The Board held its second meeting for calendar year 2020 on Tuesday 31 March. What a difference a month makes!
We had hoped we would have been celebrating the successful relaunch of locomotive 3801 on the weekend before, instead we are all social isolating and coming to grips with a very different outlook for the next few months, if not the best part of 2020, as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic.
On behalf of the Board, I hope everyone stays well and thank you all for your understanding and cooperation as we implement government restrictions to reduce the spread of the disease by limiting gatherings and suspending operations across THNSW. Our Board meeting was held by teleconference.
The Board received a comprehensive briefing from our CEO Andrew Moritz on behalf of the senior management team as to the current situation, its impacts and consequences for THNSW. All public-facing activities at the NSW Rail Museum, Valley Heights Locomotive Depot Heritage Museum and elsewhere have now been suspended until further notice. Our volunteering has been suspended and all staff who can work from home are working from home. Staff who can only perform their duties at the workplace continue to attend and perform those duties at this time however under new workplace rules including appropriate social distancing, etc.. Everyone needs to ensure they practice all health and safety instructions.
The Board considered the impact on the FY 2019-20 financial outlook and projected visitor numbers to our museums and passenger numbers on our heritage trains. The period from March to June ordinarily includes a number of high profile and well-attended events, Thirlmere Festival of Steam, Day Out With Thomas, and our annual Transport Heritage Expo, and this year would have also included the Relaunch of Locomotive 3801 and the operation of a number of regular charter operations including, the annual Maitland Steamfest and the St James Rail Anzac Day Tour. All of these have now been postponed or cancelled in 2020.
This combined with the impacts of the bushfires has resulted in an estimated $1.7 million reduction in our projected revenue and expenditure in the current financial year. The Board, CEO and Senior management are taking actions to ensure THNSW remains sustainable at this time and bounces back stronger than ever when the current crisis passes, and we can resume public facing activities.
It’s times like these we remain grateful for our funding agreement with the NSW Government which ensures a stable baseline for THNSW, as well as providing support for the ongoing care, investment and preservation of selected assets in the heritage transport sector more broadly throughout NSW.
The Board is obviously disappointed like everyone that we were unable to re-launch locomotive 3801 at Central Station as planned on Friday 27 March. I hope you all enjoyed the online reveal and photos now available at the 3801project page. I’m sure you will all agree, it looks absolutely fantastic. Congratulations and thank you to everyone involved in the project over many years. We look forward to the opportunity to celebrate its return and we will continue to engage our members, volunteers and other audiences via online and digital channels during this time.
In the meantime, we have commissioned an independent post overhaul condition assessment of the locomotive to be conducted by David Wright from the UK, with the aim to provide a documented baseline condition of the Locomotive. This will allow us to develop both our maintenance and operational parameters to ensure the locomotive is maintained in the best condition possible and enjoyed by everyone for many years to come. Unfortunately, with the current travel restrictions we have had to delay David’s visit to Australia, however this will be rescheduled as soon as possible.
Members’ information forum
It was great to see many of you at our first members’ information forum for 2020 at the NSW Rail Museum on Wednesday 11 March.
The consultants leading the Loop Line Product Development Project engaged members in a lively discussion about opportunities and ideas for visitor and passenger experiences on and along the loop line. A copy of their presentation was circulated in the April eNews and if any member wishes to make a written submission, please do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday 9 April.
The Board will receive their final report at a future meeting.
All future members’ information forums are now suspended until further notice.
Loop Line upgrade funding
I am pleased to advise that we have now received formal notification of the funding for this important project.
Funding is being made available for the following first stage of works:
motorising the points at Picton;
conducting the engineering feasibility and determining a cost estimate for the proposed upgrade works required from Buxton to Colo Vale; and
transferring re-purposed rail from various locations across NSW to Thirlmere for use on the line.
Planning work is underway to progress all of these elements.
The Board was briefed on progress with the Heritage Hub. The next step will be engaging architectural services to prepare the detailed scope of work for Stage 1 upgrading the Tank Annex for rolling stock storage. Work is also progressing on the planned movement of four items of rolling stock from Broadmeadow and two items of rolling stock from the Paint Shop at North Eveleigh which are being used as test cases with respect to moving all rolling stock out of these locations.
Board Director nomination criteria
The Board endorsed the Director Nomination Criteria to be used for both the election of elected directors and the appointment of non-elected appointed directors in 2020. This is now available on the THNSW website here to give interested members ample opportunity to prepare for nominating for this year’s election.
The AGM remains scheduled for Saturday 28 November 2020 in Sydney at this time, however this may need to change if restrictions on public gatherings remain in place. Let’s all hope that’s not the case!
Collection conservation projects - CHG Wagon.
As reported after the February meeting the Board endorsed making application for funding via the Funding Stream 2 process to undertake works on the CHG wagon. I am pleased to report that our funding application was approved by the Independent Funding & Advisory Panel at its recent meeting. This means that once we are able to recommence volunteering activities and the current projects including MAM 907 and RBX 647 are completed we can then commence work on this funded project.
As committed at the 2019 AGM, work has been undertaken to assess the condition of 5711.
On 24 March, a boiler inspector completed an initial inspection of the boiler supported by THNSW volunteers. The report from this inspection will indicate what additional non-destructive testing is required before a final assessment can be made.
For the purposes of relocating the locomotive should this project proceed, discussions have commenced with Asset Standards Authority and Sydney Trains regarding what conditions they would place on any possible future move of the locomotive from Valley Heights on the rail network.
Business Plan 2020-21.
The Board agreed that in the current environment it is extremely difficult to prepare a business plan for FY2020-21 before 30 June with any degree of certainty.
The Federal and NSW Governments have both deferred their annual budgets until later in the year when there may be more certainty as to the operating environment. However, the direction we have set through our strategic plan and within the current business plan will continue in FY2020-21, as well as works on major projects such as the Loop Line Upgrade and Heritage Hub.
The focus for the first half of next financial year will be to implement a bounce back plan to ensure THNSW is best placed to both resume operations as quickly as possible and capitalise on any opportunities that may arise to restart the visitor economy in NSW. We need to be ready for when we can recommence our public facing activities and come out of the gate running!
Stay safe, well and reach out to each other
This is an exceptional time and requires us all to adapt. I know for many of our members and volunteers one of the most enjoyable elements of being a member and/or volunteer with THNSW is the opportunity to get together with friends and colleagues who share a common interest in heritage transport. Whilst we may not be able to gather face to face, shake hands, or see and talk with each other at one of our many events, please find the time to connect with your THNSW friends and colleagues through other means and make sure we are all OK.
Many of you will be aware of R U OK Day, which this year will be held on 30 April. We don’t need to wait for a special day to ask a friend or colleague if they are OK and really listen to what they have to say. Pick up the phone and make a call. If we reach out and support each other, we will all get through this crisis together.