WELSHPOOL and Llanfair Light Railway is recruiting a new general manager

Current general manager Charles Spencer will retire and step down on March 31, 2021, after six years in the post.

His departure has been greeted with sadness by many members and supporters.

Railway chairman Steve Clews said: “Charles said right from the start that he would be in position for only four to five years dependent upon his personal situation and commitments, so I am actually thinking of this as us having had an extra year,” Steve commented.

“Charles has made a huge contribution over the last five years to moving the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway to another level,” he added.

Charles first encountered the railway while on holiday from his native Canada, where he had enjoyed a high-level career in central banking. He was encouraged to join the line’s volunteers and after retiring from his career trained and qualified as a locomotive fireman.

When the railway general manager role became vacant Charles applied for and secured the post, Trustees particularly impressed with his experience of managing large volunteer projects.

Charles himself emphasised that his decision to step down had been made purely for family reasons and his forthcoming retirement on the Isle of Man, and he had no intention of leaving the Welshpool and Llanfair Light Railway behind him.

“I still want to come back and shovel coal in steam locomotives on a regular basis,” he said.

“It was a great first five seasons and a pity the sixth was hit by the virus,” Charles added. “But considering the circumstances we will come to the end of this year in remarkably good financial shape thanks to the support of volunteers, staff, members and donors, and that’s a great position in which to leave the railway.”

The railway trustee board has begun the process to appoint a successor, and Steve Clews emphasised that for now it is business as usual. “Charles remains in post as general manager and in charge until the completion of a handover to his replacement. He retains absolute support from the board, and we look forward to working alongside him until his departure.”

The railway has also raised £95,000 in just three months to complete the mandatory 10-year overhaul of its original locomotive ‘The Earl.’

Overhaul of the locomotive, which was built in 1902, was started in June 2019.

With the mid-Wales line’s own workshops focused on the restoration of locomotive no 699.01 ‘Sir Drefaldwyn’, which has not steamed since the end of the 20th century, a large legacy of unassigned funding allowed the contract for overhauling ‘The Earl’ to be awarded to the Vale of Rheidol Railway at Aberystwyth.

The coronavirus pandemic and resultant closure of the railway over the first four months of the 2020 season put significant pressure on the railway’s finances. This raised the prospect of having to ask the Vale of Rheidol to suspend the overhaul, which was half complete at the time the pandemic closed the workshops in March.