< Go back to all news


Held at Neuadd Pendre Social Centre, Brook Street, Tywyn, Gwynedd on September 28th, 2013

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 170 members present.

Richard Hope opened the meeting at 3.30 pm.

1. Apologies

Apologies had been received from Alison Wilkinson, Vice–President Peter Austin, retiring Council Member Chris Price and four other members.

Richard Hope then asked the meeting to stand in silence in memory of members who had died over the past year, including former President Jeremy Wilkinson and Ed Lund. He then asked Garry Mumford to explain the white collection envelopes on the chairs for donations towards the purchase of a sleeper drill.

2. Minutes of the 62nd AGM

The Minutes of the 62nd AGM of the Society, held at Tywyn on September 29th, 2012, having been circulated to members of the Society at that date, were proposed by Richard Hope to be taken as read. The minutes were approved 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. Richard Hope resumed the Chair.

5. Election of a Vice-President

A nomination, supported by the required 50 signatures and endorsed by the Council, had been received for the election of George Voller as a Vice-President. Mr Voller had been active in the Society for some 40 years and had recently retired as Treasurer and Stockholder of the Wessex Area Group. Lis Mann and Ian Drummond spoke in support and Mr Voller’s election was agreed without dissent.

6. Appointment of Independent Examiners

Richard Hope called for nominations for the Society’s Independent Examiners. The appointment of Silver & Co was proposed by Roger Whitehouse, seconded by David Mitchell and agreed by the meeting. Richard Hope thanked Peter Silver and his firm for their work.

7. Election of Honorary Treasurer

Garry Mumford 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 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. 179 valid papers had been returned with 1349 votes being cast as follows:

Walter Crowe 148, Matt Dawson 149, Ian Drummond 121, Ellis Jacklin 130, Simon Jenkins 113, Paul Knapton 82, Jon Mann 140, Ray Reid 38, John Simner 125, Matthew Wear 153, Roger Whitehouse 150.

Messrs Crowe, Dawson, Drummond, Jacklin, Jenkins, Mann, Simner, Wear and Whitehouse were declared elected. Permission was given to dispose of the ballot papers in the usual way.

9. Reception, Approval and Adoption of Reports

Richard Hope called on Lis Mann to present the report of Council. Mrs Mann began by saying that this spot was really about 2013. Last year it was becoming clear that we could not sustain ourselves financially unless we did something dramatic. Mrs Mann then thanked all those who had contributed so generously both to the sleeper appeal and following the President’s letter. Although the introduction of Gift Aid on fares in July this year meant a huge number of volunteer man-hours in setting it up, it had already generated substantial amounts of additional income.

The June Talyllyn News contained a draft of the new Strategy Document which gave a clear idea of how we could build a sustainable future for the TR.

The early May Bank Holiday weekend saw the official opening of The Guest House at Quarry Siding, made possible by a generous legacy from one of our Drivers, Phil Guest, which would give us additional storage for plant.

Mrs Mann then thanked all those who helped with the return to service of Douglas, which had been very well received, especially by the Duncan Day team, the tour of locomotive number 3 Sir Haydn which had been a most marvellous marketing tool, and the re-entry into service of carriage 21. The new play equipment at Abergynolwyn, partly funded from the National Lottery ‘Awards for All’ was installed in time for the Spring Bank Holiday Duncan Day and had provided a new dimension to the playground. She then made special mention of the Press Team who had worked so hard and been extremely successful in getting our name into the media. In April the BBC had filmed a documentary on the Coronation which included about 4 to 5 minutes on the TR’s Coronation train. It was very apt that on the day in June we re-enacted the Coronation Specials we received the news that the Preservation Society had been selected to receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, a fitting tribute to all those members who had contributed to the preservation and operation of the Railway since 1951.

Mrs Mann then complimented the Tracksiders and Navvies on the hard work they had done and thanked the parents and helpers who had given up their time to work with both groups. Over the summer it was noticeable how many ex-Tracksiders and Navvies had moved into the operational side of the Railway – long might it continue. She also mentioned the huge amount of other work around the Railway including Outdoor Weeks, ‘Tidy the Railway’, Locomotive, Carriage and Museum Working Parties and Special Events which required a great commitment of volunteer labour over and above the daily operation of the Railway.

Mrs Mann referred to the many good friends we had lost from amongst our membership this year and the more-than-fair share of personal illnesses and accidents in the last few months, although this did bring home to us what a wonderful family the TR was. Finally, as this was the last time she would be on the platform, she thanked everyone for their help, support and encouragement and wished her successor all the very best.

Garry Mumford, after thanking the meeting for its overwhelming vote to reappoint him, reported that the Railway Company had fared a little better in 2012 after the disappointing return to losses in 2011. However this was no reason to be complacent, as even at a Combined Net Loss of £33,122 the day-to-day operation of our Railway was a drain on our financial resources. Most importantly these figures did not include the larger maintenance and renewal costs which were normally covered through grants from Talyllyn Holdings supported by specific appeals. In addition the Railway was desperately short of the resources it needed to operate at the level we would all wish it to, especially within Engineering. Were we mortgaging the future of our Railway in order to attempt to balance the books today?

Our continuing issue was declining income. In real terms this was dropping year on year and 2012 was no exception with an 8.1% drop in passenger bookings. The increase in 2013 (to yesterday) of 1.1% over 2012 was in fact a drop of 7.8% over 2011 and 8.9% over five years ago. Whilst it might not be within our means to address the wider issues which meant fewer people visited our area of Wales, we must find ways to raise income if we were going to halt the slippery slide.

Whilst for this year results overall were similar to 2012, this demonstrated that increasing cost pressures would always consume modest income rises, and what was needed was more than that if we were to turn our fortunes properly. Two recent initiatives to increase our income had been staggeringly successful: the introduction of Gift Aid on fares and the additional £30,000 a year that we now received (before Gift Aid) in standing orders from 261 contributors as a result of the President’s appeal letter. However, the response still only represented some 7.5% of the Society’s 3,500 membership so surely there was more potential.

Gift Aid on fares had been introduced from 8th July and the take-up rate to date had been a very encouraging 65%, with a further 18% paying the additional 10% without being able to Gift Aid. At this level of acceptance we could expect around £70,000 of additional income a year from this source alone, and Mr Mumford believed that from the experience gained already and a clear explanation in the 2014 timetable we could improve on that in the future. However there was a significant extra workload at a time when staff and volunteer resources were proving scarcer and scarcer, and he appealed for people to consider becoming booking clerks, as well as thanking all those who had helped over the last year.

Reporting on the 2013 results Dave Scotson confirmed the increase in public bookings to date of 1.1% with an increase in expected revenue of 9.7% or £30,000. Railway Shop takings were up 8.3% or £7,000. The cafés were up some £4,000 or 2.5% compared to 2012 although there had been a heavy fall in volunteer usage. Total Railway revenue was 5.8% up on last year.

Replying to a question from Walter Crowe, Mr Mumford said that the initial investment in equipment for Gift Aid had been £11,000 with pay-back achieved in seven weeks. In response to Gethin Taylor, he pointed out that we were under no obligation to issue the vouchers worth 15% of the amount paid at the Booking Office. 86% of the vouchers had been redeemed, with the Shop staff finding them very effective in promoting sales although it was more difficult to tell how effective they had been in the cafés. It did not cost the face-value to service the vouchers, only the cost of the items sold. The Shop and Catering would not be penalised financially in the accounts for accepting the vouchers. In response to Mike Davies, Mr Mumford confirmed that refreshment staff costs had reduced, although he had no figures in front of him.

Richard Hope proposed the approval of the Report of the Council and the Financial Statements of the Society for the year ended 31st. January, 2013; this was agreed without dissent.

Keith Theobald then explained the object of the AGM collection. The appeal to buy sleepers had raised £28,000 and a significant number were in the track already. More had been bought at a cheaper price and also long timbers for turnouts. The Guest House made a wonderful drilling shed. However, to ensure accuracy sleepers were pre-drilled on one side only when they were used on curves or with non-standard rail sections; they also needed to be drilled on site when gauge maintenance was undertaken. For this either electric drills or impact wrenches had been used. However, a self-powered sleeper drill would be lighter, easier to use, safer and save gang time. Such a drill would cost £2,277 plus delivery. Subsequently the collection was taken and raised £1,136.62, on much of which Gift Aid could be reclaimed.

10. Reception and Discussion of the paper Talyllyn Railway Strategy

David Ventry introduced his presentation by quoting a saying that an organisation which does not plan for the future does not have one. He went on to mention that we were in uncertain times because of the economy, climate change (Wales could become cooler and wetter) and people retiring later on much lower pensions. There was uncertainty over future income and volunteer availability but it was certain that costs would rise. Some degree of certainty was needed for prioritising resources. We would need to seek outside funding and would need to have very firm plans on what we wanted to do with the money.

The draft strategy published in the June 2013 News represented a considerable amount of work by the Group and others. Ten written responses and several oral responses had been received. They were generally appreciative although some additional items were suggested, including a reference to the Fedecrail Riga Charter, aims to increase the number of passengers and visitors and to maintain constant vigilance on costs, an emphasis on the importance of slate, maintenance of the historic coaches, improved car parking at Wharf and a more proactive approach to tree management to enhance views from the Railway.

If the amended draft strategy were approved by the October Council meeting it would be published in the December News. The next step would be to identify individuals and groups who could move individual projects forward. Council would decide on priorities. It was proposed to review the strategy every two years.

Michael Whitehouse spoke as a member who was otherwise an ‘outsider’. He observed that income was not going up but costs were and also noticed a slight introspection which needed to be reversed. The 150th anniversary would give an opportunity for this. Grant providers would not give to an organisation which was not sustainable. The Railway needed to be part of the local community and assist in the economic regeneration of the area. The ‘Awdry’ locos were an important selling point and we should make more of the Skarloey Railway. Winston McCanna referredto the Policy and Projects Group of 25 years ago which introduced the modern management techniques which had long been lacking. He commended the strategy.

11. Miscellaneous Announcements

Justin Adams announced the result of the Traffic & Operating Committee election. For both the Locomotive and Traffic Departments there had been four nominations for four places, therefore Bill Heynes, Neil Scott, Andrew Simner and Karen Willans had been elected unopposed for the former and Lawrence Garvey, Brian Palmer, John Simner and Juliet Tyndall for the latter.

Philip Sayers announced that there had been five nominations for five places on the Young Members’ Group committee and thus no ballot had been required. He therefore declared Lottie Atkinson, Jack Evans, Josh Green, Jenny Lamb, and Rory Robinson elected.

Lawrence Garvey advertised the dates of working parties up to New Year and appealed for help.

Roger Whitehouse made announcements concerning the special mixed trains running during the weekend, the need for assistance with the Warley Model Railway Exhibition on 23rd and 24th November, the auction of paintings and books at the end of the meeting and the bookstall at the back of the hall.

Tony Randall announced the London Area Group dinner on 9th December and the Steampipes film and organ evening in London on 26th March, 2014.

On behalf of the North West Area Group, Sue Whitehouse announced its AGM on Wednesday 16th October.

John Smallwood and Mike Green made announcements concerning the evening’s entertainment, which would be taking place at Wharf Station.

The auction of a small number of books, and paintings from the collections of the late Roy Smith and the late Ed Lund then took place raising a total of £544.

12. Other Business

Keith Theobald passed on a message of thanks from Jenny Evans on behalf of the Abergynolwyn Show Committee for the Talyllyn’s continuing sponsorship and support.

Andrew Wilson said he would like to make contact with any architect in the room in connection with the Wharf South Side project.

In response to Gethin TaylorDave Scotson agreed he wished to see much better traffic figures than 2013’s 1.5% increase over 2012. Mike Davies thought that the comments in the September News on the 2013 timetable came across as slightly complacent. He questioned whether reducing the number of trains had been a wise thing to do. He was concerned about overcrowded trains. Gareth Jones pointed out that at least we had stopped the decline and with the cost savings we were in a healthier condition. The real challenge was marketing; we were desperate to find someone to take on the rôle Phil Eaton had performed. Lis Mann appealed for someone to come forward since otherwise we might need to look at paying for help.

There being no other business Richard Hope declared the meeting closed at 1730.