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Held at Neuadd Pendre Social Centre, Tywyn, Gwynedd on September 28th, 2019

On the platform were David Mitchell, President, TRPS; Ian Drummond, Chairman, TRPS; David Ventry, Chairman, TR Co; John Robinson, Hon. Secretary, TRPS and Secretary, TR Co and Garry Mumford, Hon Treasurer, TRPS and Accountant, TR Co. There were some 150 members present. 

David Mitchell opened the meeting at 2.0 pm, saying it was good to see such a large number of members present. He introduced the platform party, noting the Tony Randall would be taking the minutes and asked those speaking from the floor to announce themselves clearly for the benefit of the minute-taker.

The meeting stood in silence in memory of members who had died over the past year, including Joan Ashdown, Llew Bedder, Harold Burton, Maurice Everton, Tony Gilmour, June Jones, Bryce Lee, Brian Owen, David Thorpe, Peter Trinder and Margaret Woodhouse. 

1. Apologies

Apologies for absence had been received from Vice-President Richard Hope, Council Member Jonathan Mann, retiring Council Members Matt Dawson and Becky Sharpe and eleven other members. 

Chris Smith then explained that the collection at the meeting would be put towards the purchase of Eberspächer carriage heaters (costing approximately £1,800 each) to replace the remaining electric storage heaters, which were only ever meant to be temporary and about which there were some safety concerns. The next carriages to be fitted with the new type of heater were expected to be saloon No. 20 and ex-Corris coach No. 17. Garry Mumford explained that the envelopes would be collected later in the meeting and urged members to complete the Gift Aid declarations if they were eligible to do so. David Mitchell introduced Paul Atterbury, railway author and expert advisor on the BBC’s Antiques Roadshow, who would conduct an auction of various railway-related items after the meeting. 

2. Minutes of the 68th AGM

The Minutes of the 68th AGM of the Society, held at Tywyn on September 29th, 2018, 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. There were no Matters arising from the Minutes 

4. Election of President

Ian Drummond 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 and thanked the meeting, saying that it was a pleasure to lead such a well-known and well-run Society. 

5. Election of a Vice-President

DavidMitchellbriefly explained the roles of Tom Rolt and Bill Trinder in the formation of the Society and the early years of its operation of the Railway. Tom Rolt’s sons were both Vice-Presidents of the Society and Council felt it was right to honour Bill Trinder’s contribution in a similar way and had therefore nominated Cynthia Turner, Bill Trinder’s daughter, for election as a Vice-President. This was put to the meeting by David Mitchell andagreed without dissent. 

6. Appointment of Auditors to the Society

David Mitchell called for nominations for the Society’s Auditors. The appointment of McBrides Accountants LLP was proposed and agreed by the meeting. 

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 members of Council

David Mitchell asked John Robinson to read out the names of the candidates who had been nominated for Council. Those present identified themselves by standing. As there were only eight nominations for nine vacancies, David Mitchell declared Andrew Crookell, Ian Drummond, Josh Green, Mike Green, Martin Lester, Jon Mann, Marc Smith and Matthew Wear elected. 

9Amendments to the Constitution and Rules of the Society

David Mitchell asked John Robinson to explain the proposition by Council for amendments to the Constitution and Rules. John Robinson said that the proposed changes to the Constitution and Rules had been set out in detail in the June issue of Talyllyn News. The main changes were to a more inclusive style of wording, a minor change to the present Rule 3 in the new Rule 2, a reduction in the quorum required for General Meetings (this had been driven by falling numbers at the AGM in recent years and the fear that an AGM might be inquorate). Currently there was provision for the AGM to set the date for the following year’s meeting, but this would now be left for Council to determine. John Robinson commended the proposition to the meeting.

Chris Hill said he thought that the change to “shall endeavour to preserve …” was a significant one rather than a minor one. John Robinson said the previous rule had been honoured more in the breach than the observance, and that the working group had tried to come up with a suitable wording to reflect reality. He reminded the meeting that today there could be no amendments from the floor and the proposal must be either accepted or rejected in its entirety.

Owen Phillips said that he had already raised with Council that it was proposing a change that did not need to be made and made the Rule more lax.

Gareth Jones said that he was a member of the Working Group, and realised that there might be a problem with interpretation – if taken literally the Wharf building could be seen as changing the historic character of the site, and might prevent further changes that would be discussed later in the meeting. He added that it was necessary to recognise that changes needed to occur to stay in business.

The proposition was put to the meeting by David Mitchell, and carried by a large majority, with four votes against.

Ian Drummond explained that 11th October, 2020 would be the 70th anniversary of the inaugural meeting that led to the foundation of the Society and that options were being explored how to mark that anniversary. One thought was that next year’s AGM might move to the equivalent Saturday, 10th October, 2020. However, he was aware that many people planned other activities with the last Saturday in September in mind as TRPS AGM day, and that an early decision would be made and communicated. 

David Mitchell explained that the next two items would be taken in reverse order to the printed Agenda to present matters more logically. 

10. Reception, Approval and Adoption of Reports

David Mitchell called on Ian Drummond to present the report of Council. Ian Drummond referred to the report printed in The Talyllyn Railway in 2018 bound into the September, 2019 issue of the Talyllyn News and with the aid of a PowerPoint presentation illustrated the highlights of the last twelve months. He drew particular attention to the Railway Magazine Annual Award for Services to Railway Preservation which had been awarded to former Chief Engineer John Bate and was well deserved. This was greeted with applause. He continued that the Railway was fortunate in the way the Society, Talyllyn Railway Company and Talyllyn Holdings Ltd worked together, noting that other railways had (according to the press) less harmonious relationships. A benefit of this was that after last year’s AGM the Railway was made aware that the orchard site to the north of Pendre was coming on the market. Being immediately adjacent to the Railway its acquisition would be very beneficial and within a week of the news it had been agreed to purchase the site – an example of Council working at speed.

A further decision taken, with regret but following legal advice, was that people under the age of 16 would no longer be allowed to volunteer in operational roles. This led to the development of a training programme for 14–16 year olds, for which 83 people had so far signed up, compared with the 19 young people affected by the decision, a very positive outcome for which Matthew Wear, Lis Mann and the training team should be thanked. This was greeted with applause.

After the purchase of the orchard site the house Trefri came on the market. Like the orchard it had a common boundary with the Railway and its purchase could offer many benefits. A special meeting of the Board and Council was arranged for Easter Sunday to discuss the matter, and its purchase was nearly complete, although it would seriously deplete the cash reserves.

The Joint Membership Secretaries had reported that the Society membership stood at 4,500 precisely, the highest number on record on an AGM day.

Volunteers were not being overlooked as a Volunteer Recruitment day had been arranged for Saturday 26th October, volunteer accommodation requirements were being reviewed in conjunction with the possible purchase of Trefri, and Long Service Awards had been introduced, the first of which would be presented later in the meeting.

Projects to restore the Corris Railway coach and replicate the original locomotive watering arrangement at Tŷ Dŵr were now fully funded after successful on-line fund raising.

Challenges to be addressed included ensuring there were sufficient volunteers to run the Railway and the Society, the unknown implications of Brexit, succession planning and ensuring we had the right people in the right places, coal supply, finance and legislation.

Ian Drummond concluded by thanking the Society for allowing him the privilege of being its Chairman for the past three years and commended the Report of the Council to the meeting.

Garry Mumford said that financially 2018 had been a very positive year, the reduced operating loss meant that the Railway was in a healthy financial state, and that the Management Accounts to the end of August this year were also very encouraging. The fortunes of the Railway depended on the perception of how much its visitors can afford to spend, and this year the Shop and Catering results continued to be steady. At the end of September last year the cash balance had been the highest ever; this year it was almost the same.

A significant entry in the 2018 accounts was the transfer of the accumulated surplus from the Society to the Railway Company, this being done after taking specialist advice. He concluded his report by thanking those people whose support made his job possible.

David Mitchell asked for questions on the report of Council and Society financial statements but there were none, although Mike Green observed that this was the 59th AGM he had attended, having missed only one since 1959.

David Mitchell asked the meeting to indicate its acceptance of the Report of the Council and Society financial statements, which it did without dissent. 

11. Proposed major developments.

David Mitchell asked Stuart Williams, General Manager, to report on proposed major developments.

Stuart Williams spoke to a PowerPoint presentation entitled Development Plan 2019–2030 which detailed aspirations and possible developments in six areas – rolling stock, engineering facilities at Pendre, volunteer strategy, interpretation of the Railway’s history, the commercial offering to visitors and infrastructure and plant.

Rolling stock developments could include retirement of the original TR carriages from normal service trains, which would necessitate provision of additional carriages to take their place, and the possible provision of a carriage shed on the south side at Wharf to display the original carriages. Provision of a premium observation carriage also crossed into the commercial offering area.

The purchase of the orchard site at Pendre gave the opportunity to review the future workshop arrangements with the possibility of providing new facilities there. This might permit the original workshops to be opened up and combined with viewing of the running shed.

Volunteer strategy and accommodation revolved around the anticipated purchase of Trefri and the two cottages on Frankwell Street included in the purchase of the orchard site. Options for Trefri included office accommodation (to release space in the Wharf building for commercial use) and conversion to a hostel. The cottages are in a run-down condition, but after repair could be considered for volunteer accommodation or holiday lets, or alternatively disposal (but with a covenant to protect the Railway’s interests on the adjoining land).

Projects to interpret the Railway’s history included the Tŷ Dŵr watering point, Abergynolwyn Village Incline and Winding House, better use of the Gunpowder Store at Wharf and the Wharf edge to demonstrate slate transhipment.

Improvements to, or replacement of, the tamping machine and flail-mower would improve efficiency, as would provision of bogie ballast wagons with greater capacity than the existing fleet. The lack of toilet facilities at Nant Gwernol was the most commented upon area for improvement in the passenger surveys and could be addressed as well as similar provision for Blockmen at Quarry Siding and Brynglas. Whether the Blockpost building at Quarry Siding is in the right place, or could be moved to the other end of the loop by the crossing was another consideration.

David Mitchell asked for questions on the presentation.

David Uren asked for the latest situation on the World Heritage Site bid for the Gwynedd Slate Industry. Stuart Williams said that the bid had been approved by the Government as the next to go forward. Public consultation finished at the end of October, and if approved it would go to UNESCO, who were expected to take up to 18 months to decide, so a decision was expected in 2021. The feeling was it would be successful.

Jane Dew had a couple of comments relating to Abergynolwyn. One was the situation where people wishing to buy tickets were interfering with the serving of refreshments when trains were there, and the other was that when there she had collected an amount of sparkly stuff from a wedding held three months previously. Stuart Williams replied that wedding groups were told to use only paper confetti, but once anything else had been thrown in the air it was difficult to gather it. On the ticketing issue he said that the arrangement in place was a pilot for this year and Council would be reviewing how the pilot had worked. The Railway had to offer the opportunity to Gift Aid to all visitors, and the current arrangement had made the behind the scenes work a lot easier. Chris Smith (Engineering Manager) said that significant effort had been made to help the system work. Celia Adams observed that the present arrangement might make things easier behind the scenes, but not for the passengers. Ian Drummond re-iterated that there would be a Review Group for the arrangements at Abergynolwyn.

John Olsen asked what the timeframe was for the Wharf Heritage Carriage shed. Stuart Williams replied that nothing would happen until funds were in place for the project. Fundraising consultants had been engaged to look at a bid to the National Lottery for work at both Wharf and Pendre.

Nigel Adams observed that the Narrow Gauge Railway Museum had been closed because of the lack of a volunteer attendant when a family who had travelled from Bristol arrived specifically to show the Awdry room to their son. Probably against the rules, he had opened the museum and showed the family around, but he urged that every effort should be made to open the Museum.

Sue Whitehouse said that the digital fundraising campaign for the Tŷ Dŵr locomotive watering arrangements was organised by a volunteer away from the Railway, whom we should be proud to acknowledge. Ian Drummond said that MRFS had co-ordinated both the Tŷ Dŵr and Corris Coach appeals and thanked him for his efforts. 

11. Possible changes to the Governance of the Railway

David Mitchell asked David Ventry, Chairman of the Talyllyn Railway Company, to report on the review of Governance.

David Ventry said that progress by the group since last year had been slow as some time had been spent deliberating how to take things forward, to consider the view of last year’s AGM and other representations made since then. However, it was not proposed that there would be any change to the Society’s control of the Railway, and the Council would continue to appoint Directors of Talyllyn Railway Company.

Part of the investigation was to see the approach taken by other railways. The Bluebell Railway had a similar structure, but there was far less overlap between the different areas in its organisation, from which there were a number of learning points. Other railways would also be looked at to find out what not do to, as much as what to do.

Further areas for consideration were whether the 1865 Act had been overtaken by more recent legislation, whether there were any options to increase the size of the Board to bring in the necessary skills, whether Society voting should be changed to include people not present at the AGM, and whether the Society should become an incorporated body. In addition, a specialist adviser will be sought to review whether Talyllyn Holdings’ Articles were sufficiently robust for present legislation.

In light of the views expressed by Roger Whitehouse at last year’s AGM he was being involved in the discussions by the group.

David Mitchell asked for questions on the presentation, but there were none. 

13. Miscellaneous Announcements

Jane Garvey said that she had introduced the Long Service Award scheme at the previous year’s Annual General Meeting and had received twenty five applications, which had all been accepted. She asked Society President David Mitchell to present certificates and lapel badges marking the achievement to those volunteers who were present (*). 10 years service – Anne Hatherill, Simon Nuttall, Chris Parrott*, Will Smith*; 15 years service – Brian Palmer, Sue Palmer, Paul Lazell*; 25 years service – Florence Thorpe, Andrew Young, Derek Allen, Charles Briggs, Jon Richmond*, Justin Adams*; 40 years service – Peter Briggs*, Sara Eade*, Ken Timson, Ray Oliver, Bill Tyndall, Barbara Fuller*; 50 years service – John Burton*, Ian Evans, Tim Hudson; 60 years service – John Gott, John Smallwood*, Gordon Rhodes. Jane Garvey said that arrangements would be made to get the certificates and badges to those who could not be at the meeting and added that the scheme was continuing and encouraged volunteers who reached an appropriate milestone to submit their applications. John Smallwood thanked Jane Garvey for administering the scheme and recalled a family holiday in Aberdovey in 1959, although the rest of his family did not see much of him as he spent much of his time on the Railway.

Justin Adams announced the result of the Traffic & Operating Committee election. There were five candidates for three places. 140 ballot papers had been returned, but two were spoiled as more than three votes had been cast. The votes cast were as follows: Simon Carey 34, Paul Cottrell 95, Matt James 63, Will Smith 97, Josh Green 100 – Paul Cottrell, Will Smith and Josh Green were declared elected. Justin Adams was given permission to dispose of the ballot papers in the traditional manner.

John Robinson advised that Becky Sharpe was not available to announce the result of the Young Members’ Group Committee election. In her absence he announced that there had been five nominations for five vacancies and that the committee would be Adam Davies, Gemma Edwards, Lee Shaw, Luke Ryan and Robert Tait.

Stuart Williams announced that after the auction Chris Smith would show interested members around the industrial estate unit where the new open carriages were being constructed, and outlined the evening’s activities at Wharf station. Keith Theobald added that the Museum would be open from 5 pm to 7 pm, but asked that no food or drink should be taken in.

Tony Randall announced that bookings for Steampipes at The Musical Museum, Brentford on Thursday 28th November were open. There were to be afternoon and evening shows this year. 

13. Any Other Competent Business

Jon Richmond said that 14 and 15 year old members were being prevented from volunteering by an outdated law and asked what was being done to address the situation. David Mitchell responded that the Heritage Railway Association was working with Members of Parliament and representatives in the House of Lords to get the legislation altered. However it was anybody’s guess when there would be a satisfactory resolution.

The collection for the carriage heaters was taken and passed to Garry Mumford.

There being no further business, David Mitchell closed the meeting at 1553 and thanked all the staff and volunteers for their efforts to keep the railway running in fair weather and foul. He added that he looked forward to seeing everybody at the Annual General Meeting next year.