LUPTS history: the final years 

Generally speaking, LUPTS had never found it easy to attract members over the years.   The Guild of Undergraduates required a minimum of 30 members from a ‘B’ society to award a grant.   By definition, LUPTS always had a minimum of 30 members but some years this was only achieved by gentle persuasion of friends and fellow students who may have only attended a small number of meetings.   Notwithstanding this, meetings attracted audiences of 18-20 right up until the mid 1980s and trips and tours were also popular.   An active membership of over 50 members was achieved in the early 1960s. 

LUPTS had gone through difficult periods in the late 60s/early 70s when it might have folded through inactivity.   The earliest minute book which is known to survive makes grim reading, for example meeting 288 held on 10 October 1974: “The feeling was that it was the worst opening meeting in the history of the society was expressed.” 

However, the Society did survive and, as described before, was extremely active in the late 70s and early 80s.   The watershed perhaps happened around 1982/83 when, over a period of a couple of years, many active members left the University.   Things went from bad to worse at the end of the 1983/84 academic year.    

At the Annual General Meeting held on 17 May 1984, Andy Bannister was elected Chairman, Mark Telfer Secretary and Simon Dunn Treasurer.   There had been some grumblings at the AGM, with some members, whose sole interest was railways, claiming that the Society was becoming too bus orientated for their liking.   The preference was expressed for informal ‘trainspotting’ trips rather than the more formally organised ones which characterised LUPTS. 

Four days after the AGM, Andy Bannister submitted a letter tendering his resignation as Chairman.   A fairly long winded supporting letter, written by Andrew Gallon, the defeated candidate for the position of LUPTS Secretary and signed by him, Andy Bannister, David Pickersgill and (in absentia) Adrian Prodger, outlined their disquiet with LUPTS and signified their intention to set up a rival Liverpool University Railway Society (LURS).   Reasons given included the feeling:


“... that the existing society has not, and certainly will not, adequately cater for the interests or the discerning (sic) railway enthusiast, either in terms of the structure of the present committee or the agenda of visits and weekly meetings.”


LURS must have had some success as it is listed as an active ‘B’ society in Guild’s 1985/86 Students’ Handbook but it is believed that it only held a small number of trips and meetings and folded shortly afterwards. 

The LURS débâcle, at a stroke, took about half the remaining active student members from the society.   Keith Nason took over as Chairman at the beginning of the 1984/85 year but faced an uphill struggle to attract students to a society with relatively few continuing students.   The Old Fogeys could be relied on to pad out the audience at meetings but Wednesday afternoon trips were a different matter and it is noticeable that these declined from 18 during 1979/80 to only three by 1986/87 and in fact no Wednesday afternoon trips took place in the last 3½ years of the Society’s existence, the last such trip being to Leyland Bus at Workington on 28 October 1987.   The reduction could, in part, be put down to the drastic reduction in the number of places which could be visited - many of the traditional LUPTS trip venues had by this time closed down. 

Lack of members also resulted in the disappearance of two other things.   The LUPTS Journal, after four years of high quality production by Chris Poole, ceased after its 1989 issue whereas the final LUPTS photographic competition also took place in 1989, being judged by ex Secretary Tom Kane with Graham Unwin being the winner. 

Jonathan Cadwallader, as President, made every effort to keep the society going during the late 1980s but year after year the lack of new students was cause for concern and it was touch and go whether the society would be able to fulfil its programme.   Eye catching posters featuring Thomas the Tank Engine with slogans like ‘Shunt along to LUPTS’ failed to produce new members.   Interesting comparisons can be drawn by reading the minutes of early meetings in each academic year.   In 1986 the first meeting was attended by 16 “including 3 new members!”. 

The winding up of the Society was discussed at virtually every AGM in the late 1980s but it struggled on until 1989/90 even though attendances were down to single figures for most meetings, an embarrassment when an outside speaker had been invited.   An indication of the problems the Society was having is apparent from the Minutes Secretary’s comment for meeting 642 on 16 November 1989: “The main business of the evening was to be Members’ Slides but only one member, Mr Cadwallader, brought any”. 

Discussions at the 1990 AGM centred on whether the society should continue or not and it was agreed to give it one more year and see how many new students turned up.   The new student, singular, turned up in the form of Adrian Humpage who, within two weeks of starting University, was appointed Secretary.    

The decision to wind up the Society, although informally appreciated for several months, was ratified at the AGM on Thursday 2 May 1991.   The formality of elections for the 1991/92 committee was gone through, the result being Adrian Humpage and Tim Jenkins (virtually the only active, current student members) exchanging places as Chairman and Secretary.   Two days later, the final bus tour with LUPTS as a student society took place.   Warrington Borough Transport’s Bristol RE 72 (LED72P) took a pretty good load from Liverpool to the Llangollen Railway, the Bala Lake Railway and Llandudno. 

There were just two Ordinary General Meetings remaining at which Adrian Humpage could officiate.   A final session of Members’ Slides took place on 9 May whilst the last ever meeting, number 680, was held in the Gilmour Hall of the Old Union on 16 May.   It differed little from most of the 679 which had preceded it.   It was opened by the Chairman, Adrian Humpage, and the minutes of meeting 679 were read corrected and passed.   The Chairman commented on the sadness of the occasion and expressed regret that LUPTS should end during his spell at the University.   Tim Jenkins, as Secretary, rather redundantly announced that there would be no meeting the following week and, equally redundantly, announced an amnesty on unpaid membership dues. 

In President’s business, not a regular slot, Jonathan Cadwallader expressed the wish that some of the society’s events would continue, a wish that has been fulfilled up to the time of writing.   The usual trivia of General Business then ensued, ranging from a report from the President that the heritage tramway track in Birkenhead should be laid in August, to a newspaper cutting produced by John Fraser which made reference to “... Johnny Jenkins’s stirring rendition of ‘Spunky’”, one of many minutes book entries which means very little in hindsight. 

Fittingly, the main business of the evening was a series of films shown by Brian Faragher.   Brian had been Secretary in 1963/64 and had returned just about every year since to show yet more of his ciné films from the 1960s.   Those which he showed on this occasion included his film of ‘The Wirral and Mersey Special’ in 1966, a far cry from the almost dormant society which existed 25 years later. 

The meeting closed at 20:07 and the final entry in the minutes book is a listing of the 11 members who were present: “Jonathan Cadwallader, John Jenkins, Adrian Humpage, Tim Jenkins, Charles Roberts, Chris Poole, John Fraser, Graham Unwin, Mike Chater, Dave Parker, Arthur/William Clark”. 

The minutes were signed by John Jenkins, describing himself as “Very ex Minutes Secretary” but there was never the opportunity for a Chairman to approve them.

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Last updated: 04 March 2002

© Charles Roberts/LUPTS 2001/2002

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