pattern for the buildings after redevelopment.
Gareth Jones spoke at length, feeling that a serious debate was needed. As a member of the Stations Project Group and Council he appreciated the logical progression from the desire to redevelop Wharf through the need for more space which could only be found by moving the engineering facilities from there, to Ty Mawr as the only available site, but where the W.D.A. would only release what they regarded as “employment land” if a building were constructed. Council had therefore decided, on the unanimous recommendation of the S.P.G., to aim for new workshops at Ty Mawr. Accurate costings were not yet available but could be in the region of ?300,000 to ?400,000 or more. He saw no prospect other than a steady decline in tourism, and consequently income. A new workshop would be a very good thing to have but he felt it was not actually needed, and in ten years’ time there might not be a single brick laid at Wharf to improve facilities for our passengers. He categorically supported redevelopment at Wharf but the agreed target floor area was an increase of 436m?, including an extra 65m? for the Museum and 240m? for the Awdry Centre; 500m? more than the current total would be devoted to these buildings. He supported the Museum in principle but it attracted little income and few customers, while he had seen no estimate of what the Awdry Centre would bring in. He asked those in the hall to examine the logic of this: without the Museum the necessary redevelopment could be contained North of the line, so ?500,000 was being spent for the Museum. To him it seemed completely impractical, illogical and a financial disaster. He wanted to hear what other members thought but suspected Wharf could be redeveloped far quicker without spending money at Ty Mawr. This met with cheers and applause.
Roger Whitehouse responded that Gareth had raised fundamental questions about the nature of the Talyllyn ? what and where we were, and how we could go on attracting customers. The Railway was in a competitive market, would we get enough revenue with just a train ride? Was something else needed to put it in context? “Wharf Redevelopment” had quite consciously been changed to “Tywyn Redevelopment” because its scope had expanded. In the long-term Ty Mawr could provide very much better and more efficient engineering facilities for the maintenance of our Railway. He suspected that the question of need for a new workshop had divided views ? the Engineering Manager might take a different view from those less familiar with the problems that he faced daily. To the question of finance in relation to current traffic levels he reminded those present that this was a long-term not a short-term exercise; at no stage would the Talyllyn Railway have been able to finance the scheme from current revenue. A completely new approach had been adopted to fund-raising.
Peter Kent-Mason was worried that the Railway could not afford this project; in many respects this allowed “we don’t need it” to be said. He wanted to hear the completely different ways of paying for the project to alleviate his fears. In principle the scheme all sounded wonderful, in the real world it didn’t look quite so good. This was met with applause. Roger Whitehouse expanded what he meant by other means: seeking substantial sums of grant aid from sources that we have not previously needed, or had the right sort of scheme, to tap.
Ian Sheppard felt that if the Railway was to offer the public more, it needed to get more money out of them; he believed cost was a problem to the visitor and we might do better offering the same for less.
Julian Stow was greatly worried about several items with the scheme in its present form: spending in the region of ?500,000 without improving the visitor’s experience, the split site, with the fitting staff divorced from where they would most often be needed, and the probability that volunteers would not be forthcoming to work in an industrial estate up the road from Pendre. He concluded that the Council wished to spend this money at Ty Mawr to free space at Wharf, yet there was not even a concept sketch of what it envisaged there; he urged those involved to draw up firmer plans for the use of Wharf before they insisted on spending a large amount of money at Ty Mawr. This was also applauded. Roger Whitehouse replied that the planners were aware of the potential problems with the split site: current thinking was that the workshop would be used for running repairs and long-term overhauls would be undertaken at Ty Mawr.
George Gardiner said that his first reaction was that the scheme was a good idea, however with greater thought he had begun to fear spending very large sums of money which the Railway did not have. The effort that the Bristol and West Area Group put into raising relatively small sums of money showed that his sort of fund-raising was in a different league to that needed for the redevelopment. He asked if we were losing our sense of direction. The stated aim of the Society was to preserve the Talyllyn Railway as a going concern and not to make any change which might alter or permanently destroy its historic character. The Society was in the business of preservation, not development. He felt that if the Railway could operate next year then the Society had been successful. He was fearful of a “tail wagging dog” situation where we would have to take on more and more outside work to maintain the new site and urged everyone to think very carefully before undertaking a project of this magnitude. We should undertake improvement only if necessary to improve the Talyllyn Railway. This was also greeted with applause.
Archie Meadowcroft supported George Gardiner’s comments about the Constitution and preservation of the Railway. He felt that the funds would be better directed towards continuing to support the Railway, rather than building industrial units. Derek Allen said that our biggest pride was the proportion of repeat visitors; he was not aware of any complaints about the facilities at Wharf and felt very strongly that we must pay more attention to what the Railway had already. This received applause.
Jeremy Wilkinson proposed from the Chair that the outlined scheme be referred back to Council and that the views expressed at this meeting be taken into account. This met with cries from the meeting of “not yet” and he therefore told the floor to enjoy the continued discussion.
Sue Whitehouse, adamantly stressing that she had not been primed or consulted by her husband, acknowledged all the concerns that had been expressed but believed that these were not the only views of members. The scheme could present a tremendous opportunity for development and expansion to preserve the Talyllyn Railway for future generations. She admonished those present that we could not afford to stand still in today’s preservation climate ? the Talyllyn was the first, and we liked to think the best, but if we did not take account of what competitors were doing and what standing still would mean to us we would be the first to go under and that would be appalling. She asked the meeting and Council to consider the plans as opportunities as well as potential problems. This also elicited applause.
Russell Prince enquired if grant aid, which the Railway had not been too successful with in the past, or sponsorship from the private sector was to be sought. Roger Whitehouse stated that this was in the minds of the Finance Working Group, which included a professional grant-seeker who was very well-informed about all possible sources of external aid.
Joy Bowles said that we were all concerned about Wharf; the subscribers to the Talyllyn internet discussion group felt that Wharf in its present state did not attract visitors as it might. She requested plans showing a cafe that could cater for larger numbers, linked with the Shop and Booking Hall and not hidden in the corner of the platform, and a Museum also linked in. She felt that on the plans available the space at Wharf was exaggerated, as behind Llechfan the land went down into a great dip, and posed the questions: “Can all this be done at Wharf without moving the Museum? Can the Museum be moved without moving ballast and sidings, and if these are moved where can they go?” Perhaps the time was right to grasp the opportunity, but she felt strongly that to get more members behind the scheme they must be shown what Wharf could look like.
Howard Fuller saw the starting point of the current scheme as a desire to improve the situation at Wharf and wanted better facilities for the visitors when they come. He wondered if the priorities were right, and if a customer survey had been undertaken. Peter Johnson said that the Talyllyn could not afford to stagnate, it must move on, the public expected to see changes and development. He knew of increases in visitors on other railways because they had changed or extended.
Chris Price asked how the Engineering Department could be more efficient: there were 6 engines in steam today ? what more could those present want? When the applause had died down, he said that whilst everyone sat in the hall the passenger figures were dropping but he urged people not to be despondent. He wanted a decision and action that would raise the traffic figures; if this meant developing Wharf and not Pendre then so be it. He was worried that he could see no end to the process, stressing that the Railway must move fast; to him the Ty Mawr scheme looked slow at the moment. This was applauded. Chris Parrott agreed that the scheme had been going on too long. He had noticed in the Cambrian News of 16th September that the developed part of the industrial estate was for sale and wondered if the Officers had made enquiries. Maurice Wilson replied that he was awaiting a reply from the Surveyor who was currently on leave.
Mark Tibbutt stressed that if the Railway was going to progress with the scheme then it must do so quickly. Iolo Davies quoted Julius Caesar:
“There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
is bound in shallows and in miseries.”
He wondered if the Talyllyn had come to a point in its long history to which that quote was apposite; should we look at the wider picture? The Talyllyn was in danger of being eclipsed by developments elsewhere; if we stayed still we would be seen as a small outfit that lingered in the past. To go for a big scheme we must all be in a go-for-it mood; too much time had been wasted on the names and colours of locomotives in the past. Our undisputed claim to be the first successful preserved railway in the world should be pushed to the fore; the Railway could not afford to be seen to do nothing. This was applauded.
Simon Jenkins commented that the Awdry Centre at Wharf might work, but wondered about the commercial viability of a combined bar and Museum, feeling that the Museum in its present form had to go from Wharf. This was also applauded. Jonathan Mann hoped that those present had read the letter from Geoff Crine in the September News. He agreed that the Museum was an absolute jewel; however there was a danger of being driven by the temptation of large grants, especially as the Museum generated very little income. If the Museum were relocated then enough space would be freed at Wharf to allow the development necessary for our future passengers. He was also applauded. Graham Jennings wondered if any consideration had been given to relocating the Museum into a building on the High Street, where it would be a high-profile presence directing the tourist to Wharf, and what was the status of planning permission at Ty Mawr. Roger Whitehouse knew of no such idea for relocating the Museum.
Gareth Jones reported that the initial planning permission had expired but that the Welsh Development Agency expected it to be renewed. The permission had been for a light industrial unit with the stipulation that it must be employment generating. David White asked who would foot the wages bill if the building at Ty Mawr had to be employment generating. Roger Strike asked if the W.D.A. would force us down unwanted paths to keep the site at Ty Mawr tidy. Maurice Wilson replied that the Agency required their standards to be met in keeping with the rest of the estate. Potential neighbours had been approached and were happy.
Keith Theobald stated that some present might feel that the Museum Trustees were sitting on the fence. They had been disappointed to read Geoff Crine’s letter without being offered the chance of replying to its considerable inaccuracies. 25-30% rather than 15% of total Railway visitors entered the Museum. In the past five years the Trust had given ?9,500 in grants and donations to the Railway. The Museum was a value-added attraction. He felt personally that if it were given notice to quit sources of funding from any grant-aiding body would dry up. There was a need for the Trust and the Railway to work together and find a solution. He also added that the Museum floor area included at least 65m? for a visitor centre which would serve the Railway as well. He concluded that the Trustees were hoping to arrange a meeting with Railway officials and put forward more grant raising ideas. This met with some applause.
Jeremy Wilkinson observed that the meeting had spent a considerable length of time discussing this subject and that Council would take note of the valuable opinions expressed.
Roger Whitehouse commended the appeal to those present with the admonition that to do nothing at Wharf was not an option.

11. Miscellaneous announcements

Winston McCanna mentioned that the Puffing Billy Railway’s reciprocal greeting card was now on display in the new extension at Abergynolwyn.
Bob Hey announced the result of the Traffic & Operating Committee election. 231 papers were returned with the following result: Traffic Dept: Philip Sayers 95, John Burton 85, Mark Stevenson 76, Richard Huss 73, Walter Crowe 63; Messrs Burton, Huss, Sayers and Stevenson were elected. Loco Dept: Bill Heynes 96, Julian Stow 95, Chris Price 94, Andy Young 67, Simon Jenkins 63; Messrs Heynes, Price, Stow and Young were elected.
Philip Sayers announced the result of the Young Members’ Group election. 25 papers were returned, with the following outcome: Jo Shuttleworth 21, Helen Coulls 19, Andy Young and Lizi Whitehouse 18, Gaz Hope 14, Nathaniel Johnson 4; Misses Coulls, Shuttleworth and Whitehouse and Messrs Hope and Young were declared elected, with condolences to Nat Johnson.
John Kugler announced the results of the Midland Area Raffle. A profit of ?1,064 had been made and this would be shared out between the participating area groups.
Jane Garvey promoted the Midland Area Christmas Dinner to be held at the Royal Sutton Hotel, Sutton Coldfield, on 7th December.
Sue Whitehouse thanked those who had contributed to the Vincent Memorial Bursary, saying that the amount of money in the fund was not enough to subsidise a trip to Australia, but would be enough to subsidise a trip to Tywyn.
Chris Price publicised the evening entertainment, saying that we should not get depressed about the traffic figures and before we started slashing out wrists we should begin the process of burying our heads back in the sand and return to the hall for the jollification that evening.
Joy Bowles drew the attention of those present to the reply slips in the hall about the Golden Jubilee Dinner to be held in Birmingham during October 2000, stressing that she was only looking for expressions of interest, not firm bookings.
George Gardiner plugged the sale of Bristol Blue Glass, saying that anyone still interested could continue to buy throughout Jubilee year.
Tony Randall promoted the sale of knitted jumpers via the London Area Group and the Steampipes organ and film show, to be held on 24th November at the Conway Hall.
Bob Cambridge mentioned the trip to Australia over Christmas/New Year 2000.
Keith Theobald recalled the three Outdoor Weeks held during the year, saying that the new Summer Outdoor Week had been a great success.

12. Other Business

Geoffrey Loynes mentioned that the Talyllyn Railway Modellers’ Study Group had held a meeting earlier that day and it was hoped to raise the profile of the group.
Gareth Jones wished to put it on record that No. 2 Dolgoch looked beautiful thanks to the efforts of all those involved.

There being no further business, Jeremy Wilkinson closed the meeting at 5.45 p.m. and commended the line-up of six engines in steam at Pendre for those present to view.