Finance: A reasonable start to 2004 with income slightly up as is expenditure. Accounts show that in 2003, over £1m was invested in the railway.
Retail - Shop: The death of Mike Heasman was noted with much sadness and the Society had been well represented at his funeral. A memorial to Mike is planned but the exact form for this has yet to be decided. Interviews had been held for a successor and this will be announced shortly. Staffing is under review, but experience suggests that on busy days, six staff could be needed, who should be volunteer. Initial indications from new shop are that revenue will be around £10k more than last April, but visitor numbers for the month will give a solid indication of performance. Good feedback coming in on new shop development. In accordance with the wishes of his executors, the signed print of Cuneo's Blue Train, which was presented to Peter Cox on his 60th birthday, is now displayed in the shop.
Retail - Catering: Jason Little leaving on Sunday to start his own business in the West Country and Neil Glaskin was also leaving to drive buses. The Committee conveyed their good wishes to both of them for success in their new ventures. Staffing position was tight but much care was needed in selecting replacements. Trading position of Bessemer Arms giving cause for concern, due in part to changing patterns of spend; e.g. a shift towards water and soft drinks away from alcohol. Saturday nights are very quiet and this is to be reviewed.
Extension: Presentation given by Graham Flight & Chris White to East Grinstead Annual Town Meeting on plans for completion of extension. Very positive response and no hostile questioning. Public exhibition will be held in June at Eastcourt for two days following by unmanned exhibition in the Town library. Track laying making good progress and has now reached end of narrow section. Everyone reminded that this is a construction site and unauthorised access is prohibited.
DEMU: Committee considered a request from a Class 205 DEMU group to bring it to the line. Lively and well balanced debate but it was felt important that the Society Membership at large should have input into the debate. Allowing this would end the de facto steam-only 'policy' but we needed to think about the next generation. It was accepted that there was no space a SP or HK for facilities to service and maintain non-steam stock but Ardingly may give scope for a non-steam depot to be established in the future.
Locomotives: Decision of NRM to retain Q1 after its visit to Railfest noted but it is disappointing that this appeared in railway press before Society told. NRM also want 473 for Railfest but we cannot release it from traffic. 488 to be offered (which they could have on longer term loan) but it is understood that NRM's requirement is for steamable engines. Requests received from three other lines to borrow the 'Dukedog' but all declined on the grounds that we want to get at least 5 years use of the engine before we consider loaning it out and that our own motive power needs have priority. 'Leander' confirmed for Giants of Steam weekend.
Request for permission to build an erecting shed for the Brighton Atlantic declined for time being as Committee wants to look at future developments at Sheffield Park as a whole rather than on a piecemeal basis.
Brighton Saloon: Outcome of engineer's report ruling out scope for fitting gangways to vehicle noted though this did not seem to take account of 1997 study which did come up with feasible option. Brighton Saloon Group now need to develop Business Plan justifying expenditure and resources on the basis that gangways will not be fitted. Group needs to be careful not to close off all options at this stage.
Carriage & Wagon: Minutes of Rolling Stock committee noted. Enquiries received about selling coaches and it was confirmed that coaches 16263 and 48 are not for sale. 3116 is for sale but only available for release once 1336 is complete. The recently acquired BG is also required for future Santa operations. The `Swanage' Dance Hall brake cannot be released after restoration as this would conflict with the terms of the standard loan agreement for vehicles brought to the railway.
Society Committee: This was the last Committee meeting for Graham Ward and Jim Turtle and tribute was paid to them for their contribution and efforts over the years which will be recognised at the forthcoming AGM.
Hon Gen Secretary
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