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Held at Neuadd Pendre Social Centre, Brook Street, Tywyn, Gwynedd on September 25th, 2010

On the platform were Richard Hope, OBE, President TRPS; Chris Price, Chairman, TRPS; Gareth Jones, Chairman, TR Co; John Robinson, Hon. Secretary, TRPS and Secretary, TR Co, Garry Mumford, Hon. Treasurer TRPS and Accountant, TR Co and Phil Sayers as Minute-taker. There were some 200 members present.

Richard Hope opened the meeting at 3.30 pm.

1. Apologies

Apologies had been received from 12 members.

2. Minutes of the 59th AGM

The Minutes of the 59th AGM of the Society, held at Tywyn on September 26th, 2009, having been circulated to members of the Society at that date, were proposed by Richard Hope to be taken as read. The minutes were agreed without dissent and Richard Hope duly signed them as being a true record.

3. Matters arising from the Minutes

In response to an email from Bill Tyndall asking what was happening about the Diamond Jubilee appeal he had suggested at the 2009 AGM, Chris Price agreed to refer this to Council for a decision.

4. Election of President

Chris Price took the Chair and asked the meeting to endorse the Council’s nomination of Richard Hope OBE as President. This was agreed without dissent.

5. Election of Vice-President

Richard Hope resumed the Chair and asked the meeting to endorse the Council’s nomination of John Smallwood as a Vice-President. This was agreed with acclamation. Mr Smallwood, after calling for a recount, thanked the meeting for the honour.

6. Appointment of Independent Examiners

The appointment of Silver & Co as the Society’s Independent Examiners was proposed by Bob Cambridge, seconded by Sue Whitehouse and agreed by the meeting. Richard Hope thanked Peter Silver and his firm for their work.

7. Election of Honorary Secretary

John Robinson had been nominated in accordance with the rules; this was put to the meeting by Richard Hope and agreed without dissent.

8. Election of nine members of Council

Richard Hope asked John Robinson to read out the names of the candidates. John Robinson then read out the names of the eleven candidates and asked them to stand.

Ballot papers were then collected. Later in the meeting Peter Silver announced the results. 220 papers had been returned with 1581 votes being cast as follows:

Martin Fuller 156, Jane Garvey 121, Bill Heynes 169, Gareth Jones 179, Lis Mann 157, Ray Reid 82, Phil Sayers 168, John Simner 103, Keith Theobald 172, David Ventry 161, Sue Whitehouse 112.

Mesdames Garvey, Mann and Whitehouse and Messrs Fuller, Heynes, Jones, Sayers, Theobald and Ventry were declared elected. Permission was given to dispose of the ballot papers in the traditional way.

9. Reception, Approval and Adoption of Reports

Dave Scotson reported the traffic and commercial figures for the 2010 season up to the evening before. Traffic results were more like those of 2008 with bookings down by 3.9% and expected traffic revenue by 3.7%. However, Shop takings were 14.3% and Catering takings 7.6% up on 2009 giving a total revenue increase of 2.1%.

Chris Price then addressed the meeting saying that it had been a different speech to write than last year. On the whole the Society had pulled together during the last year for the sake of the Railway. The Society was in a better position to support the Railway financially than it had been for many years. It was now in a position to look more favourably at projects such as Quarry Siding Shed, which he hoped could galvanise the Society as a project to get our teeth into. His dream was that it could be built with volunteer labour. However, we were woefully short of this very valued commodity. Right across the Railway operations we were seeing a downturn in volunteer numbers. With the staffing cutbacks the full-time track gang had been reduced to two, a number the Railway operated with for many years; however that was at a time when volunteers were more plentiful. Volunteer support in this aspect of the Railway was just as valued and needed as any operational grade. Without them the Engineering Department was pedalling hard just to keep up, in some cases (such as fencing) we were falling behind. If ever there was a time for anybody who felt like giving volunteering a go, then this was it. We could not afford to bury our heads in the sand and hope this problem would sort itself out. We now (subject to job descriptions etc) had a volunteer co-ordinator in the shape of Lawrence Garvey and we needed to give him lots of volunteers to co-ordinate.

Chris went on to highlight the wonderful work being done by the Tracksiders and Navvies, without whom many of the young volunteers might not have become actively involved. He encouraged those younger volunteers to become involved with the management aspects of the Railway, which needed the talents and fresh thinking they had. Groups which had grown from the younger members had become vital and he mentioned the Young Members’ Group in this respect. Activities such as the carriage push, and the recent working party were great and the fruits of the latter were obvious around the Railway.

This year Council’s focus had been on consolidation and evaluation. Our Marketing Committee had been working alongside staff at Wharf to create a coherent marketing strategy. It was not possible to get marketing perfectly right all the time, but it was heartening that we were prepared to try new things and, as long as lessons were learnt and more importantly acted on, then we were heading in the right direction. Great credit needed to be given to those involved.

Last year the first tentative steps were being taken to reach an agreement between Steam Railway and ourselves to have locomotive number 2 Dolgoch as the focus of their next appeal. This had been a great success raising enough money for a complete overhaul including the construction of a new boiler at the Severn Valley Railway’s workshops. However, locomotive number 6 Douglas had to slip down the priority list but Chris assured the membership that it was still an ongoing task with the wheelsets having been sent away for new axles and new axle boxes having landed at Pendre. He asked that people appreciated why the decision was made to allow number 2 to take preference. It was right and proper that we went into our Jubilee year with the locomotive which started it all and Chris took the opportunity to thank both the Steam Railway readers and the membership for putting their hands deep into their pockets.

Finally Chris asked that we should take the opportunity presented by the Diamond Jubilee to accentuate the positive aspects of the Society and what it had achieved. The past few years had been tough and he regretted that words had been exchanged between many of us, but he asked that we should let the past be the past and learn from it, that we should not let complacency creep back in and that we should move on together for the benefit of the Talyllyn Railway.

George Gardiner asked how close the number 2 fund was to meeting its target. Garry Mumford replied that it stood at £86,000 before the reclaiming of tax on gift aid donations and grants from PRISM, the first of which should be for £10,000. Therefore the target of £100,000 had already been reached. George then mentioned that he was selling cards in aid of the fund.

Garry Mumford then presented the financial report with the aid of a “Power Point” presentation. 2007 had been an extraordinarily bad year with the Railway Company making a loss of £143,000. In 2008 this had been reduced to £91,000 and in 2009 turned into a surplus of £17,000, the first time the Company had made a surplus for 16 years. From 1980 to 2009 there had only been five occasions on which there had been a surplus. He did not believe that we should come to accept that the Railway Company should make a loss. The turnaround of £160,000 between 2007 and 2009 had been a phenomenal achievement. This had been achieved through an increase in traffic revenue of £47,000 (a reduction in shop takings of £19,000 had been balanced by an increase in catering takings of the same amount) and a reduction in staff costs of £112,000. If we could sustain the 2009 position, TRPS annual income of around £40,000 net could be used for other things and Talyllyn Holdings income could be used more constructively. This would give us a much more secure future and enable us to build up a cash reserve to meet the unexpected.

Garry then said that 2010 had also been a very good year in which we had managed to increase turnover and build up cash reserves. A very strong performance from both Shop and Catering had more than offset a reduction in traffic receipts. We had repaid £50,000 of loans from members, which had been outstanding for many years (applause). We should be able to make progress on long outstanding maintenance tasks and projects such as the Quarry Siding shed. It would enable us to provide matching funding for grants. A challenge was the disappointing level of public bookings but this was the harsh reality of the world we were in and we had managed to hold our own in a very difficult market. There was concern over the price sensitivity of customers in very uncertain economic times and he did not know how this would impact on our business. We needed more volunteers since we could not afford the level of paid staff we would like to have.

Richard Hope then invited questions on the Report of Council and the Financial Report.

In response to two questions from Mike Davies, Garry Mumford confirmed that he thought we would never be able to pay for much of what we needed, such as replacement boilers, out of general income. He did not expect this to ever change. He also said that income from Driver Experience trains was around £12,000 a year. The number of weddings varied greatly but the income was about £1000 each. The cost of running these activities was small. However, the income from them was not all that great as a proportion of the whole.

James Martin asked about the profitability of the Shop and Catering. Garry replied that these were shown in the accounts, the figures for 2009 being £28,864 and £23,643 respectively.

Mark Tibbutt recalled talking to a family who visited the Railway but could not afford to travel. We should offer an advance purchase fare at a lower price. Chris Price promised this would be discussed by Council who were concerned about the impact of high fares, but such an offer would take effort and resources to implement. Mark then suggested we needed to be much more imaginative and offer such a fare through our website to which Chris responded that we did have a fluid market strategy. Chris White then pointed out that many people did not pre-plan their holiday and that we needed to highlight cheaper options to the round trip fare, for instance those to Dolgoch from both ends of the line. We needed to offer people of all incomes the opportunity to travel on the Railway. Gerald Grudgings asked about loadings on trains and whether there was much spare capacity. John Robinson said that overall loadings were quite low but that this season the tendency had been for the first trains of the day to be very full but the remaining trains to be quiet. Mike Davies pointed out that as we varied the length of trains according to expected traffic, a percentage loading figure would not tell us very much. However, we were carrying half the traffic of the peak years 1973-9 with the same carriage fleet. Roger Whitehouse explained that the current peak timetable offered seven departures a day as against eleven in the 1970s; also as people had got bigger we now calculated the capacity of the carriages on the basis of three people per seat rather than four. Thus we were now offering only half the number of seats on departures from Wharf each day that we were in the 1970s. Chris Hill suggested following the example of football clubs and allowing accompanied children under 12 to travel free. Chris Price assured the meeting that marketing meetings examined all ideas put to them. However marketing was not an exact science and we needed to strike a balance with what we could afford.

Chris Hill also asked when locomotive number 6 would be ready. To this Dave Scotson, on behalf of the Chief Engineer who was unable to be present, replied that it would be ready when it was finished but he hoped this would be next year.

Jane Garvey proposed, and Nigel Adams seconded, the approval of the Report of the Council. This was agreed without dissent. Nigel thanked Garry Mumford for his hard work (applause).

10. Society Diamond Jubilee Events

Lis Mann referred to the list of events in the Talyllyn News. She had consulted Dale Coton who had suggested that, rather than hold a gala week as we had in 2001, we spread the events throughout the year. This should keep the TR profile high through the year, enable drip feed into the media and spread the requirement for volunteer labour which otherwise would tend to come for the special week and leave the periods either side thinly provided for. The aim was to appeal to a wide range of people from members and volunteers, through railway enthusiasts to the rest of the public who were less interested in railways. It was a help that next year was the centenary of the birth of the Rev Wilbert Awdry and the TR’s turn to host the narrow gauge staff get together. In addition to the events listed there would be an event at August Bank Holiday. It was also hoped to erect a blue plaque on 84 High Street, Banbury, which used to be Bill Trinder’s radio shop. Lis thanked all those who had come up with ideas and those organising the events. She appealed to those who wished to be part of any of the events to approach Chris Price or herself, and mentioned the need to encourage people to come to them.

David Mitchell referred to 6th October this year as being the 60th anniversary of the last train of the Haydn Jones era which comprised locomotive number 2, one coach and the van. At Abergynolwyn the van was placed at the east end of the train to facilitate filming and it was planned to do the same with the afternoon train on 6th October this year. On 11th October John Bate (if suitably recovered from his operation) would be opening a small exhibition in the Museum followed by a special train for a buffet lunch at Abergynolwyn. Representatives of early preservation societies had been invited, but members were welcome to come subject to space being available, although there would be a charge for food. He also mentioned the publication of a new TR stock book written by Lawson Little of the Narrow Gauge Railway Society.

11. Miscellaneous Announcements

Justin Adams announced the result of the Traffic & Operating Committee election. For the Traffic Department there had been four candidates for four places therefore Walter Crowe, Phil Eaton, Marc Smith and Andrew Thomas had been elected unopposed. For the Locomotive Department 137 papers had been returned of which 1was spoilt. 498 votes had been cast as follows: Martin Fuller 98, Richard Garvey 71, Bill Heynes 102, David Martin 58, Andrew Robinson 85 and Karen Willans 84. He therefore declared Martin Fuller, Bill Heynes, Andrew Robinson and Karen Willans elected.

Permission was granted for the ballot papers to be destroyed in the usual way.

Phil Sayers said that there had been no nominations for the Young Members’ Group committee. However, whilst he had been away, one of the Council observers to the YMG had persuaded five young members to form the committee. In the absence of other nominations he therefore declared Roger Brent, Josh Green, Deborah Sharpe, Rebecca Sharpe and Andrew Thomas elected and expressed the hope that there would be an election next year.

Bill Heynes made an announcement about the evening’s entertainment.

Roger Whitehouse appealed for assistance at the Warley Model Railway Exhibition on 20th & 21st November.

Tony Randall announced the Steampipes film and organ evening in London on 29th November and the London Area Group dinner on 6th December.

Keith Theobald in his role as Outdoor Foreman drew attention to the winter work programme and the autumn and spring outdoor weeks. He thanked those who had stood in during his absences in the previous 12 months.

A collection took place for further improvements to the south side at Wharf.

Roger Whitehouse auctioned Phil Guest’s replica shed plates, 84B (Oxley) going for £30 to Jon and Lis Mann and 89C (Machynlleth) going for £35 to Andrew Thomas. A third item, an LNWR book of instructions for working telegraphs, had been sold to a representative of the LNWR Society for £10.

Ian Drummond announced he had printer’s “seconds” for sale of volume 1 of his book on the Isle of Wight railways with 75% of the proceeds going to the Dolgoch appeal.

Noel Williams announced that the Talyllyn Tote had raised £1583 during the past year. There were currently 279 members. The President drew the winning members for the current month.

12. Any Other Competent Business

Bob Cambridge asked whether there were any plans to work on the cylinders of locomotive number 7 Tom RoltDave Scotson said he thought the intention was to fit new piston rings although the ultimate answer was to remove the cylinders and bore and sleeve them when resources permitted. Ian Howitt understood that Martin Turner was talking about doing that job this winter. He also commended the breakfasts offered by the Catering Department.

David Mitchell thanked all those who had been painting various stations (applause).

Gareth Jones thanked the permanent staff for their hard work during a very difficult period.

John Smallwood appealed for a really good cover photograph for the 2011 timetable leaflet, ideally of locomotive number 2. George Gardiner again took the opportunity to mention the cards he had on sale featuring this locomotive.

Gareth Jones asked the meeting to send its best wishes to Don Southgate who was currently in Tywyn hospital following a stroke. This was agreed.

There being no other business Richard Hope declared the meeting closed at 1703 pm.