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Held at Tywyn Cinema (“The Magic Lantern”), Tywyn, Gwynedd on September 26th, 2015

On the platform were David Mitchell, President TRPS; Jane Garvey, 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 195 members present.

David Mitchell opened the meeting at 5.01 p.m. by asking the meeting to stand in silence in memory of members who had died over the past year, including Vice-President Sonia Rolt OBE and Chris White.

1. Apologies

Apologies had been received from Vice–President Winston McCanna, Council candidates Janet Royston, because of an aunt’s serious illness, and Andrew Vick, Anthony Coulls, who sent congratulations on the Railway’s sesquicentenary from the team celebrating the National Railway Museum’s fortieth anniversary, and eleven other members.

Garry Mumford then said that Ellis Jacklin would be explaining later in the meeting the purpose of the white collection envelopes on the chairs, but asked if the Gift Aid declarations could be completed.

2. Minutes of the 64thAGM

The Minutes of the 64th AGM of the Society, held at Tywyn on September 27th, 2014, having been circulated to members of the Society at that date, were proposed by David Mitchell to be taken as read. The minutes were approved without dissent and David Mitchell duly signed them as being a true record.

3. Matters arising from the Minutes

There were no matters raised.

4. Election of President

Jane Garvey took the chair and asked the meeting to endorse the Council’s nomination of David Mitchell as President. This was agreed without dissent. David Mitchell resumed the Chair.

5. Election of a Vice-President

David Mitchell explained that Tim Rolt, the younger son of Tom and Sonia Rolt, had been nominated by the Council for election as a Vice-President in accordance with the Rules. Mr Rolt’s election was agreed without dissent.

6. Appointment of Independent Examiners

David Mitchell called for nominations for the Society’s Independent Examiners. The appointment of Peter J. Silver of Silver & Co was proposed by Peter Austin and agreed by the meeting. Mr Mitchell thanked Peter and Paul Silver for their work on behalf of the TR.

7. Election of Honorary Treasurer

Garry Mumford had been nominated in accordance with the Rules; this was put to the meeting by David Mitchell and agreed without dissent.

8. Election of nine members of Council

David Mitchell asked John Robinson to read out the names of the candidates. John Robinson read out the names of the fifteen candidates present and asked them to stand. Ballot papers were then collected.

Sue Whitehouse pointed out that in Parliamentary elections it was the practice to publish the names of those who had nominated the candidates. Mr Robinson said this had never been our practice. Chris Hill suggested that, although not practical for the current election, this information should be included with the details of the candidates in the Annual Report in future. David Mitchell said that this would be considered by the Council.

Later in the meeting Paul Silver announced the results. 208 valid papers had been returned with votes being cast as follows:

Rebecca Cottrell 119, Walter Crowe 137, Matt Dawson 146, Ian Drummond 149, Ellis Jacklin 138, Simon Jenkins 85, David Jones 69, Paul Knapton 54, Jon Mann 112, David Martin 80, Janet Royston 16, Rebecca Sharpe 132, John Simner 81, Gethin Taylor 54, Andrew Vick 68, Matthew Wear 87 and Andrew Young 91.

Mesdames Cottrell and Sharpe and Messrs Crowe, Dawson, Drummond, Jacklin, Mann, Wear and Young were declared elected. Permission was given to dispose of the ballot papers in the usual way.

9. Reception, Approval and Adoption of Reports

David Mitchell called on Jane Garvey to present the Report of Council. She opened by saying it had been 150 years since it all started and the events had been fantastic; she thanked all those who had been involved but especially Ian Drummond and Ellis Jacklin, supported by Lorraine Simkiss (applause). They had more up their sleeves for the coming year — so watch this space. Mrs Garvey then thanked Roger Whitehouse, who was standing down from both the Council and Board, for all the time and effort he had put in.

Mrs Garvey spoke of her great joy that membership numbers were increasing and were rapidly reaching 4,100, meaning that our online membership and direct debit options were working. The next challenge was to turn those members into working volunteers. There had been times this year when finding people to cover the turns to run the Railway had been difficult. Also, some of our volunteers were not getting any younger and we must encourage others to take on different tasks. We needed to do all we could to encourage everyone and our volunteer co-ordinator would be pleased to hear suggestions how we might do this. There was still much hard work to be done during the winter on engines, coaches and the track and it would be great to welcome new faces to the working party groups. You could learn new skills.

Llechfan, our volunteer hostel, was a vital part of our railway but we were aware it did not fulfil the needs of everyone. Mrs Garvey mentioned that we were looking to see how we could improve on what we had and asked members to let us know what they might need. She was also looking for volunteers to help with the hostel.

Mrs Garvey then pointed out that Chris Price, our General Manager, was leaving that weekend and thanked him and wished him all the best for his new challenge. She also thanked David Ventry for agreeing to take over as interim Managing Director which allowed the Board to make good progress towards the appointment of a new General Manager without having to rush into a decision.

Mrs Garvey concluded by saying that she felt very privileged to have been part of this 150th year and thought that we had all had a lot of fun and enjoyment celebrating this as well as showing the TR at its very best. Long might we continue to foster this spirit and enthusiasm for our little railway.

Garry Mumford then presented the Treasurer’s report. The financial position remained strong, continuing to benefit from generous legacies. These had amounted to £217,000 in 2014 and £83,000 so far this year. At the end of January Talyllyn Holdings Ltd had had reserves of £670,000 which had now increased to £725,000 and significant work was going into looking at possible long term projects.

Whilst the annual deficit in the Railway Company was containable, it would be better if Society support could be for specific development projects. However the increase in costs was relentless, and there was perhaps a limit to how much public spend we could attract.

There had been a distinct improvement on the take up of Gift Aid on fares which now amounted to over 71% of bookings at Wharf. Just over another 20% paid the donation fare without Gift Aiding it. So far some 600 members had signed up to pay their subscriptions by using the new direct debit scheme, and Mr Mumford asked everyone to consider this as a way of reducing the burden on them and the Hon. Membership Secretaries.

Chris Price reported on the year’s figures. Total receipts to the previous evening had increased by 9.4% or nearly £65,000 but total passenger journeys were 0.5% down. There had been a shift from paying traffic to membership. Shop turnover was 19.1% up and Catering turnover 10.6% up. Whilst we would like to see an increase in public passenger numbers, at the end of the day this was part of a trend in Welsh tourism, and the weather had not helped. Confirming that he was leaving the Railway as General Manager, Mr Price went on to say that we had a very proactive Board and Council who were out to see the Railway develop. We would continue to make mistakes as part of trying innovations. We were here to enjoy the Railway. We needed to support management and encourage those who wished to become involved in it. Criticism could result in the Railway’s stagnating. Talk to management and find out the reasons for decisions. The pain of several years ago needed to be forgotten and a line drawn under it. Collectively we had achieved a lot and there was a lot more to come (applause). Gareth Jones then invited Mr Price to the stage. He thanked Chris for his work and gave him best wishes for the future saying that he had changed the way we did things and lifted the profile of the Railway so we were far more widely known than we ever had been. He then presented Chris with a small memento, a framed photograph of Chris driving on the Railway.

David Mitchell then invited questions on the Report and Accounts. Mike Davies commented that there had been an increasing number of Driver Experience trains and suggested that was an opportunity for a substantial increase in the price. He then asked what was happening in relation to the rebuild of locomotive 3. In response Chris Price implored future management to look again at the pricing of Driver Experience trains. He then announced that No. 3 would be delivered to the Vale of Rheidol Railway in October for an overhaul to be completed in spring 2018. In response to a further question it was said that it would probably re-enter service in TR green. Gethin Taylor drew attention to the huge increase in catering costs between 2013 and 2014. Chris Price explained that the increase in catering staff costs from £77,696 in 2013 to £94,622 in 2014 was because had been offering a bad product in 2013 through being understaffed. We were thus trying a different approach which seemed to be successful. The challenge for 2016 was to deliver a good product more cheaply. Mr Price then assured the meeting that there were no challenges which were not being addressed. In response to George Cuthbertson who drew attention to the state of Wharf car park, Garry Mumford explained that the car park was leased from the local Council and that until we had security of tenure it would be unwise to spend money on improvements. However, after many years of attempting to tie down the position it was expected that a 21-year lease would shortly be signed and this should be followed by a full resurfacing of the car park.

David Mitchell then proposed acceptance of the Report of Council and the Society financial statements. This was agreed without dissent.

10. Progress with the Talyllyn Railway Strategy

David Ventry started by pointing out that we were facing a very different position to 50, 40 or even 30 years ago. Then we had a good number of volunteers but relatively little money. Now we had more money but fewer volunteers. We had been hanging on to the money because we needed to spend it wisely. We needed to reduce our reliance on labour by operating more effectively whilst still achieving the objective of preserving and maintaining heritage equipment rather than engineering plant used for our everyday needs. We would retain resources to meet our day-to-day maintenance requirements. Whether we did other work in-house or by outside contract would depend on circumstances.

Mr Ventry then explained that we had undertaken to review the strategy every two years and we were going through this process at the moment. A number of suggestions had been made but we would have liked to have seen more. The strategy would be updated to take account of responses. Suggestions included:

  • Reviewing future carriage requirements to consider whether they met current aspirations. Passengers were getting wider. Did we need higher quality appointments? How should the carriages be arranged, for example with observation saloons at the west end of trains?
  • The open carriages were popular but left out in the open. Should we re-body them in more durable materials?
  • A recent incident at Nant Gwernol showed the need to upgrade our communications so we were working on a telecommunications strategy.
  • A new paint shop at Pendre so carriages could be painted in the summer months whilst the current paint shop was housing the train sets in use.
  • Improvements to ballast wagons.
  • Covering over the back road at Pendre to provide an area for fabrication and other ‘dirty’ work.
  • Extending Abergynolwyn Café and improving the car park there.

Llechfan was poor compared to hostels on some other railways and not up to current standards. Trial bores had been made that week so we would know the ground conditions when considering whether to extend or replace it. Recladding of the West Carriage Shed might be undertaken over the coming winter. Improvements to the north side of Pendre needed to make more effective use of the land. In marketing, social media was becoming more important. The Shop now accounted for 20% of income. Mr Ventry went on to point out the purchase of the stone blower, that bridge maintenance was making rapid progress and that tree management both reduced the risk of trees falling on the Railway and opened up views. A contract had been let for the fitting of oil-fired heaters to some coaches.

Mr Ventry concluded by saying that the strategy framework set the priorities. For some projects match funding was needed. He would welcome further suggestions.

Sheila Jennings raised concerns about the lack of toilets at Nant Gwernol and smells from those at Dolgoch. Mr Ventry explained that provision of toilets at Nant Gwernol had been thought impractical but that a potential solution had now been found so that the matter was under reconsideration. A similar solution might prove to be practical at Dolgoch.

11. Miscellaneous Announcements

Ellis Jacklin explained that the object of the collection at the meeting was to fund a new website. The existing website was lagging behind those of other railways and in particular needed to embrace mobile telephone technology (applause). The collection was then taken, amounting to £1,116.53.

Justin Adams announced the result of the Traffic & Operating Committee election. For the Locomotive Department there had been four candidates for four places and thus Jack Evans, Bill Heynes, Will Smith and Karen Williams were elected unopposed. For the Traffic Department there were five candidates for four places. 133 papers had been returned of which two were spoilt. Votes cast were as follows, Roger Brent 81, Paul Cottrell 114, Lawrence Garvey 60, Josh Green 117, John Simner 100 and therefore Roger Brent, Paul Cottrell, Josh Green and John Simner were declared elected.

Philip Sayers announced the result of the Young Members’ Group election. There were eight candidates for five places. 30 ballot papers had been returned of which one was spoilt. Votes cast were as follows, Lottie Atkinson 21, Cassie Bentley 6, Adam Davies 15, Tom Free 20, Ruth Goode 22, Emma Harrison 11, Jim Mann 16, Ed Slipper 22 and therefore Lottie Atkinson, Tom Free, Ruth Goode, Jim Mann and Ed Slipper were declared elected.

Sue Whitehouse appealed on behalf of Andy Lawton of the Midland Area Group for help with the TRPS publicity stand at the Warley National Model Railway Exhibition at the National Exhibition Centre on 28th and 29th November.

Keith Theobald drew attention to the appeal by the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum Trust towards the cost of purchase, transport and restoration of the Fletcher Jennings locomotive William Finlay. He also passed on the thanks of Jennie Evans on behalf of Abergynolwyn Village Show Committee for allowing the use of the field at Abergynolwyn station.

Tony Randall announced the final Steampipes film and organ evening in London on 30th November and the London and Southern Counties Area Group dinner on 7th December.

Ian Drummond announced the availability of the interim 2016 timetable leaflet and the following morning’s In Memoriam train for a Remembrance Event at Brynglas.

12. Other Business

Chris Gillham invited members to a service at Bethany English Presbyterian Church, Tywyn, at 10.30 a.m. on Sunday, 27th December to celebrate the life of Edward Thomas and the Talyllyn Railway.

George Gardiner raised the issue of smoking in outside areas where people ate food. Whilst this was not breaking any rules, Chris Price implored David Ventry to consider what we should do. Gareth Jones said the aim should be to try to persuade people not to smoke in outdoor eating areas.

Ian Drummond explained the arrangements for the evening.

There being no other business, David Mitchell declared the meeting closed at 1849 after thanking the Council, Board and members for the efforts they had made for the 150th anniversary.