Members stood in silence in memory of the 33 Society Members who had passed away since the last AGM, remembering in particular David Ratcliffe and Mike Heasman who had both served the railway for many years.
Society accounts: Slight increase in subscription income. Bank charges in 2003 reduced, thanks to efforts of Graham Flight and David Foale and will be lower still this year. The loan of £40k to Society from the late Peter Cox (for Ardingly purchase) now shown as donation as loan extinguished on his death.
PLC accounts: Loss of £17k for year which is very good when you consider the level of investment in the railway during 2003 with £642k shown as additions in the capital account. The bulk of this was the Woodpax site and the shop. Bookshop construction costs covered by bank loan; they were very relaxed about our business plan. Woodpax purchase result of wonderful response by Society membership to appeal and goes to show what can be achieved. Funds raised by self-help groups such as BASH, Bluebell Battle of Britain fund and Shed Wall fund allowed capital investment which would not otherwise had been achieved and thanks to them for their efforts. Level of borrowing was modest for size of business. Revenue from Fares, Santa and filming all show increase over 2002. New agreement with MBNA signed but insufficient business to allow picture cards. Catering did well considering downturn in market and pressure on costs, such as minimum wage and health and hygiene regulations. Shop opened ahead of schedule in 2004 and initial trading figures very encouraging.
Society Chairman's Report: Roy started by asking the Fire Dept to remove their resuscitation equipment as he had had seven offers of the kiss of life which was a much better prospect! Completed London Marathon in 4h18m and raised £1,025 towards Brighton saloon fund. The day had started with the complete set of Vice-Presidents and the President in attendance for the Shop opening by Richard Bowker. A number of useful contacts had been gleaned from this event. He thanked David Quarmby for his contributions towards the HLF application and urged members to look through the application and in particular the letters of support. Committee had met more than the minimum number of times and had also held a workshop to discuss volunteer recruitment. 2003 saw a number of major projects: new shop, shed wall, loco works cranes, power supply upgrade, track-laying north of Kingscote. Bluebell did get it right first time on more than one occasion!
Tribute to the work of the Membership and Assistant Membership Secretaries. They were passionate about job and making tremendous efforts to modernise it and make it easier. New database producing some frightening results on age profiles - need to do more to recruit and retain younger members. Ian Aitken (Treasurer) had worked hard to pull accounts together and these were delivered to the auditors ahead of schedule! They were extremely complementary about his professionalism. Tribute to 9F and Stepney Clubs - they were the future of the railway.
For the future there is Haywards Heath and Ardingly and the end of Mark 1 EMUs. Postbag is currently 3:1 urging us to find a home for a DEMU. Need to look at this as we were not going to be here in the future. We cannot exist on emotion.
Thanks to Richard for chairing the meeting and thanks also to Jim Turtle and Graham Ward who were standing down as Trustees.
Bluebell has much respect in the preservation world. People recognise what we do and produce a great standard. We can get to East Grinstead and we WILL get to East Grinstead.
President's Address: Team at Bluebell has done well to produce reports to the AGM. Must aim to complete extension to East Grinstead. Now marked time at Kingscote for 10 years. Graham Flight and extension team done well to purchase remaining strips of land but must deal with the tip as a matter of urgency.
Q & A Session dealt with the appearance from the road of the sleeping coaches at Sheffield Park; the 'domestic' block paviors now being installed to the forecourt at Sheffield Park; lack of lighting in the car park at S/Park; loss of shelter for passengers at S/Park now that the old bookshop has been demolished; the Hove 'ticket' office - members rejected notion that we should have to incur costs to reconstruct it as it was promised to us as a one-piece building.
Extension Report : Started track-laying north of Kingscote thanks to funds from Trust for rail and sleepers and previously acquired ballast from CTRL. Demonstrates that we are making tangible progress and may be used to transport clay capping from tip southwards for disposal.
Draft conveyance document for EG Station site finally received from Network Rail but with lots of errors. Returned with comments and new version received this week, still with errors! Until we own land, difficult to go ahead with any design or planning application. Viaduct still needs some major work to the SE arch and decking. Jim Turtle and his gang have done a lot of work on the viaduct. Security is a problem as despite investing in heavy duty fencing, vandals still access the viaduct and attempt to dislodge capping stones.
A lot of background activity on tip removal. Having to consult widely in accordance with Planning Condition No 7. Public exhibition at EG planned for early June. In negotiation with a mass of statutory bodies all with own agenda. Need to satisfy them and townspeople that removal will be down in a controlled way. Odour tests already carried out. Hope that by end of year we will have green light to empty tip. Removal likely to be by road. Signalling design already completed.
Approx £4m needed to remove tip. Serious sum to find - feasible but have engaged specialist fund raising consultants to advise. December 2006 is still target for completion of extension but may slip to early 2007.
Long Term Plan 2004 - 2007: Thanks recorded to those members who had sent in comments and suggestions. Only minor changes to plan as a lot of what we want to do depends on outcome of HLF application. One item completed (new shop) and major project planned to review usage and facilities at Sheffield Park. Plan adopted.
Motion 1 : Brighton saloon : pre-debate discussion about outcome from last Committee meeting when engineer's report had been discussed. Explained that report had ruled out option of fitting British Standard Gangways as this would entail structural alterations to coach. Report had ignored other gangway options that had been discussion in the 1990s. Onus was now on restoration group to produce business case for use of coach to justify restoration at this stage, given the demands on the company's budget. Motion then formally proposed and seconded and an amendment carried to delete the words "British Standard". Debate ranged from importance of restoring coach to original condition to acknowledging that we needed to generate the revenue to pay for preserving the railway. Show of hands vote on the motion was too close to call but before tellers could be appointed, the motion was withdrawn.
Bluebell Railway Trust : Inland Revenue was the largest individual contributor to the Operation Undercover, providing around £60,000 in reclaimed tax through the Gift Aid Scheme. This is just one example of the great value the Trust is now bringing to the Railway. Trust is providing, in legal terms, a foundation for the Bluebell's museum project to move towards formal registration of a small core collection of artefacts as a registered museum. 2003 was a fantastic year for the Trust - several large bequests received. The Trust has not been slow to spend: rail and sleepers for the extension; new overhead cranes for the loco works; funding for the materials for the restoration of the Chatham Brake No 106, for transport and a tarpaulin for another identical LCDR coach body, and for the Brighton Stroudley First which is moving rapidly towards completion.
Roger Cruse 160 Elected Richard Parfitt 113
Tim Baker 243 Elected Charles Hudson 238 Elected David Foale 220 Elected Nicholas Pryor 218 Elected Lewis Nodes 215 Elected David Tutt 204 Elected Simon Baker 190 Elected Chris Cooper 188 Elected Russell Pearce 187 Elected Sam Bee 181 Elected Chris White 175 Howard Strongitharm 132 Sinclair Vincent 98
Hon Gen Secretary
To Bluebell Home Page, to the Timetable or to Special Events
© Copyright, credits and disclaimer.