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Retirement prompts railway search for new manager

Charles Spencer – stepping down as W&LLR general manager but not handing over his firing shovel. Photo: Andrew Charman/W&LLR

The Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway is recruiting a new general manager after Charles Spencer announced his retirement.

Mr Spencer will step down on March 31 2021, after six years in post. His impending departure has been greeted with sadness by many railway members and supporters, but W&LLR chairman Steve Clews admitted that the news was not a complete surprise.

“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,” he saud.

“Charles has made a huge contribution over the last five years to moving the W&LLR to another level.”

Mr Spencer first encountered the W&LLR 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 W&LLR general manager role became vacant, he applied for and secured the post, trustees having been particularly impressed with his experience of managing large volunteer projects.

Mr Spencer 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 W&LLR behind.

“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.

“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 W&LLR Trustee Board has begun the process to appoint a successor, and Mr 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 said. “He retains absolute support from the board and we look forward to working alongside him until his departure.”