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Held at Neuadd Pendre Social Centre, Brook Street, Tywyn, Gwynedd on September 29th, 2012

On the platform were Richard Hope OBE, President TRPS; Lis Mann, 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 Philip Sayers as Minute-taker. There were some 173 members present.

Richard Hope opened the meeting at 3.30 pm.

1. Apologies

Apologies had been received from Vice-Presidents Peter Austin, Winston McCanna and Jeremy Wilkinson, Council member Noel Williams and some six other members.

Richard Hope then asked the meeting to stand in silence in memory of members who had died over the past year, including Vice-Presidents Colin Roobottom and Roy Smith, Bob Worthington and Reg Dawson. He then drew members’ attention to the white collection envelopes for the sleeper appeal and the standing order forms for regular donations to Talyllyn Holdings Ltd, both of which were on the chairs.

2. Minutes of the 61st AGM

The Minutes of the 61st AGM of the Society, held at Tywyn on September 24th, 2011, 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

There were no matters raised.

4. Election of President

Lis Mann 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. Appointment of Independent Examiners

Richard Hope resumed the Chair and called for nominations for the Society’s Independent Examiners. The appointment of Silver & Co was proposed by Bob Cambridge, seconded by Keith Theobald and agreed by the meeting. Richard Hope thanked Peter Silver and his firm for their work.

6. 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. Mr Robinson then noted that he had now served in the rôle for as long as Patrick Whitehouse; he would be happy to continue for some time but he did not expect to equal Richard Hope’s 30 years. He went on to thank those who assisted behind the scenes, Andy and Gill Best for typesetting the annual report, Bob Cambridge for organising the stewarding for the AGM, Ian Dods for providing the PA equipment, those who operated it and Philip Sayers the note-taker for the meeting.

7. 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 ten candidates and asked them to stand. Ballot papers were then collected.

Later in the meeting Peter Silver announced the results. 182 valid papers had been returned, plus one spoilt paper, with 1342 votes being cast as follows:

Jane Garvey 123, Bill Heynes 137, Ellis Jacklin 93, Gareth Jones 152, Lis Mann 150, Philip Sayers 151, Marc Smith 109, Keith Theobald 160, David Ventry 158, Sue Whitehouse 109.

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

8. Alterations to the Constitution and Rules of the Society

John Robinson introduced and briefly explained the four amendments to the Constitution and Rules which had been set out on p.41 of the June 2012 Talyllyn News. They did not make significant changes to the running of the Society.

Mr Robinson proposed that the amendments be taken en bloc, reminding the meeting that a two-thirds majority was required. On a show of hands the motion was carried overwhelmingly with no votes against.

9. Reception, Approval and Adoption of Reports and Presentation on the Financial Position

Items 9 and 10 on the Agenda were taken together as last year’s financial results were linked to the current financial position.

Richard Hope called on Lis Mann to present the report of Council. Mrs Mann began by saying that last year had been a year of celebration. Although much had happened this year, circumstances had been against us. There had been torrential rainfall, the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics had kept people glued to the television or they had visited London, not Wales and the TR. There had also been the gloom and doom of the economic situation.

In November 2011, the Railway was both proud and humbled to have received an Engineering Heritage Award from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. Mrs Mann then gave a huge thank-you to all of those who took part in the Wharf to Pendre relaying and enabled the Christmas services to run. The Guest House had been completed at Quarry Siding and coach 21 re-bodied. Thanks were also due to the Engineering Department for keeping the three available locomotives running during the peak season. No. 3 Sir Haydn had gone to Corris, and No. 2 Dolgoch to the Steam, Steel and Stars 3 Gala at Carrog. A TR YouTube site had been set up as had a Wharf webcam about which a number of people had expressed appreciation. The weigh-house had been completed, Pendre station building repainted and repairs to carriage No. 8 finished in just over two weeks in time for Race The Train. Mrs Mann then played tribute to those who ran the TracksidersNavvies and Young Members’ Groups and added that it was good to see youngsters rising through the ranks. She concluded by saying that we needed to bite the bullet and discover what we could do which was different in future. We needed the passion to drive the Railway forward, to develop and progress and survive in the current climate. The Talyllyn was different from many preserved railways in that the members had a say in how it was run. Responsibility for the Talyllyn and its future lay with the members.

Garry Mumford then gave an appreciation of the astronomical amount of work which the late Colin Roobottom had done for us over a period of 40 years. He had also been the Treasurer for his church and for an orphanage in India. We owed him a huge debt of gratitude (applause).

Mr Mumford then commented on the 2011 results when the Railway had moved back into loss. This resulted from:

  • an increase in non-catering staff costs due to taking on an administrative assistant to deal with the large amount of paper work, a pay increase, an increase in hours worked and the timing of staff starting and leaving employment;
  • an increase in maintenance costs, principally many small items but also including Wharf building;
  • a reduction in net shop income, increase in catering staff costs and a reduction in the catering margin.

The figures in 2009 and 2010 had been hugely influenced by the positive catering results. The issues in catering had been addressed and since the spring margins on catering had increased significantly.

Turning to longer term trends, Mr Mumford pointed out that:

  • public bookings over the last five years had reduced by 12.5% and 2012 was continuing in this direction;
  • traffic revenue over the three years 2009 to 2011 had declined by 0.5% despite fare increases and over a period during which cumulative inflation had been 10%;
  • the increase in expenditure over the last five years had outstripped the total railway revenue increase of 8.5% whilst cumulative inflation during that period had been 13%.

Describing the flows of money within the organisation, Mr Mumford said that the Society and Talyllyn Holdings Ltd fed money into the Railway Company. The Society typically made a surplus of around £34,000 a year and Holdings around £20,000 a year in general donations. The gap was being met from our reserves. Following the cost cutting in 2008–9 essential maintenance was falling behind as was record keeping. The financial resources were not available to enable us to maintain the Railway as we needed to. To have employed two extra staff on maintenance would have doubled our loss for last year to around £100,000. The funding gap would then have been around £70,000. There was nothing to meet the cost of items we could not anticipate. The Society had reserves of £98,000 and Holdings £150,000, sufficient to see us through for a period of time. Fortunately due to our highly seasonal cash flow the cash support needed was not normally the same as the level of losses reported. We needed to take action to secure additional income, which required people committed to spending time to find it. Possible sources included:

  • legacies, which were important for long term projects such as The Guest House;
  • Gift Aid on fares which Council had agreed would be introduced in 2013 if possible but which had to surmount quite a big hurdle in the shape of issues with HM Revenue & Customs although he did not believe this to be insurmountable – this could bring in £40,000 to £50,000 a year.

Mr Mumford went on to mention recent large projects. The top four of the seven projects he mentioned, locomotive No. 2 Dolgoch, locomotive No. 6 Douglas, carriage No. 21 and Quarry Shed The Guest House had, with the exception of No. 6, been primarily covered by specific appeals or specific funds. Only just over half the total expenditure of £318,500 on the seven projects had been spent on locomotives (the three other projects were Wharf cutting, locomotive No. 4 Edward Thomas and Nant Gwernol footbridge). This kind of expenditure was mostly recurring and we needed that level of income to cover future similar costs.

Mr Mumford then called on the Chief Executive to present the results so far during the current year. Dave Scotson reported that up to the previous day these were public bookings down 8.5%, traffic revenue down 5.6%, shop revenue down 15.5% and catering revenue down 6.1%. Mr Mumford then reported that the management accounts to July indicated that the level of losses were not dissimilar to the year before. We were holding our own by keeping a lid on things. Cash in hand at the high point in mid-September was £32,000 less than the year before and thus the trough would be deeper. The trends were in the wrong direction. We needed to find creative ways of bringing more money into the organisation.

Gareth Jones paid tribute to Mr Mumford (applause) and pointed out that costs just kept going up. There was a limit to what we could do. The deficit in 2012 might be around the same as last year but we were mortgaging the future with the backlog of maintenance just getting bigger. Health and Safety legislation was becoming more burdensome. At some point we might need to decide to withdraw a carriage from service. Appeals for specific projects were usually successful but our need went beyond individual projects. We needed to look at how we were going to raise this money since otherwise we would not have the resources to run the Railway in the way we were used to. At the end of the day it was down to us. Mr Jones urged those present to put their hands in their pockets and to fill in a standing order form.

Walter Crowe introduced his contribution by saying that Council had volunteered Chris Price and himself to support the Treasurer and show that Garry was not alone. 2011 was an awful year and 2012 would be more or less the same. We had only managed to stay level with 2011 because a number of staff had left and not yet been replaced. We were mortgaging the Railway by deferring maintenance – carriage No. 1 for example had been out of action all year waiting for Pendre staff to find time to work on its wheels; it took a big effort to get two opens back into service in time for Race The Train; the overhaul of locomotive 6 had been slower than it could have been. It was not as though the loss had arisen because we had been spending money catching up on maintenance. It had not and the backlog was growing.

Mr Crowe then drew a distinction between operating costs and, for want of a better phrase, fixed costs. These fixed costs were those for ten year locomotive overhauls, replacing track, major carriage overhauls, etc. – the projects which Garry referred to earlier. We could raise money through appeals and donations to cover these costs and generally did so without major problems. Our difficulty was with operating costs – the cost of running the Railway day to day, week to week, over the year – every year. We needed to generate a gross surplus, i.e. turnover less operating costs, which would substantially cover the “Other Expenses” or overheads as they could be called. In recent years we had received substantial contributions to these costs from shop and catering. But this was no longer enough. If the membership wanted to see the Railway running in much the same way as at present, then the Preservation Society would have to make up the difference as in 2011 and 2012. The 2011 deficit of £50,000 was roughly £15 per member. Financially, we were at present at the limit of what could be handled. If matters deteriorated further, in five years’ time we could be looking to provide an orange service for a limited period in summer only, with no permanent staff – rather like 1951 with better track.

Chris Price pointed out that, assuming that 10% of our members were active, we should be paying £166 a year for our hobby (having mentioned that the cheapest golf club charged around £300 a year). If every member gave the equivalent of a pint of beer a week that would raise around £650,000 a year. If every active member did this, it would raise £65,000 a year. If everyone in the room gave £100, it would raise £15,000. Mr Price then asked what price did we put on the pleasure we gained from this organisation? Could we stand by while it deteriorated? £5 a month was not much individually but collectively was a large amount.

Lis Mann pointed out that at the end of Railway Adventure Tom Rolt asked the question “Is it [the Talyllyn Railway] worth cherishing?”. The answer was yes, it was worth cherishing. The Railway needed a sustainable future for future generations to enjoy it.

Richard Hope then invited questions. Bob Morland pointed out that the organisation could reclaim 25p in the £ through the use of gift aid donation forms. David White believed that gift aid could only be used to fund specific projects not day-to-day expenses. Garry Mumford responded that we would find a way of getting money to where it was needed. George Gardiner thought that the presentation was the most positive and encouraging response we had had for some time (applause). Nigel Adams asked why we did not increase the subscriptions for everyone. Gareth Jones responded that we did not wish to frighten people away and that recruiting 1,000 extra members would be better. Gethin Taylor said he was not a member of the TR Catering Society. Pointing out that the Members’ Bar was the most profitable part of the catering operation, he suggested that we were paying to feed the passengers and asked why we were doing this. Gareth Jones said that 49% of our combined revenue was from catering and the shop. Mr Taylor then suggested that the £11,000 catering profit was before heating, lighting, utilities and cleaning so that catering was really making a loss. Garry Mumford agreed that costs were not allocated between activities but said that he did not believe in the arbitrary allocation of costs which would not make a difference since we could not take down part of Wharf building. It would be unacceptable not to offer catering but hopefully we would see improvements and he asked if anyone could come forward with constructive ideas. We needed to make catering more profitable. Mike Davies pointed out that the Mid-Hants Railway offered a five-year membership for the price of four annual memberships but did not offer life membership which it considered not to be beneficial. He suggested we should look at this. He then queried the £26,000 increase in non-catering staff costs. Mr Mumford responded that this reflected decisions taken two years ago. The Board was very mindful of staff costs but we could not save our way out of the problem. Chris Price pointed out that the Talyllyn needed donations now not after the café had been sorted out. The Board was aware of all the problems and he urged members still to donate to the Railway.

Richard Hope proposed the approval of the Report of the Council and the Financial Statements of the Society for the year ended 31st. January, 2012; this was agreed without dissent.

10. Report on Recent Outdoor Work

Keith Theobald praised the magnificent response for the Wharf cutting project during which a considerable quantity of track had been renewed along with more drainage than originally planned. There were a few detail points to finish. Smaller projects included repointing the parapets on Cynfal bridge. Quarry Siding shed – there would be an opportunity to name it next year – had been built by a contractor. Routine line inspections, which took five days every 12 weeks, had recorded that gauge widening was becoming a significant problem. It was time for a number of sleepers to be replaced. Up to the previous day about £18,400 had been given to the sleeper appeal against a target of £22,000. The first delivery of sleepers was due on the following Wednesday. The plan was to improve drainage and raise the new sleepers up on fresh stone as had been done between Wharf and Pendre. The hope was for a longer life than the 40 years of the existing sleepers. Surplus material from Trecwn would be put on the market.

The collection of envelopes and standing order forms was then taken.

11. Miscellaneous Announcements

Justin Adams announced the result of the Traffic & Operating Committee election. For the Traffic Department there had been four nominations for four places, therefore Philip Eaton, Andrew Simner, John Simner and Marc Smith had been elected unopposed. For the Locomotive Department there had been three nominations for four places, therefore Bill Heynes, Neil Scott and Karen Willans had been elected unopposed.

Philip Sayers announced there had been five nominations for five places on the Young Members’ Group committee and thus no ballot had been required. He therefore declared Jack Evans, Josh Green, Davey Hampton, Jim Mann and James Whiles elected.

Sue Whitehouse appealed for assistance on the TR stand at the Warley Model Railway Exhibition on 24th & 25th November.

John Smallwood made an announcement about the evening’s entertainment followed by Chris Price who announced that half the paintings left by the late Roy Smith to be sold for the benefit of the Railway would be auctioned that evening; the other paintings would be auctioned at the 2013 AGM weekend to maximise the proceeds.

Tony Randall announced the Steampipes film and organ evening in London on 3rd December and the London Area Group dinner on 10th December.

Don Newing announced the East Midlands Group meeting on 17th October and also their after Christmas dinner.

Nigel Adams reported that up to 7th September the TR had benefited by royalties of £1,320 on the three books published by Silverlink to commemorate the Society’s 60th anniversary plus the margin on each copy sold through the shop.

Ian Drummond drew attention to David Mitchell’s new book On Tracks Broad and Narrow which was on sale in the hall with a substantial proportion of any sales proceeds going to the TR.

12. Any Other Competent Business

Richard Hope spoke concerning the late Reg Dawson’s contribution to the retention of the British railway network. [The details of this will appear in the issue of the Talyllyn News in which these minutes are published.] He concluded, “The Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society had won”.

Mike Davies sought an explanation concerning the 2013 timetable. Gareth Jones explained that during the year when the financial position had become clear, the Board had asked the timetable group to review the 2013 timetable to see whether savings in the costs of running the cafés could be made and also changes in the way the stock was maintained. Capacity needed to be matched to the actual demand. The group had come up with a solution which had gone to the Board, Marketing Committee and Council for information. In the light of comments a revised proposal had been made which members might have looked at on the way in. Dave Scotson pointed that with falling traffic since 2007 we could not keep running trains with no passengers riding on them. Nothing was set in stone and the timetable would be kept under review. The revised timetable saved a little in the cost of running trains and if the “envelope” within which the trains ran was smaller we could reduce part-time and casual catering staff. Crossing trains at Brynglas meant we could save a member of staff at Abergynolwyn. Savings should come to about £11,000 in staff, fuel and lubricating oil costs with the possibility of more savings in the cafés. 14% fewer trains would be run with some 60 fewer locomotive turns. Most of the drop in blocking turns would be due to losing the short lunchtime turn at Pendre in the current blue service; all day blocking turns would reduce by 28 or 10%. Mr Scotson hoped we would give the new timetable a try. He promised to keep a very close eye on it including appropriate questions in the passenger survey (applause). Mike Davies asked what consultation there had been with the public and pointed out that on the three busier days a week when the 3.45 p.m. departure from Wharf would be running there would be an extended day at Abergynolwyn which would cost us money. Dave Scotson said that there would be a slight saving even when running the later train. Those who wanted to walk later in the day would choose to come on those days when there was a late train. Simon Jenkins said he was very disappointed with the “dog’s breakfast” of a timetable and there should have been consultation with Council on the latest change. Dave Scotson replied this had been a slight alteration. He would try to take all these points on board. Chris Price said that the design of the timetable was a management decision and if you undermined this it would be a disaster. He supported Dave Scotson (applause). In response to Gethin TaylorGareth Jones said that the discussion showed that the timetable was not a matter for the AGM or Council to decide but for management who understood what was going on. If the new timetable did not work it could be readjusted.

Peter Kent-Mason suggested there was a worrying situation with lineside growth and asked about the flail-mower. John Bate explained there had been a failure in the early part of the year and the overhaul had taken several months. The flail was now in full working order and would be in use again shortly.

Judy Crowe pointed out that a saving of £25 a train was just the basic cost. The saving would be greater because of less maintenance but this would be a long term benefit.

In answer to a question from Ellis Jacklin about locomotive No. 3, Gareth Jones pointed out that there was no need for a sixth steam engine for the time being. The Chief Engineer would be advising on the cycles for overhauls so that a date could be slotted in for the start of a programme to raise funds. The questioner had very kindly agreed to lead a team for this which was much appreciated. Mike Davies suggested we should start raising funds and that he had been advised that all that might be needed would be to replace the inner firebox. We would not know until it was stripped down how much it was going to cost. Gareth Jones pointed out that when we knew when we were likely to need the engine then we could work out backwards the programme for its repair. Lis Mann said we needed a proper programme of what was needed and when it was needed by.

There being no other business Richard Hope declared the meeting closed at 1751.