2021 AGM – BLRS Chairman’s report

Dear Members,  

In September 2020 we held our first virtual AGM, due to Covid 19 restrictions. The winter following that AGM saw a return to greater Covid restrictions across the UK, which again declared the railway out-of-bounds for most of our volunteers, with only the most local being able to support activities on site. The Society remained active, providing the regular ‘Virtual Eagles’ on-line social events, and with the committee meeting virtually. Improvement in the way we use modern communications technology has been a positive change during this difficult time, and I’m delighted that the AGM this year is a hybrid event with people able to join remotely or in person. The members’ area on the website is another innovation, and I hope people are finding this useful. The Virtual Eagles will return in the winter and committee meetings will continue mostly online – reducing our carbon footprint and making the committee more accessible to a wider group of people.  

I’m pleased that we have been able to develop further a society mission statement for presentation today, and for me personally, the role of BLRS in supporting the community elements of the Railway eco-system are a key element of how the Society plays its part. The Virtual Eagles, Llanuwchllyn Express (under the expert editorship of Nick Talbot) and today’s members’ day are all very important elements of this, and I look forward to us developing further aspects of this as we go forward next year. I’m also pleased that society membership is increasing year on year, and my thanks to Cathy and Martin Houghton for their efficient management of the membership applications and renewals.  

Sadly, the September model show has been cancelled due to policy at the venue, who are not able to support external bookings this year. Dave Fildes has stepped down from the role of co-ordinating the show. I thank Dave for taking this on this year, and I’m pleased that he remains active in other areas of work – more later. I’m also delighted that Mat Peacock has offered to fill this gap, and look forward to seeing the event develop for next year.  

Once Spring arrived, we were able to slowly return to the railway. The Society has been active leading and supporting several initiatives.  

Bala Re-railed caused much discussion over the winter, with the date falling close to the partial lifting of covid restrictions and in a period of great uncertainty. Huge thanks to Tim Williams, our Vice-Chairman, who had the vision to see how a covid secure event could be delivered and pursued it with determination and enthusiasm. The team work leading up to the event was amazing to see, and the event was a great success. Well done to Tim, and a thanks to all involved.  

The repairs to the Llanuwchllyn Signal box have progressed using the president’s appeal funding, and those in person will have seen some of the activities currently underway. Thanks to Dave Fildes for making such progress in challenging covid conditions, and to Chris Scott, Francis Stapleton and others who have been helping with the work.  

We have also taken an active role with the railway’s other signal box, and the wider Llangower station area. Four working days have taken place this year so far, making good progress on completing the signal box, which has had a new roof, completion of some woodwork, most of a coat of paint externally, and is starting to be fitted out internally. The site has been improved with planters and generally kept more tidy than in previous years. Plans for the site are in development, and we’d love to hear your views. We have started to sell drinks and snacks again after a gap of over 30 years, with all proceeds going to support the work within the station limits. Please look out for more working days over the winter, which will fit in with other railway working weekends, subject to any covid restrictions.  

The arrival of the BLR Dragon has caused excitement on site and on social media, and it’s been great that the society has been part of this, working in partnership with the company. It’s a magnificent specimen, and fits beautifully. Thanks to Nick Talbot who was instrumental in making it all happen. I’m sure it will continue to be a crowd puller for many years to come.  

The BLRS publicity stand outings have been limited, although we did manage to provide a stand for the Statfold Quarry Hunslet event. We need more people who are willing to take the Bala Lake Railway ‘on the road’, and have a fairly well developed set of displays and ways of working this. If you can help, please get in touch – full equipment and training provided.  

On the subject of Accommodation, progress has been limited due to lack of personnel. A very small and select team of volunteers has supported with a deep clean at the start of the season, and periodic intensive cleaning through the season – thank you if you were one of these volunteers.  

The accommodation fund is healthy, and I strongly believe we should be spending the money given by users on the accommodation to make it better. This will be a focus in the new committee year, but if you can help, please get in touch. It’s not all about refurbishment – we need better signs to help volunteers to understand how to keep the accommodation in good condition, advising where to find cleaning materials. We need a better system for laundry to avoid people having to sit surrounded by laundry in the evening. We need user surveys to understand what is wanted by people who stay there. We need to look at the static caravan provision, and consider whether a newer van could replace the existing, and also to look at proper drainage / waste water provision for the caravans. These can be done by different people, so if one task on that list appeals, please get in touch! We need a task force, not a single person doing everything.  

Finally, a huge thank you to Mat Peacock, who stepped into the Secretary role and has made huge progress in keeping us on track, to Dave Scotson for his continued treasuring, and his wise counsel and experienced voice at committee meetings, to David Jones and the staff of BLR for their continued support and collaboration, and to the whole committee for their continued work and support.  

Best wishes 

Dave Rutt 

BLRS chairman