Bluebell Railway chairman Roy Watts, who steered the East Grinstead extension, as well as a host of other projects, has stood down after 19 years.
Warm tributes were paid to him at the preservation society’s AGM at Burgess Hill on May 21, which was attended by over 300 people.
Graham Aitken, guard and senior stationmaster at Sheffield Park, was elected to succeed Mr Watts, and the appointment of carriage and wagon department volunteer Steve Bigg to the position of vice chairman was unopposed.
It was reported that membership levels are holding steady at around 10,500, but it was also noted that 69 members have died in the last year.
Also during the AGM, there were updates on the Accessible Steam Heritage (ASH), Operation Undercover (OP4), and Western Extension/Ardingly branch projects (WEP). The ASH Appeal now stands at £158,000, which is 75% of the target.
Regarding WEP, it was emphasised that the railway is simply carrying out asset protection and enabling works in advance of a planning application. On OP4, steelwork on the present building phase should be completed by the end of May, while the remainder of the work is due for completion by the end of June.
Special awards were made to Chris Cooper for his 50 years of volunteering, and dedication to turning out a clean carriage fleet. Trevor Rapley was commended for his outstanding work on carriage restorations, and Roger Kelly for his fundraising work and achievements.
A final award - a ‘OO’ gauge Adams ‘Radial Tank’ - was made by society president Gordon Pettitt to Roy Watts, who has accepted the post of society vice president.