Committee Meeting Minutes 17th March 2023

Cymdeithas Rheilffordd Llyn Tegid

Bala Lake Railway Society

 Minutes of the Committee Meeting held at 7.30 on 17th March 2023, via Zoom


Present: Dave Fildes, Cathy and Martin Houghton, Chris Jackson, Peter Miller, Hilary Moorhouse, Bob Newton, Mat Peacock, Francis Stapleton, Nick Talbot, Tim Williams.

1) Apologies for absence

Dave Scotson


2) President’s Appeal 2023: a proposal from the General Manager

David Jones was not able to come to the meeting in person. In response to requests from the committee for ideas for a Society 50th Anniversary President’s Appeal, he had suggested in writing that it could fund signal posts – both replacement ones (such as at Llanuwchllyn) and new ones (for the Extension).

Peter Miller liked the idea of replacing signal posts which were in poor condition but was not sure whether signals for the Extension were needed in a hurry. He suggested that the Society could perhaps raise money to fund signalling improvements in general, such as functioning token machinery. Dave Fildes thought that the signals for Bala Town should be paid for out of Extension-specific fundraising.

Chris Jackson also thought an appeal to improve the current Railway’s signals would be better and he agreed with David’s point that a signalling-focussed appeal would fit well with the previous Appeal (for Llanuwchllyn Signal Box). Tim Williams believed that token machinery was a low priority for the Railway given that it would only occasionally be used. No vote was taken.


3) Matters arising from the Minutes of the last Meeting, held on 27th January 2023.

Mat Peacock had found and fixed a small number of typographical errors. Dave Fildes proposed that the minutes be accepted and Chris Jackson seconded the motion. It was carried without opposition.

Tim Williams raised the matter of Bob Shell’s nomination of former chairman Brian Wills for honorary Life Membership (with full member’s rights). This has been an ongoing discussion – the committee had been waiting for statements in support of this proposal. It was felt that sufficient evidence in favour had now been received and that Brian Wills had made an exceptional contribution to the Railway as a volunteer and a committee member. Dave Fildes proposed that Brian be granted honorary Life Membership and Nick Talbot seconded the motion, which was passed with one abstention.


4) Membership Fees

On March 2nd, the Membership Secretaries submitted a proposal to the committee by email. They recommended that annual fees be increased. The last fee increase was in August 2015. They had given an indication at the 2022 AGM that an increase would soon be needed. They suggested that, if such an increase was approved at this Meeting, it could be announced in the May 2023 edition of Llanuwchllyn Express and made effective from mid-May.

The Membership Secretaries also advocated a reduction in the differential between Adult and Senior rates. This was in order to maintain the Society’s income given the high and still rising proportion of Senior Members. Cathy Houghton noted that the Severn Valley, for instance, has abolished a reduced membership rate for Seniors due to a similar situation, and the Talyllyn Senior rate is only £1 less per year than the Adult rate (compared with £4.50 less under the current BLR Society prices).

Since the war in Ukraine began, the Secretaries had processed 19 Membership Applications which cover 27 people, 17 of whom were aged 65 or over. 28 entries, amounting to 40 people, had lapsed during the same period, and of these, 22 of the now ex-members are under the age of 65.

The guiding principle followed by the Secretaries – as set out in their report of April 2022 – is that Membership fees should always be more than the cost of a return journey as otherwise people were likely to sign up for a year’s membership instead of just buying tickets.  Therefore, now that the Company had set the fares for 2023, it was time to consider the membership fees. For 2023, the return fare for a Senior is £13.00 if booked online, or £14.00 on the day.  Currently, the Senior membership rate is £13.50. Finally, there was also a need to increase the Overseas Supplements due to considerable increases in international postage costs.

The detailed proposal was as follows:

Type Current Fee Suggested Revised Fee Increase
Adult £18.00 £20.00 +£2.00
Associate £12.00 £14.00 +£2.00
Senior £13.50 £16.50 +£3.00
Family £36.00 £40.00 +£4.00
Junior £12.00 £12.00 unchanged
Dog £  2.00 £  2.00 unchanged
Overseas Europe £  5.50 £  7.00 +£1.50
Overseas Rest of World £  9.00 £11.50 +£2.50

Life Membership fees would remain unchanged  as they were calculated taking the above proposed increase into account. There is still a 17.5% discount for Senior membership relative to Adult. Junior Membership is now defined as up to the age of 21 or longer, until full-time education is completed. This rate was left unchanged in order to help the youngest category of members. The fare for dogs remains unchanged so there’s no reason to change our dog fees.

Chris Jackson suggested that, but for Covid, we would probably have raised fees by now anyway. Dave Fildes asked about how these changes would affect existing members who pay by standing order. Cathy replied that they would have to set up new instructions. Nick Talbot asked whether, as postage is a very significant cost, a Family membership, requiring only one copy of the magazine and one stamp, should go up so much. Cathy responded that the increase was not that much when divided across all the members of a family. Chris then asked whether there might have to be a further increase in the near future. Cathy believed that this would not be necessary for at least two years unless something really bad happened. Peter Miller spoke in favour of the general principle of relating membership fees to fare prices. Dave Fildes proposed that the new rates should be accepted, with Peter Miller seconding and all present in favour.


5) Slates to Velinheli

Francis Stapleton had nothing to report further to the previous meeting, except that Nigel Bird had now sold his last copy of the current edition of this book. Chris Jackson and Francis will continue working on an updated edition, and will seek the Maid Marian Locomotive Fund’s approval (since they hold the copyright). Nick Talbot and Dave Fildes offered their assistance as proof-readers and copy-checkers if a new edition does happen, and in general the Meeting was strongly in favour of supporting this venture if at all possible.


6) Warley Stand 2023

Tim Williams asked for £300 budget to cover sending a stand to the Warley Model Exhibition again – the stand sent in 2022 had been well-received by the show-goers. This sum was to cover predicted show fees and the purchase of two extra tickets so that two more volunteers could attend and help staff the stand. Chris Jackson proposed that this should be approved, with Francis Stapleton seconding, and a unanimous vote in favour.


7) AGM and Members’ Day 2023 (20th and 21st May)

a) Organisation

Mat Peacock asked about mixed trains. Tim Williams believed that a mixed train would be able to run on the Sunday if a volunteer guard could be found (Chris Jackson offered to help). Mat again advocated having a Society stall and this was generally felt to be a good idea. Finally, Mat asked about the catering budget, and Tim Williams suggested that we allocate £200 maximum for light refreshments. Chris Jackson proposed such a motion, with Bob Newton seconding it, and all were in favour.

b) Matters for the AGM Agenda apart from the Code of Conduct and Elections

Mat reminded the Meeting that the committee made an undertaking at the 2022 AGM to look into the whole question of the status and responsibilities (if any) of the President and Vice-Presidents.  Chris Jackson agreed that this needed doing but that, given the shorter-than-usual time between the 2022 AGM and the 2023 AGM, it would be acceptable to postpone this discussion for now. No vote was taken but the idea of looking at this issue after the 2023 AGM was generally accepted.

c) Code of Conduct / Disciplinary Procedure

A good deal of discussion took place on this topic but agreement was not reached – not even on whether the above would be the right titles. The Code of Conduct group had spent a great deal of time working on a revised proposal and received the thanks of the Meeting for doing this. At the start of the discussion, Mat Peacock suggested an indicative vote to show how close or otherwise the elected officers of the Society were to agreement, but Dave Fildes absolutely rejected this idea.

One of the key issues raised was child safety, with some people wanting there to be background checks to reduce the risks to our younger members and non-member young volunteers as much as possible. Others believed that most or all of the risks related to occasions when the young people were volunteering, bringing the discussion back to what, if any, role the Society should have in regulating volunteer activity. Several people suggested that if we were to apply the existing Company regulation (that junior volunteers should always be accompanied by a responsible adult from their own family) to the few occasions where our members volunteer away from the Railway, that would be sufficient.

There was also considerable discussion of a related point – should all members have to sign an undertaking that they have no criminal record and are not currently under police investigation? Again, this principle had both strong supporters and strong opponents. It was suggested that perhaps this might be more appropriate for elected persons than members in general, but no agreement was reached.

There was also more wide-ranging discussion to do with protecting members from discriminatory and aggressive language and behaviour, and also about holding members to a high standard of conduct at the Railway and when representing the Railway or any organisation related to it. Coupled with this discussion was a debate as to the practicalities of any such scheme, particularly with regard to its enforcement.

All present were keen that the Society should be a safe organisation in the best interests of the Bala Lake Railway. However, with no agreement having been reached on what action could or should be taken in this regard, after over an hour of debate, the ‘Code of Conduct’ group was asked to continue its deliberations. Further ideas from the Committee and other elected officers were likely to be contributed.

It was decided that another Committee meeting should be held in April, before the AGM, with Friday 21st proposed (later amended to Saturday 22nd).

d) Elections

There were no matters to be discussed under this heading.


8) Any Other Business

Francis Stapleton updated the Committee about the Rhiwbach Tramway tank wagon which he had spoken about at the previous meeting. The current owner wants £1500 for it (which is the low end of what a slate wagon sells for at the moment). Francis suggested that this wagon would be an ideal addition to our Museum collection and Heritage Fleet. However, he did not have any pictures of the wagon or any information about its condition – he will continue investigating.


The Meeting closed at 21.34. Minutes recorded by Mat Peacock.

Mat P

Society Secretary