Musings of the Chairman
This is where the Chairman, Chris Moore, shares his musings on things around the railway and the society
© Liam Barnes
This Remembrance Sunday as along with our neighbours we observed the socially distanced two minutes silence on our doorsteps I reflected on past ceremonies at the war memorial on the over-bridge at Bolton Street Station. The start of the silence being signalled by the Station Master's whistle and the end by the whistles of locomotives in the station.
Remembrance Sunday traditionally afforded us the opportunity to gather and give thanks for the sacrifice of those members of the East Lancashire Railway who served during the Great War and in some cases paid the ultimate cost. This year, although the railway is locked down wreaths have been laid on behalf of the East Lancashire Railway Preservation Society and the East Lancashire Light Railway Company.
© Martin McCann
We must also remember that In the Second World War far fewer railway staff lost their lives on active service; those who did are generally commemorated on the main memorials of the ‘Big Four’ railways. However, more railway staff died in bombing raids, and in other ways on duty at home. Remembrance Sunday allows us to give thanks for their service.
2020 has been a traumatic year for the railway, we started the year full of hope, the 2019 Santa season had been successful, we were ready to welcome back the iconic Flying Scotsman and 60009 Union of South Africa was to spend its last working days on ELR rails. Sadly, in March that all changed and although we were able to operate limited services from August, we are again closed and have lost at least one weekend of Santa operations.
My thanks go to all the paid staff and volunteers who worked tirelessly to bring the railway back into service and produce all the risk assessments and method statements to ensure we were Covid Compliant. Whilst the railway has successfully applied for a Business Interruption Loan and received significant grant aid this does not make up for the lost revenue. The East Lancashire Railway is a piece of cultural heritage which we cannot afford to lose. It provides the opportunity for us in the older generation to re-live our lost youth and for the youth of today to discover the splendour of heritage locomotives.
On 13 October 2016 we took our then 5-year-old grandson on his first ride behind the Flying Scotsman. The look of awe and wonder on his face as the Scotsman majestically glided into Platform 3 is something we will always treasure.
Shortly after this Finley became one of the youngest, if not the youngest, member of the Preservation Society. He and the many other Young Person Members are our future.
© Chris Moore
I am pleased to advise that the East Lancashire Light Railway Company will be re-instating the three full line return trips that Society members can access via their membership cards. These trips are within the gift of the railway company and I fully supported the decision to suspend them to maximise income on the reduced services.
This year the Society has contributed £135k to supporting the railway and helping to ensure its future for Finley and future generations, but we can only continue to provide support to the railway if you renew your membership when it becomes due.
As always, my very best wishes to you and your family and keep safe
Firstly, it is my sad duty to advise of the passing of the following Society members: Paul Carter, John Ellins and Keith Ringwood, they will be sadly missed.
Well where have the past 3 months gone? My garden has never looked better, decorating completed and all the jobs on the extensive list produced by my wife have been finished – I have every confidence that a new list is being generated as I type. Our thanks go to the many volunteers who are regularly visiting the railway to check all is well.
Sadly, we have no firm date for the re-opening of the railway and when it does re-open, we can expect a number of restrictions in respect of the volume of passengers permitted to congregate and travel. Whilst the railway has been closed, volunteers across the railway have been keeping in contact through Zoom meetings, with the Volunteer Champions Group hosting an Open Forum a couple of weeks ago. Zoom meetings have also been held for Mutual Improvement Personal Track Safety sessions.
We have continued to work closely with the East Lancashire Light Railway Company and provide support for their fund-raising activities. At the time of typing the ELR appeal fund has reached £100,188.75, there is still time to donate using the following link - https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/charity-web/charity/displayCharityCampaignPage.action?charityCampaignUrl=ELRsupportfund.
I would like to express my appreciation to Glenn Clarkson (web-editor) for all his efforts in working with Martin McCann to deliver the ‘Silent Auction’ which is live until 20 June 2020 https://www.32auctions.com/organizations/64372/auctions/80670?t=all. There are eleven lots up for auction including a personal tour by Pete Waterman of his O-gauge model railway. We are currently watching a bidding war for an ELR locomotive nameplate where the current bid is £1,000. I have been approached by a couple of members who whilst very supportive of the auction were concerned that many of the lots were outside the price range of many members who are retired or have reduced incomes. The Society is currently working with the railway to develop a raffle with a spectacular prize, more on this soon.
David Wright kindly donated three OO-gauge locos to be sold in support of the railway appeal. These raised £250 and I would like to thank David for his generosity and Emma Ford for organising the sale via eBay.
You will recall that the recent ballot approved the revised Articles of Association and these are now registered with Companies House. This allows us to commence the application for Charitable Status which brings with it the potential to approach HMRC for Gift Aid, which, with approval, may be back dated.
We are still registering new members, which is a positive sign, but we have to recognise the perilous state of the railway, even with all of the above fund raising the £120k Crisis Grant from the Society and a £400k Business Interruption Loan which will at a later date have to be re-paid with interest. There is no income being generated, many thousands of pounds have had to be refunded, however the Company are still looking at various delivery models to run the highly popular Santa Trains.
The Society Board is fully committed to providing whatever assistance it can to help save the railway.
Finally, the Spring edition of the ELR Review has been produced but we are experiencing delays with our printers who are working with a reduced staffing level to ensure safe distancing within the workplace. We will publish and distribute the magazine as soon as possible.
Keep well, keep safe and I hope to see you on the railway in the very near future.
Message from the Chair
To say we are living in challenging and testing times would be an understatement and I sincerely hope that you and your loved ones are and remain in good health.
In March this year the railway entered a period of lock-down, at this time we have no indication when it will re-open. Events we were all looking forward to have been cancelled or postponed, not only is this disappointing to those who had planned to visit us, it also has a very significant impact on the finances of the operating company due to the loss of revenue and the need to refund advance sales.
The planned visit by Flying Scotsman has been provisionally rescheduled for September, but unfortunately the Britannia weekend and the annual 1940’s event has been cancelled. The railway launched an appeal fund, which the board fully supports, and we publicised this on the website, our Facebook page (@elrps1987) and by e-mail to over 2,500 members. I have been amazed and humbled by the messages of support and encouragement received and the outpouring of love for our railway.
As a member driven society, we have always been prudent as to how we spend your monies and that judiciousness has allowed us to make a £100k ‘Crisis Grant’ to the railway to help in this most difficult period in its history.
Following government guidance, the Society Annual General Meeting scheduled for April had to be cancelled. Members will have received, via post, various reports, documents and a ballot form. Although arrangements were in place to have these out in enough time to allow the content to be digested and votes cast, Coronavirus caused more disruption. Royal Mail, the printers and the mailing house all suffered staffing issues resulting in only 6 days between receipt and the closing date. We took the decision to extend the closing date to 7 May and again this was publicised using the above media.
I had hoped to be able to announce the results of the ballot in this article but instead will utilise our website and the next edition of the ‘Review’. The most important item was the vote to accept the revised Articles of Association that follow the Model Articles published by the Charity Commission, one requirement was the implementation of proxy and postal voting, it would appear that we have already met that requirement.
Hopefully the Irwell Valley will soon reverberate with the sound of heritage locomotives, our platforms filled with excited children looking forward to a day out and like-minded enthusiasts discussing the merits of various classes of locomotive.
In the meantime, keep safe and well
WE WILL MEET AGAIN
May I start by welcoming the 53 new members who joined the Society in January and take the opportunity to remind anyone who has not renewed, that their membership will lapse on the 31st of March and they will no longer be able to access the members area of this site or attend the AGM.
The Society Board has been very active since the start of the year, our application for charitable status was submitted to the Charity Commission and has been subject of a first review. The Charity Commission has directed us to the ‘Model Articles of a Registered Charity’ and advised that our existing articles, which were suitable when we formed a Company Limited by Guarantee, do not meet the requirements of a registered charity.
Following several meetings, we have produced a document that meets the conditions imposed by the regulator and protects your existing rights and privileges of membership, for Associate Members it enhances their rights as it will allow them to attend and vote at General Meetings of the Society. The proposed articles will be landing on your doorstep within the next couple of weeks and will be put to the AGM to be held on 21st April 2020 for ratification. Should you have any questions about the articles please address them to me at email@example.com or phone me on 07840 110448.
In line with our agreement to fund the track relay on the Irwell Vale Section we have made an interim payment of £19k to cover the costs of the first materials, however due to extreme weather conditions at the beginning of February it is unlikely that the project will commence before October.
We are supporting the ELR in their application for a grant to develop a dedicated educational suite at the Bury Transport Museum and further information will be provided once the result of the application is announced.
We are keeping a careful watch on government guidance following the outbreak of coronavirus (#COVID19) and urge all Volunteers to check the advice issued by the ELR on ‘HOPS’. Dependent on the control measures imposed it may become necessary to re-schedule the AGM, we will give as much notice as possible if this happens.
New Year Chunterings
May I take this opportunity on behalf of the Society Directors to wish you and your families a Happy and peaceful 2020.
2019 was another busy and successful year for the ELRPS, but also a sad one as we lost Harry Hatcher our Honorary Vice President in February and Pam Pinder our Membership Secretary in March.
We started the year by incorporating the Society to a Company Limited by Guarantee and ended it with a resolution to apply for Charitable Status.
Taking production of the ELR Review in-house has enabled us to make considerable savings and our Web Site is proving a great asset, particularly as new members can join on line and a number of existing members are using the site to re-new their memberships.
We have again provided significant funding to projects across the ELR and still retain a significant reserve, certainly enough to meet any requirements imposed by the Charity Commission.
During 2019 I was present at the unveiling of two memorials, presented two long service awards and attended too many funerals of ELRPS members.
It would be remiss of me not the express our gratitude to our Working Members (volunteers) who gave up their free time to enable the ELR to operate its Santa Services. To quote Mike Kelly “The logistics are breath taking with a record 113 train trips accommodating over 41,000 visitors, where some 18,000 presents had to be colour coded, picked and packed into new reusable bags; around 23,000 bottles and sherry and mince pies are consumed where it’s all hands on deck”.
I have also detailed a review posted to Trip Advisor “Well what can I say apart from “I believe”! My husband and I took my granddaughter (2 yrs) and daughter and son in law on the Santa Train today for the third year running. There is so much for the children. There is also a small cafe and shop. Every year you think they can’t better last years but once again they have pulled out all the stops and it was magical. All staff (Santa’s Elf helpers) are sooooo friendly. They enter into the spirit of Christmas so well at times I actually felt myself welling up. The children were mesmerised. I don’t want to single any one person out (not even the great man himself But I have to mention Mrs Christmas Tree . She is absolutely lovely. It has now become our tradition to have Mrs Christmas Tree pictured with my son in law and granddaughter. May you live for ever and ever Mrs CT, which she will children as she is magical.
I defy anybody not to get taken in by the magic performed here. From the beautiful toys, chocolate and drink for the children to a miniature bottle of sherry (and plastic cup) and mince pie for the adults hiccup! To the magician, Father Christmas, Elf’s and the singalong with the brass band.
So so well done again and already can’t wait for 2020.
Merry Christmas to you all and to all a Goodnight x”.
So if you feel that you can spare some time to assist in the operation of the ELR we would love to hear from you. There are volunteer opportunities across all departments – further information is available on our volunteering page of from the Volunteer Liaison Team – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your continued support of the ELRPS.
December is always a time for reflection, and for the ELRPS it marks our first year as a Company Limited by Guarantee.
For the Board it has been a busy and very productive year; we have continued to provide financial support to infrastructure projects across the railway. We have funded the first part of the platform canopy project at Rawtenstall, funded new steps for Rawtenstall West Signal Box and funded the re-roping of the diesel crane. We are currently discussing projects for 2020 with the ELR.
Following the ELR obtaining charitable status we have now submitted our own application, if successful it will exempt us from taxation and opens the way to discuss gift aid with HMRC.
The recognition of our volunteers who have enabled the railway to become one of the UK’s premier heritage railways has always been high on our agenda. Historically we recognised 20, 30 and 40 years’ service by the awarding of a certificate and embossed tie/cravat. The Board has decided to introduce a 10-year award and certificates are currently being posted to those who have completed between 10 and 19 years’ service. Separate arrangements will be made for the delivery of ties/cravats. In addition, we are introducing a badge that can be worn on uniforms detailing the number of years’ service provided to the railway. Badges will be issued to those who have completed 10, 20, 30 or 40 years service.
We end the year in a strong financial condition and our finances will receive a boost from those who are due to renew their memberships. May I take this opportunity to thank you for your continued support and remind you that you can renew your membership on line.
December is perhaps the railways busiest period and many of us will be actively involved in the Santa services, so I hope that I will meet Society members on or about the railway.
On behalf of the Board may I wish you and your loved ones a Merry Christmas and a happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year.
Update from the Board – October 2019
It has been requested that I produce a monthly update to provide members information on how the Board is managing your Society.
Personally, I think it is a brilliant idea, particularly given our commitment to the membership that we will be fully open and transparent, we are all mindful that it is your Society and that it is your monies we are investing in the railway.
In respect of spending, it is pleasing to see that works are progressing on the erection of the canopy at Rawtenstall Station. Earlier in the year we committed up to £40K to cover the costs or materials and external labour. The final figure will be significantly lower given the generosity of contractors who are undertaking the works free of charge. Steps we took earlier in the year to produce the ELR Review in-house are also paying dividends as production costs have fallen.
Charitable Status is high on our agenda, apart from the advantage of being exempt from VAT and other taxation it will allow us to investigate opportunities to seek Gift Aid on your membership subscriptions, if allowed we can seek to back date our claim by up to three years.
We continue to forge closer links with the ELR, particularly in respect of joint initiatives; we are actively participating in a Joint Fund-Raising Group, where we are pooling our resources and knowledge to attract external funding for the railway.
The date of the 2020 AGM is Tuesday 21st April, so please add this to your diary.
Finally, and sadly I recently attended the funeral of Richard Guthrie a long-term Working Member of the S&T Team and I would like to share a reading given at the end of the service which perfectly described Richard.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather a skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming Wow, what a ride”. (Hunter S. Thompson).