RHRS President’s Report 2016
It is difficult to know how best to start my first report as President of Robertson Heritage Railway Station. It may be best to start at the beginning of my tenure, after the 2015 AGM in September 2015.
I wanted the transition from Steve Carey’s presidency to be as smooth and seamless as possible, as I believe that Steve had been a very good President for many years and had led RHRS well. I believed that we did not need, nor would we be able to readily deliver, any major changes or dramatic new initiatives, and that’s the way it turned out to be. However, we all knew that the times were in fact changing and that we, as a heritage railway group, needed to embrace that change and manage it as best we can.
Heritage train visits
Gardens & grounds
Art & gallery
Key issues for 2017
Safety is always an important issue, and it was high on my list of matters which needed immediate attention. During the last year, Neil Harvey worked hard on bringing our safety management system documents up to date. Experienced in such matters, Neil has produced updated safety documents for RHRS and these are on display in the Fettlers Shed. In addition, all management committee members have received a copy electronically. Neil is to be commended for his work and the high standard of the documents he produced. Further, we have placed safety matters high on the agenda for our management committee meetings. Safety management is not a static issue, but must be subject to regular review and discussion.
Back in September 2015, I had been part of an initiative to apply for a Transport Heritage NSW heritage grant for our station’s proposed concrete cancer repair project and, with others, had spent a good deal of time on preparing and lodging an application to Transport Heritage NSW for a grant of $10,000. We were successful in gaining that grant and work on that project commenced in June 2016. Due to delays, partly due to the unfortunate death of our concrete contractor in an accident, it is still in progress, but we are confident that we will achieve a good, if delayed, outcome. The appreciation, generosity and understanding of Michael Irons of ARTC, which contributed a further $10,000 to the project, is acknowledged.
Over recent years, RHRS has received regular heritage train visits, particularly from the ‘Cockatoo Run’ operated by 3801 Limited. During February/March 2016, it became clear that 3801 Limited was experiencing serious financial problems and, for a while, it was uncertain whether they would continue to operate the ‘Cockatoo Run’ diesel-hauled heritage train service from Sydney to Robertson and Moss Vale and return. Paid employees of 3801 Limited were terminated and the company was operated by volunteers. In June 2016, an eviction notice was served by Transport Heritage NSW on 3801 Limited to cease its occupancy of the large erecting shop (LES) at Eveleigh, its base for many years previous. Subsequently, 3801 Limited was directed to vacate the LES by 31 January 2017. How this will affect the operations of 3801 Limited and, particularly, the ‘Cockatoo Run’, remains to be seen. Their future operations are uncertain, but THNSW has approved ‘Cockatoo Run’ visits at least until the end of September 2016 and we are hopeful that the train tentatively scheduled for Sunday, 2 October 2016, will run.
Notwithstanding the uncertainty of train visitation in the early part of this year, we have received a significant number of train visits so far in 2016. By my reckoning, RHRS has received the following number of train visits during the period 26 August 2015 to 28 August 2016:
During the period Saturday, 3 October to Saturday, 11 October 2015, there was a Floral and Garden Exhibition in the Fettlers Shed, and the Railway Waratah Fair was held on Sunday, 2 October. Both events were successful.
On Sunday, 10 April 2015, the weather was great and we hosted a very successful Classic Car Day. The grounds were filled almost to capacity with interesting vehicles and people simply enjoyed exhibiting their motor vehicles and sitting (or standing) and chatting. We would have liked a ‘Cockatoo Run’ train running that day but that was not to be due to “trackwork”.
On Saturday, 12 December 2015, David and Helen Tranter held the first of a number of bi-monthly garden working-bees, where their knowledge and skills were imparted to those who may follow in their footsteps, in the process attending to much garden maintenance. These working-bees have continued successfully since on a bi-monthly basis.
RHRS continues to value very highly the assistance we receive on a regular basis from supervised detainees from the Department of Corrective Services in mowing the grass, and in other ways maintaining the station gardens in an attractive state. Our thanks are extended to Steve Carey for maintaining the detainees’ work scheduling at Robertson.
The seven-car ‘Cockatoo Run’ on Sunday, 13 December 2015 was hauled by recently restored heritage diesel locomotive 42101 in combination with heritage diesel 4464, and brought many passengers to Robertson to enjoy a Christmas lunch in St John’s Christian Education Centre (CEC), as well as a charter party who lunched at the hotel. Once again, the food at the CEC was good and the day was enjoyed by the volunteers and staff of 3801 Limited as well as by many RHRS volunteers. During lunch, I spoke briefly on several matters, but particularly, along with immediate past-president Steve Carey, paid tribute to the much-appreciated work carried out by David and Helen Tranter in establishing and maintaining the attractive gardens and grounds in the railway station precinct. Helen’s faithful management of the station and station shop over many years was also highlighted. Speeches and presentations were made by various people associated with 3801 Limited, including those who had carefully restored the heritage CAM lounge car, which conveyed many volunteers from Sydney to Robertson and return. It was a good day, celebrating the dedicated co-operation and working together for the benefit of rail heritage in NSW.
Early in 2016, Helen Tranter stepped down from attending to the station during train visiting days, after providing the necessary instruction to other RHRS volunteers who will attend future train visits. I also acknowledge and thank Helen for her efforts, which are continuing, in producing quality photo-cards which sell well at the station shop during train visits. Helen still finds time on selected Wednesdays to host a ‘History of Robertson’ day at the Fettlers Shed, which has been visited by a number of people with stories to tell and historical information to impart. We appreciate and value Helen’s contribution in this regard.
After the 2015 AGM, I continued to act as RHRS Secretary as no-one volunteered to take on that role, which can be demanding at times. I soon realised that trying to do the jobs of both President and Secretary was more than I could manage at busy times, so I welcomed the opportunity for Rona Goold to firstly become Minutes Secretary, and later, RHRS Secretary. I value greatly her volunteering for this important role. After fully recovering from his surgery in 2015, former President Steve Carey has also taken on the role of producing the monthly RHRS E-Bulletin, to keep members well-informed of what is happening within RHRS. Steve took over this role from Andrew Bosa, who I thank for his earlier work on the RHRS website and in producing the Bulletin.
Our RHRS finances are still healthy, but might find a testing time in the next year. My sincere thanks go to our Treasurer, Anne Wilson, for managing our finances so ably. Anne will present separately at the AGM.
Recently, a flat-screen TV (with in-built DVD player) was purchased for installation on the eastern wall of the Fettlers Shed gallery to assist with presentations. It may assist us to hire out the Fettlers Shed more frequently. It was installed recently and should receive its first use in public during the 2016 AGM. It is envisaged that, as time permits during the next year, the interior of the gallery will be repainted, further improving its attractiveness for meetings and for hiring.
On behalf of our management committee, I thank Neil Harvey for his whole-hearted efforts in attending to many maintenance issues in our buildings and grounds over the last year. Neil has produced a separate report on his maintenance efforts and I commend that for your attention.
A “man of many hats”, Neil Harvey, with the able assistance of Ron Middleton, has presided over many meetings in the gallery over the last year while several model railway layouts were put together by a small team of model railway enthusiasts. It is proposed that these layouts will be exhibited at the RHRS Spring event on Sunday, 2 October 2016. Again, Neil has produced a separate report on the activities of this group.
The Fettlers Heritage Art Prize was again a success this year, attracting many worthy entries. A good gathering assembled in the gallery for the awarding of prizes and it was a pleasure for me to experience the company and ambience of the gallery in an “other than strictly railway” gathering. I am very much a railway-oriented person, but it is my desire to encourage and promote anything that adds value to Robertson Heritage Railway Station.
To the outgoing management committee, and to our many other volunteers, I extend my sincere thanks to you all for your support and encouragement during this last year. While we have had many issues which demanded our collective attention, I feel that we have had a good and successful year, once again demonstrating the “can-do” attitude that is practised and delivered by RHRS volunteers. Often, when addressing public forums, I state that we at RHRS “punch above our weight” and our performance during the last year has done nothing to alter that. May it continue into the future.
As we progress into the 2016/2017 year, I see the key issues for RHRS as follows (but not necessarily in the order of priority shown):
Sadly, this is a common characteristic in many heritage railway groups throughout Australia.
Our new committee for 2016/2017 will, of course, focus on all the above matters and other urgent matters which may arise, but I believe we must give additional attention to the issue of member recruitment. We have reached a stage where the sheer workload of several of our volunteers has reached maximum healthy tolerance and, if we are to have a future - and I want that to happen - we need help. This will be a major challenge for our incoming committee!
My thanks and best wishes to you all,
Hon. President, RHRS Inc, 5 September 2016