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Members Election Statements

Gavin Johns

Gavin Johns (Chairman)

Proposed By: Mark Woolley. Seconded By: Elizabeth Sellen

I have been a volunteer signalman for about 17 years, a Trustee for 9 years and Chairman of the Trust since October 2013.


My roles and involvement give me a good understanding of the issues facing our Railway.


I believe that good forward planning whether Strategic, Business or a budget, is the key to achieving a sustainable basis for the Railway, and my direct experience in planning roles in my working life remains an asset.  Having a plan though is in itself not to goal: we need to deliver it.


My skills are in listening, coaching, guiding and facilitating team working as our structures do not function well with an authoritarian approach.  People disengage if they are not respected, even when views differ. I have shown the capabilities to manage these concerns across the roles I undertake and to retain focus on what matters for us and to push for their delivery.  I will continue to promote inclusivity and tolerance in order to achieve our aims.


There is no doubt that the pandemic has caused significant delay with our plans.  It created real risk of business failure it has delayed the Governance Review.  I see the opportunity for us to come out of this in a better shape and able to reshape the business.  Our plans need to take advantage of this opportunity. 


The Railway is extraordinarily well placed for the future.  The role of public transport is changing to meet pressing issues such as climate change and increasing demands for connectivity.  We are at a junction where we can either plan to rise to the challenge or turn inward and hope it goes away.  It will not. For me controlling our own destiny is better and I will work to achieve that.


I hope I can count on your support.

Term Ends: 2023

Andrew Moore

Andrew Moore (Treasurer)

Proposed by Trevor Parsons. Seconded by Peter J Milford

It has been a privilege to have continued to serve as a Trustee and as Treasurer for many years and I trust that, with your support, I can continue my service.

The Swanage Railway is not alone in facing enormous challenges as we strive for sustainability and many factors seem to be working against us with rising inflation and increasing coal and other fuel costs being examples.  We must all work together and bring together our experiences in operating our railway to fight our way through this.    We have a brilliant railway full of potential and the railway family we have grown is second to none.  I look forward to continuing to use my more than 20 years’ experience as both Trust Treasurer and Company Finance Director to take our railway forward in these challenging times. 


We are a volunteer led railway and must, as far as is practical, maintain this ethos.  The questions of the Governance Review and the changes this will bring about are on members minds and I can understand that some might be hesitant.  I believe that the proposals remain in the Railways best interests, and we should embrace this initiative to create a first-rate management structure for the benefit of us all.

We must do all that is necessary to recruit more volunteers to all areas of the Railway and to retain them as valued, appreciated, and respected colleagues.

I will continue to fight to ensure that our status as a heritage steam railway is maintained.   Steam traction is vital to our business plan, and we must ensure that we secure sufficient locomotives for the future.  We must also consider our coaching stock and work to bringing these vehicles back into the condition we and our passengers require.


I look forward to your continued support.

Thank you

Term Ends: 2024

Will Armston-Sheret

Will Armston-Sheret

Proposed by: Steve Doughty. Seconded by Matt McManus

For the last two years, I have been a trustee of the Swanage Railway Trust (SRT) and have worked to deliver a number of significant projects; working as part of the team to deliver the overhaul of the SRT’s LSWR T3 No563 to steam, supporting the delivery of a variety of fundraising campaigns, and being appointed as the Trustee responsible for climate change and sustainability.  Alongside this I am also a fireman in the operations department, giving me first-hand experience in seeing what our railway does best and where it falls down.


I currently work for a train operating company, facilitating punctual train services across the network. I have previous experience working with elected representatives in regional and national governments' strategic objectives and developing effective campaigns to deliver outcomes. I believe these skills would make me an effective and proactive trustee.


Our railway faces immense challenges in the future, with rising costs, ageing assets and more extreme weather to deal with. If elected, I will work with other CoM members to ensure a focus on sustainability by:

  • Focusing on plans to develop infrastructure, facilities and improved visitor experience

  • Improve governance structures to enable more effective decision-making and long-term planning

  • Develop Swanage Railway's response to issues related to climate change and to mitigate our environmental impact

  • Support the completion of the overhaul of 563 the only locomotive to Swanage Railway earns, to enable low-cost locomotive provision in the future

Term Ends: 2024

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Clare Collins

Proposed by Ben Strurch. Seconded by Kerry Strurch

The pandemic and cost of living has created a perfect storm of pressures on the railway, this necessitates the need to objectively review our strengths and identify our weaknesses and build on what we can do better.


As a regular active working volunteer I am delighted to see and speak to so many of you when I am Portering and Guarding around the railway. The passion and enthusiasm for the railway amongst so many SRT members is easy to hear for those who wish to listen. Two of my key strengths that I can bring to this role are my objectivity, bringing a fresh pair of eyes and my listening skills.


The railway will only ever be as strong as the team of volunteers that devote their time and resources to SR. One aspect I wish to improve is the respect shown for the volunteers their devotion and the many skills they bring to the team which can be so easily overlooked or dismissed. Communication needs to two way and respectful. Improved transparency on decisions and activities will mean that you as volunteers will be better engaged and answerable to the democratic process.


Only through having a diversity of mind sets and experiences within the Governance structure will the railway be strong enough to weather the current storm. Our passengers and customers are changing, their expectations are increasing. With a young family over 20 years’ experience within the education and charity sector as well as running a successful business. I will bring diversity and a fresh approach to blow out the cobwebs that appear to have settled

Term Ends: 2024

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Ben Ford

Proposed by Aiden Ford. Seconded by Robert Patterson

My life as a volunteer with Swanage started back in 2003, having joined the then still relatively new Swanage Railway Sygnets, with its somewhat questionable slogan of “Keeping youths on the right track!” Well, it must have worked as not only am I still here 19 years later, but I now lead the Sygnets itself, along with my trusted team of Leaders whom without we couldn’t have the Youth Group we enjoy, let alone be able to stand back and admire the achievement of the numerous members who have since joined the Railway as Cleaners, Firemen, Drivers, Porters, Guards and Signalmen to name a few, with some even moving onto the national network itself!

On top of running the Youth Group, I also volunteer within the Operations Department as a cleaner, amongst my other titles, and have lent a hand to other departments over the years, most recently having donned a tie and served drinks behind the bar on the Belle, I’m pleased to say I haven’t spilt a drink… yet.

Professionally I’m an IT Engineer by trade, having started in the industry at the age of 20 I’ve a decade of experience of everything from trivial password resets to installing and configuring entire estates worth of hardware and software, and I’m still learning!

Why does any of the above matter? Why is it relevant? I want to make a difference, I can bring all the above to the table and more, and I’m willing to listen to new ideas. It’s been recognised for some time that the Youth Group is one of the best ways to ensure the Railways future, and the proof of that statement is in the number we have retained over the years. Help me ensure our Railways survival for generations to come. Thanks.

Term Ends: 2024

Trevor Parsons

Trevor Parsons

Proposed by Andrew Moore. Seconded by Robert Patterson

I have been a signalman and guard for more than 17 years, a Trustee for 10 years and a Director of the Swanage Railway Company Board for seven, years some of that time as Chairman

During my time in these posts, l have gained a deep understanding of how the railway is run and how my continual involvement can contribute to making decisions that will enable the railway to prosper in the future.

My experience from my working life, before retiring running my own successful business, gives me the ability to make a valuable contribution to the essential and various business aspects of the railway.

What l can contribute more than anything to the railway is to interact with both volunteers and staff across the railway, listening and talking to all involved and making sure that their voices are heard at management level.

I will also do my best to make sure that the development and objectives of the Trust are maintained.

Term Ends: 2024

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Robert Patterson

Proposed by Andrew Moore. Seconded by Mark Woolley

I have been a railway supporter since its inception in 1972 and an early Premier Life  Member.  Professionally I am a qualified accountant with a long career in the public and charity sectors including a Director for 10 years in the UK’s leading and most successful children’s charity.


I have been a volunteer on the railway for over 20 years in different roles, ranging from Chair of the Audit committee in the early 2000’s to a Pullman attendant and Station Manager in more recent times!  I have also put my professional skills to the benefit of the railway in leading the railway’s recent governance review and I am a member of the Finance Advisory Group.  It is my strong belief that all CoM members should actively volunteer on the railway.


Our railway has incredible potential and is served by some amazing volunteers and staff that have got us through the Covid pandemic.  BUT we have a lot more to do to do to tackle the significant challenges that lie ahead (and that were highlighted by the governance review).   We have a leadership and governance structure that does not fully comply with best practice, our finances are not sustainable with our income not covering basic maintenance and operating costs.  This in turn has led to a backlog in maintenance of infrastructure and rolling stock.


It is essential we tackle these issues with urgency and develop a sustainable business model that generates surpluses each year so that we can continue with astonishing preservation work that has rebuilt the railway.


It is vital that the CoM and Railway Company work effectively together to tackle these issues.  It is my aim to help in this process and to use my skills to build a sustainable Swanage Railway for the future.

Term Ends: 2023

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Frank Roberts

Proposed by Mark Woolley. Seconded by Peter Duncalfe

I commenced volunteering at Swanage Railway on Good Friday 1983, initially as the Telecom Manager for 22 years, enlisting the support of units from the Royal Corps of Signals to install the cable network which supports the safe signalling of trains today.

In 1997, I moved to Herston, and took the lead at Herston Halt.  Team Herston, together with assistance from the Royal Signals, have delivered many projects which saved the Halt from closure in 1997, saw the installation of the new steps and disabled ramp in 2004, and the replacement of the platform in 2009.  Today, we have eleven regular volunteers, & have just launched Herston Community Halt  - which aims to recruit even more volunteers.

I have served as a Company or Trust director 4 times over the past four decades and was the Railway’s first Infrastructure Manager (2004-2007). 


I joined South West Trains in 2007 as a Project Manager, manager of 12 stations (Staines & Windsor area) & then Route Controller in Wessex Integrated Control Centre.  I simultaneously studied for a BSc in Railway Operational Management; I am a member of the Institution of Railway Operators.

The Railway has been challenged throughout its existence.  Now we need to channel our passion and agree, and put in place, a realistic, deliverable, & funded Strategic Plan.  A crucial element of this must be the Governance Review, which will deliver a more sustainable structure with a strong and competent management team. 

That team must be focused on the Strategic Plan identifying the greatest risks to our business, identifying how we might manage and fund the challenges we face; and then grow.  We must improve communications, the retention of volunteers – and we must recruit more staff, especially those who bring the competencies to lead, fund, and operate a safe heritage railway.

Term Ends: 2024

Liz Sellen

Liz Sellen

Proposed by: Nick Hanham. Seconded by: Nicholas Lloyd

An active volunteer since 1990 and Trustee since the early 2000’s I have seen many changes as the railway has grown in size and stature and I believed played an active role in many areas of its growth. My main areas of volunteering have been in the commercial areas of sales, catering, publicity and marketing alongside since 2003 centrally administering the Trusts membership database and all that entails.  Since 2010 I have held the Personnel Director portfolio within the using my life gained skills to undertaken that role in addition to general director responsibilities.


As others in the past 18 months I have seen the effects Covid19 has had not on all our lives personal and professional but also wider including Swanage Railways. With others I was involved in how we responded from the early days when closure was necessary, care and maintenance our only option to the days when reopening was possible but set against ever changing Government legislation, guidelines and instruction which brought with them additional issues other than railway related to adhere to.


Reviewing words written for my 2019 election statement I believe they remain valid today as they were then. Only 3 months on from being reappointed the opportunity to move forward with others the railways growth was snatched away and a fight for its very survival begun. I feel I have now additional skills and knowledge that will be beneficial as we all look to the future and re-growing our railway.


I hope you will support me to continue to be part of your Council of Management who will now lead our Railway into 2022 and beyond with renewed goals and aspirations.

Thank you

Term Ends: 2023

Peter Sills

Peter Sills

Proposed by: Michael Walshaw. Seconded by: Andrew Hext

During my time as a Trustee since 2004, I have endeavored to bring to the Swanage Railway a mixture of my business experience and strong enthusiasm for my love of ‘the Southern’ and the former railways of Purbeck. Although now retired, by profession I am a successful businessman with a management background in the energy industry. I am currently a Swanage Railway Trustee, previously I served as a director for our railway operating company for 11 years and chaired the Company board for 6 years.

I currently chair the Purbeck Mining Museum and sat on the recent Governance Review Group, I am totally committed to the long-term sustainable future of our member-led railway.


Volunteers are so key to our success and we must continue to attract and retain more volunteers together with bolstering personal training and development – without motivated and appreciated volunteers we will not succeed. The railway we have today is solely due to the dedication and determination of many people over many years, a legacy I very much respect and appreciate. However, we need to move forward and build on this.


I passionately believe for our future success and development we will need to work even closer with our key stakeholders so that we can deliver a robust and sustainable service to Wareham whilst maintaining a strong and successful heritage railway.

The recent pandemic has hit us hard, our leadership and financial robustness was severally challenged, and we still have a long road to recovery as an organisation. Whilst we survived the pandemic through generous fundraising and government schemes, we now need to focus and build on the key profitable areas so our heritage railway can grow sustainably.  I ask for your vote and will, if re-elected, continue to generate change and work towards these key goals.

Term Ends: 2023

Mike Whitwam

Mike Whitwam

Proposed by: Roger Denning. Seconded by: David Scott

Having joined the Railway as Signalman in 1996, I have served on the Council of Management  since 1999 and am currently Volunteer Liaison Officer, Signaling Training Officer and member of the Rules Committee. 


I was Chairman of the Swanage Railway from 2008 to 2010 during which time I was involved in organising the first passenger trains from London since 1972.  I project managed the construction  of the award-winning new signal box at Corfe Castle and have taken the lead in training our signalmen for the movement of trains into the main line at Worgret Junction and for the new level crossing at Norden. 


As Volunteer Liaison Officer I have been and will continue working tirelessly welcoming and introducing all new volunteers to the Railway.  I will also continue to ensure that the Railway remains under the full control of its Volunteers and Members and that the Swanage and Wareham service does not compromise our existing Heritage operation.  I will also ensure that robust financial control is maintained on both our heritage and Wareham services. 


I live in Swanage and can be found around the railway at some stage on most days and am always happy to answer any questions.

Term Ends: 2023

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