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Held at The Magic Lantern Cinema, Corbett Square, Tywyn, Gwynedd on Saturday 30th September 2023 and live streamed on Microsoft Teams 

On the platform were Chris Price (TRPS President), Bill Heynes (TRPS Chair), David Ventry (TR Co Chair), Andrew Simner, (TRPS Hon Secretary and TR Co Secretary) and Garry Mumford (TRPS Hon Treasurer and TR Co Accountant). There were some 125 members present and 60 devices logged on to the Microsoft Teams live-stream. 

Chris Price opened the meeting at 13:30 saying that it was a relief to those on the platform that the meeting was quorate. He introduced the platform party, noting that 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. He explained that the meeting was being live streamed on Microsoft Teams and thanked Luke Ryan and his team for managing this. He added that members watching the event on-line could submit questions via the Teams Question and Answer facility, which would be read out by the Hon. Secretary, but would not be able to vote. 

The meeting stood in silence in memory of members who had passed away over the past year, including Justin Adams, Margaret Barnes, George Gardiner, Bob Hey, Gareth Jones, Peter Kent Mason, Ken Timson and Ian Wood. 

Liz Porrett then explained that the collection at the meeting would be put towards the purchase of equipment to ensure the safety of people working at height in the Locomotive Shed at Pendre while cleaning engines. She elaborated that the ORR was taking greater interest in heritage railways’ safety arrangements for their staff after several accidents elsewhere and that it is essential that proper arrangements are in place on the TR to prevent similar accidents. 

Chris Price summarised the agenda for the meeting. 

1. Apologies 

Apologies for absence had been received from Vice-President John Bate and his wife Olwen, Council Candidate Rob Plumridge, Anthony Coulls, Andy Lawton, Bill Tyndall, Jane Thornton and many other members who had been unable to get to Tywyn. 

2. Minutes of the 71st AGM 

The Minutes of the 71st AGM of the Society, held in Tywyn on Saturday 24th September 2022 and live streamed on Microsoft Teams, having been circulated to members of the Society at that date, were suggested by Chris Price to be taken as read. Proposed by Bob Cambridge and seconded by Chris Hill, the minutes were approved without dissent, and Chris Price signed them as being a true record. 

3. There were no Matters arising from the Minutes of the 71st Annual General Meeting. 

4. Election of President 

Bill Heynes took the chair and asked the meeting to approve Council’s nomination of Chris Price as President. This was agreed. Chris Price resumed the chair and remarked that the meeting had missed its opportunity to appoint a replacement. He continued that he considered it an immense honour to be re-elected President of the TRPS. 

5. Incorporation of the Society as a Company Limited by Guarantee 

Chris Price invited Andrew Simner and David Ventry to explain the proposition of the Council. 

Full details of the proposition had been previously circulated to Members and also the subject of two information and question and answer sessions. 

David Ventry outlined the changes that have occurred affecting the governance of the Society since it was formed in 1950, the drawbacks of the current arrangement, the advice sought and the benefits of incorporation as a Company Limited by Guarantee. 

Andrew Simner explained the effect the proposed arrangements would have on the size of the elected Council and that Council Members would be Statutory Directors. There would be no changes to Talyllyn Holdings Limited or the Talyllyn Railway Company. 

David Ventry explained that there would be no change to eligibility for membership of the Society, other than the withdrawal of membership for dogs, but that as Statutory Members had to be at least 16 years old a new Junior Friends Member category would be introduced. If the proposition is approved the application of proxy voting would allow on-line and/or postal ballots and provide indemnity for Council Members and Officers from personal liability. 

Chris Price asked for questions on the proposal from the floor. 

David Uren asked whether junior members would be able to vote. Andrew Simner responded that only Statutory members are allowed to vote, so Junior members under the age of 16 would not be able to vote. 

Sue Whitehouse asked if there would be any effect on Life Members, in particular those enrolled as such at birth. Andrew Simner replied that Life Members would move seamlessly from the unincorporated body to the incorporated body. 

Chris Price explained voting for this matter was one of the items on the voting slips handed out on entry to the meeting. Later in the meeting (after Item 14) Roger Whitehouse, Returning Officer, advised that there had been 137 votes in favour of the proposition and 2 votes against. The proposition was therefore carried

6. Membership subscription rates 

Chris Price said that a subscription to the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society was one of the best buys on the planet and asked for questions from the meeting about the proposed increases to subscription rates. The proposed new rates were Life £660, Senior Life £600, Associate Life £400, Associate Senior Life £300, and for annual membership Ordinary £33, Senior, £30, Associate £20, Junior £17, Associate Junior £6 and new categories of membership if Incorporation of the Society is approved Junior Friends £17 and Associate Junior Friends £6. 

Chris Price asked for questions from the floor but there were none. He then explained that voting for this matter was another item on the voting slips handed out on entry to the meeting. Later in the meeting (after item 14) Roger Whitehouse, Returning Officer, advised that there had been 136 votes in favour of the new subscription rates and 4 votes against. The proposition was therefore carried

7. Appointment of Auditors to the Society 

Chris Price called for nominations for the Society’s Auditors. The reappointment of McBrides Accountants LLP was proposed by Jane Garvey, seconded by Chris Hill, and agreed by the meeting. 

8. Election of Honorary Secretary 

Andrew Simner had been nominated in accordance with the Rules; this was put to the meeting by Chris Price and agreed without dissent. 

9. Election of members of Council 

Chris Price asked Andrew Simner to read out the names of the thirteen candidates who had been nominated for Council. Those present identified themselves by standing. Andrew Simner explained that each member could cast up to eleven votes, but if the proposition for Incorporation was carried only the nine candidates with the most votes for them would be elected to the new Council. Ballot papers were then collected. 

Later in the meeting (after Item 14) Roger Whitehouse announced the results. 140 papers had been returned with one being spoiled. A recount had taken place between the 9th and 10th placed candidates. The votes cast were as follows: Shirley Atkinson 57, Jane Garvey 69, Keith Hayes 92, Bill Heynes 113, Ellis Jacklin 49, Matt James 97, Gareth Jones 101, Lis Mann 93, Rob Plumridge 82, John Robinson 84, Keith Theobald 88, Mark Tibbutt 83, David Ventry 119. Mrs. Mann and Messrs Hayes, Heynes, James, Jones, Robinson, Theobald, Tibbutt and Ventry were declared elected. Permission was given to destroy the ballot papers in the usual way. 

10. Reception, Approval and Adoption of the Report of Council 

Chris Price called on Bill Heynes to present the report of Council.  

Bill Heynes referred to the report printed in the Annual Report section of the September 2023 issue of Talyllyn News and then recalled significant events of the last twelve months. He was pleased to report that John Bate had been recognised for his contribution over very many years to the Talyllyn Railway to be a Members of the Order of the British Empire (MBE). This was greeted with applause. 

He referred to management staff changes – the departure of Stuart Williams earlier in the year and the assumption of his responsibilities by Liz Porrett and Lorraine Simkiss, and the very recent departure of Engineering Manager Chris Smith. 

The work of the Governance sub-committee had borne fruit with the earlier proposition put to the meeting, but there is still more work to do. 

Coal continued to dominate conversations in the locomotive department. Alternative sources and products have been trialled, but a recent delivery had been obtained from Ffos-y-Fran mine whose future is the subject of a legal challenge. 

Events during the year included Founders’ Day, Talyllyn Women’s Day, very successful Awdry Extravaganza weekend and most recently the Heritage weekend. Staff and volunteers were thanked for the time and effort they put into planning these events. 

Engineering work had been undertaken at the Vale of Rheidol Railway (Locomotives Nos. 2 Dolgoch, and 4 Edward Thomas) and Carriage No. 4 (Lulu) and at Boston Lodge Works on new carriage No. 24. 

Maintenance and repair of the carriage fleet at Pendre by a new carriage foreman and a reinvigorated Wednesday Club was recognised, as were those who attended locomotive working parties and were involved in painting Locomotive No. 1 Talyllyn in readiness for its return to service. 

A plea was made for volunteers to join outdoor week working parties and the particular shortage of diesel drivers at these events was commented upon. Hedge laying is another outdoor activity which improves the lineside environment and so gives our passengers better views from the train. 

Ian Drummond had indicated his intention to step down from the role as Fund Raising Officer last year. Fortunately, he has continued in this very important role. The meeting recorded its thanks to him with a round of applause. 

Volunteer accommodation at Llechfan and Angorfa had been well used throughout the year, and thanks are due to those who manage this resource for the railway. 

The Young Members’ Group, Tracksiders, Navvies and Under-16 training programmes all play an important part in securing the next generation of volunteers; all their efforts and those of the organisers are appreciated. 

A working group had been set up to understand the details of the work undertaken by the Membership Secretaries as Peter and Rachel Featherstone start the handover of the role. The service of Peter and Rachel Featherstone over many years was recognised with a round of applause. 

Bill Heynes concluded by thanking members and volunteers for their support during his first year as Chair and which may be the last of the Society as an unincorporated body. 

11. Reception, Approval and Adoption of the Report of the Honorary Treasurer 

Chris Price invited Garry Mumford to present the report of the Honorary Treasurer. 

Garry Mumford referred to the Annual Report distributed in the September 2023 News and highlighted the significant financial challenges faced by the railway coming out of the pandemic. 

The operating financial performance is proving exceptionally difficult in what is possibly the biggest financial challenge heritage railways have ever faced. There are significant increases in costs across the board due to inflationary pressures, compliance, local competition forcing up payroll costs and paying staff where no volunteers are available. There are no means of increasing net income to offset these costs as visitors will compare our fares to other attractions and the volume of visitors to the area is static. 

However, the railway is in a good position as it has substantial cash reserves. At the peak of the annual cash cycle, this is over £1.7m, very similar to the same time last year, but the annual grant from the Society can no longer offset the Railway Company deficit. Increasing support is needed through other income sources via Talyllyn Holdings. 

For many years Talyllyn Holdings has provided support, both for items of a capital nature, and against some employment costs and this need continues. Although Talyllyn Holdings is sitting on substantial cash reserves these are needed to cover its capital commitments. 

After last year’s large deficit, budgeted improvements this year are coming through. At the end of the previous week year to date Company income was up over 10% on 2022. The performance in the Cafés has significantly improved and the Shop continues to do well. Paying passenger bookings are slightly down on last year, but members’ travel is significantly higher. Most of the benefit of this year’s fare rises has been realised. 

Costs are still climbing at a rate which are not matched by increased income. Coal had risen to be three times as expensive as before the pandemic. 

The Board continues to monitor closely the financial performance, and this reflects in the Board’s decision making, carefully evaluating the affordability of larger capital projects. We must rigorously assess our ability to match-fund grant income and still retain sufficient reserves. These decisions are often very difficult to make; more are on the horizon in relation to redevelopment and other projects. 

Donations and legacies make an important contribution. Legacies have averaged over £200,000 a year over the past 5 years, and the Heart of Gold group monthly donations are nearly £60,000 a year including Gift Aid. 

The Company is not delivering a desirable financial performance although careful management is bringing some improvements. 

He concluded his report by thanking those people whose help and support made his job possible. 

Chris Price asked for questions on the report of Council and Society financial statements, but there were none. 

Chris Hill proposed the acceptance of the report of Council and Society financial statements, seconded by Nigel Adams and agreed by the meeting without dissent. 

12. Update from Railway Management 

Chris Price introduced a recorded review of the year so far presented by Liz Porrett and Lorraine Simkiss. 

Liz Porrett referred to staff changes – the departure of Stuart Williams and Chris Smith and the arrival of Nick Broster, Heritage Project Manager, and the appointment of an engineering apprentice. 

Lorraine Simkiss outlined the special events that had taken place during the year – Stations at Stations, Talyllyn Women’s Day (which had resulted in an excellent article in Steam Railway magazine) Founders’ Day at which Loco. No.2 returned to service and new open carriage No. 27 was on display, Anything Goes gala, a couple of beer festivals, the hugely successful Awdry Extravaganza weekend which generated revenue in excess of £54,000, Coronation Day specials and guided Slate Trail Trains in June and September which have resulted in some excellent feedback about the event and its guides. The social side of the railway is important to maintain and develop; the summer MAC barbecue had been revived and was very well attended. Future events are the autumn diesel day, Halloween Steam and Scream trains, the Santa Specials and the bonfire and fireworks night at Tynllwyn campsite.  

The performance of both catering and shop has been very strong, and passenger figures remain buoyant, but as ever volunteers are always needs to help run the special events and the daily train service. This year there have been 65 applications from new volunteers, 150 of the railway’s volunteers are under 25 years of age and there have been more volunteers than ever from overseas. More accommodation that is affordable for volunteers is being investigated to ensure that they have somewhere to stay when working on the railway. 

Dregiau Cadi, a Welsh language children’s programme filmed on the TR through the auspices of Phil Higginson is currently being broadcast on S4C, showing the railway at its best to a new and local audience who will hopefully be inspired to visit. More filming is in the pipeline. 

Much valuable publicity had been obtained by attendance at model railway exhibitions, where members are also being recruited, benefitting from personal contact at these events. 

Liz Porrett reported on the railway’s sponsorship of a beehive at Rhydyronen apiary and the planting of 180 saplings and a number of more mature trees to replace ash trees suffering from ash dieback which had been felled; a by-product of this was the opening up of the vista at Abergynolwyn station. The ecology report for the orchard site (with its one resident badger) at Pendre had been updated. Buildings maintenance work at Pendre had seen the Loco shed reroofed with reclaimed slates and new gutters provided. On the carriage fleet side, the appearance of Open No. 8 in blue and cream at the Awdry extravaganza was well received, and new door locks on carriages 23, 24 and 27 are undergoing testing prior to safety verification sign off. The visit of Corris (battery) Locomotive No. 9 for the heritage weekend, and the delivery of their new Locomotive No. 10 may herald further collaboration between the two railways. Work on the overhaul of Locomotive No. 1 had been managed with Microsoft Project, which monitors the resources used and predicts a completion date of 21st March 2024. Following last year’s reveal of the application of Great Eastern Railway blue to Talyllyn when it returns to service, this year’s announcement is that No. 4 Edward Thomas will be painted in Kerr Stuart grey at the end of its overhaul. 

Liz Porrett and Lorraine Simkiss concluded their review of the last year by thanking all the volunteers and staff for the support they had received since Stuart Williams had left. 

Chris Parrott observed that an event which had been omitted from the management review was the visit by Tywyn Primary School in mid-February which had allowed the railway to show the children and staff its resources and was an excellent way of getting the Talyllyn known better by the local community. 

Chris Price invited Ian Drummond to provide some background to the 75 appeal which will be launched next year. 

Ian Drummond said that unlike some heritage railways which had launched appeals about their future survival, the Talyllyn was in the happy position of being able to launch a major appeal to support our future development and introduced a video presentation “Preserving Our Past, Building Our Future” featuring Liz Porrett, Lorraine Simkiss, Nick Broster and Ian Drummond who explained the development phase of the National Lottery Heritage Fund project for capital works at Pendre, improving the visitor experience and  provision of accessible volunteer accommodation. The 75 Appeal is planned be launched in March 2024; help is sought for ideas and whom to invite to the launch of the biggest project since the Nant Gwernol extension.  

13. Miscellaneous Announcements 

Jane Garvey thanked those people who had submitted applications for Long Service Award scheme, although there had been fewer than last year. She outlined the application process and encouraged those eligible for an award to apply. The awards are not just for operational volunteering, but also for work which does not necessarily have to take place in Tywyn. All the original Tracksiders could apply for their 25-year awards if still active on the railway. Those who have already received an award may update and resubmit their application when they reach the next milestone. Awards this year have been made to Andrew Young (30 years) and Steve Powell (50 years). Awards for Anthony Coulls (25 years), Ray Oliver (40 years) and Lauren Weaver (10 years) are awaiting presentation. Shirley Atkinson was presented with her 10-year award at the meeting. 

Luke Ryan advised that the composition of the Young Members’ Group Committee for the next year is Matt Jordan (Secretary), William Sewell (Treasurer), Poppy Wakeham (Social events), Ffion Freeman (Working Parties) and himself as Chair. 

John S. Robinson said that for many years Justin Adams had been the Traffic & Operating Committee’s returning officer. Following his sad death earlier this year the committee had decided not to appoint a replacement immediately. He continued that there were three nominations for three places on the committee and therefore Josh Green, Bill Heynes and Will Smith were declared re-elected unopposed. 

Josh Green advised that the bar at Wharf Station would be open that evening from 19:45 and there would be a film show by David Mitchell in the Slater Room. He added that tickets for the Bonfire and Fireworks event at Tynllwyn campsite on 28th October are now on sale through Wharf booking office. 

Keith Theobald said that forthcoming outdoor activities would focus on Ty Mawr bank from 11th to 27th November, a long outdoor weekend at the end of January 2024 and Spring Outdoor week dealing with Fach Goch straight. He also added that new Museum attendants were always welcome. 

David Broadbent said that the Railway Letter Service had issued a set of stamps marking the 70th anniversary of The Titfield Thunderbolt. Covers will be on sale in Wharf shop from the following day. 

14. Any other Competent Business 

Ian Howitt referred to the earlier discussion about Incorporation. He considered that being able to vote at AGMs was the cherry on the cake for attending, and wondered if the provision for remote voting could be deleted from the proposal. Andrew Simner responded that the voting issue was driven by Companies Act legislation, and all members must be given the opportunity to vote whether or not they were present at the meeting. 

Ian Howitt regretted that he no longer got to Tywyn as frequently as he would like, but when here he frequents Wharf café and commended the breakfasts available there. 

Sue Whitehouse wished to know how the information gathered from the signing on sheets was used, and for how long the sheets are kept. Liz Porrett replied by signing on, volunteers are confirming that they are fit for duty and sheets are kept only for as long as necessary should a check be required. David Ventry added that storage implications means that document retention policy is presently being discussed. Martin Rogers said that the Health & Safety at Work Act sets out requirements for record keeping which needs to be borne in mind when reviewing the retention policy. 

At this point Roger Whitehouse announced the results of the ballots under items 5, 6 and 9. 

The collection for the Pendre Locomotive Shed safety system was taken and passed to Garry Mumford. 

There being no further business, Chris Price closed the meeting at 1510 and thanked those attending the meeting, adding that he was proud to be associated with the organisation which is still active and vibrant after very many years.