The Helston Railway Preservation Society’s AGM was held on Wednesday 17th July. The following report of the past year was given by Chris Heaps, Chairman of the Charity.
Chairman’s Report for the Charity’s Activities since July 2018
The Helston Railway Preservation Society (HRPS) exists to facilitate the development of the Helston Railway project and to advance the education of the public in railway history.
In the year 2018/19, subscriptions to HRPS exceeded £8,500, about 5% more than in the previous year, and donations exceeded the extraordinary total of £60,000 (0nly a little less than in 2017/18). Since the end of the financial year in February, £50,000 has been spent on the purchase of further track-bed beyond Truthall Halt, but we still have funds in hand to purchase some further land.
Our current satisfactory financial position is the result of further generous donations from members including, in particular, from Geoff Childs. However, we cannot rely on donations, and you will see from the Agenda that the trustees are proposing a modest increase in the subscription from 2020. If HRPS is to purchase further track-bed towards Helston, additional funds will need to be raised and the trustees are also considering launching a new appeal for funds later in the year.
Meanwhile, given that the Annual Draw tickets have been circulated much earlier in the year than in 2018, I hope that we can materially increase the sum raised above last year’s figure of £4,300. With over 500 members, over £10,000 could be raised if all members sold the four books of tickets which they have received. In the hope that it can spur others to challenge me, I can confirm that I have sold tickets to the value of £500. Be bold, and ensure that none of your relations and friends escape !
Please also support the 200 Club, the organisation of which Marion Ashford has kindly taken over from Ken Moore. The 200 Club has raised many thousands of pounds for the railway.
During the 2017/18 year, there was a rapid turnover in trustees when five of the trustees elected at the 2017 AGM resigned. I am pleased to report that this situation has not recurred this year. One trustee – Andy Roden – has recently resigned, having discovered sadly (from our point of view) that his increasing activities as a railway journalist prevented him from contributing as much as he had planned, but the other trustees are offering themselves for re-election. I am indebted to them all for their enthusiastic support to me and the railway during the year.
Our main expenditure during the year related to the completion of Truthall Halt, the building costs of the engine shed; the purchase of ballast and track; and the cost of an additional container for storage purpose. We also contributed to the transport costs of Kilmersdon, whose appearance on the railway last year and this year has been so popular.
Events since the AGM in July 2018
Although nothing achieved during this period can match the excitement of the completion of the re-building of Truthall Halt and its formal opening by HRH The Duke of Gloucester in April 2018, Truthall Halt has continued to play a large part in celebrations since last summer.
In December 2018, it was shortlisted in the National Railway Heritage Awards for the Stagecoach Volunteers Award. In the event, we were beaten by a National Rail team who restored a former LNER “London- King’s Cross – 150 Miles”sign, but we were awarded a Highly Commended Certificate. However, in February 2019, Helston Railway was successful in receiving the Heritage Railway Association (HRA) Award for activities by “Small Groups”, and more recently has received the Cornish Buildings Group’s 2019 Award for Good Design and Conservation Many of you will recall that, in 2010, we were awarded the Ian Allan Publishing Heritage Railway of the Year Award at the National Railway Heritage Awards, and in 2012 we received the HRA Publication & Media Website Award.
In describing the tremendous achievement at Truthall Halt, I cannot better the words of the Cornish Buildings Group supporting its recent award :-
“Truthall Halt was built as a rural request stop on the Helston branch line to serve nearby Truthall, one of Cornwall’s oldest gentry seats. The halt comprised a platform with an enchanting corrugated iron shelter complete with Chinese pagoda-style roof. All structures were lost when the railway closed, leaving only railings and the old approach to the platform, a sad and gloomy reminder of a once delightful railway station.
Undaunted by its dereliction, the Helston Railway Preservation Company set about recreating the historic site. Over a five-year period volunteers reconstructed the platform to its original design and the charming corrugated iron shelter was painstakingly rebuilt. Today the halt is the southern terminus of the Helston Railway although the aspiration is to extend the railway on to Helston.
It is a place to gladden the heart. Few would not be moved by the sight of an exquisitely restored locomotive pulling a rake of historic coaches into this authentic station.”
Within only ten years, the Helston Railway has been awarded no less that four plaques and a highly commended certificate. What a record, of which the volunteers can be justly proud.
Sir Peter Hendy CBE, the chairman of Network Rail made a second visit to the railway last September, and drove Kilmersdon with some gusto. He has accepted my invitation to visit again this year, when he will be able to inspect the former St. Austell footbridge donated to us by Network Rail for future – and I stress future – restoration as we extend the line. Sir Peter has also recently donated to the railway two former GWR/BR(WR) signal post finials, which somehow I have to transport to Helston. They may look small from afar, but they are actually quite large and very heavy.
The first steps towards extending towards Helston were taken in April, when a stretch of track-bed over a quarter of a mile long was purchased just beyond Truthall Halt. Negotiations are in hand for the purchase of more land, but more money will need to be raised if we are to reach Helston.
All these activities, but more importantly the enthusiasm, dedication and friendly attitude of the volunteers, have led to an increase in passenger numbers, at a time when many heritage railways are facing nil growth. Many other railways are facing the problems of rising cost and maintenance demands, and we cannot be complacent.
Credit for this operating success lies not with the trustees but with the directors and volunteers of the operating company chaired by James Packman. All members of HRPS and visitors owe them a great debt for bringing the Helston Railway back to life. Les Jones has calculated that the value of the time given by volunteers (including directors and trustees) since 2016 totals over £500,000.
When I travelled on the last train 1962, I never in my wildest dreams thought that I might again travel on the line and (almost) replicate my great-great grandfather’s experience of travelling on the first train in 1887 with the original directors.
The trustees also particularly thank Liz Ford for acting as our Membership Secretary; Geoff Childs for agreeing to edit the Newsletter; and Barbara Barnes for producing the recent Newsletters and the excellent“Pictorial Review of 2018 and a Glimpse into 2019”.
Finally, thank you all for turning out on a summer’s evening to attend the AGM, and for your support for the railway generally.
17 July 2019