Museum working party 21st Oct 2021

The Tywyn weather mojo actually delivered first thing this morning, a bright sunny start, but lost the plot soon after and the rains came pattering down! Ian Evans and John Olsen started the morning by clearing out the gutters of the Weighbridge House and Gunpowder Store and evicting a collection of cuttings from the splayside wagon, which had appeared after a bushwhacking session behind the Weighbridge House. Charles Benedetto and Andy Sheffield joined them for the first big job of the day, transferring the faux sleepers and real railway chairs for the Tracksiders two foot siding, to a position of greater accessibility before other movements of stuff could block them in.

A special charter train tooted in the yard and we all performed our waving at the train ceremony before trooping into the museum and opening up the Long Term Storage space behind cabinet C12. This was to access more of the Sarah Eade bequest that had been placed there, for sorting by Jane Thornton, the Talyllyn Railway archives volunteer. We then made our way back to the Gunpowder Store to clear the loft space of any items that might be damaged when the old roof gets replaced in the (hopefully) near future. Some things like the wagon covers were placed in a cleared space within the store, the rest went outside for further sorting.

The first timetabled train of the day was then duly waved away and coffee time was declared. We took our morning brews to a table in the sunshine under the canopy and divvied up the last of the chocolate covered Hobnobs before topping up the tin with dark chocolate digestives. Also enjoying a brew at the next table were Malcolm Phillips, Keith Theobald and Jane Thornton, who partook of the chocolate covered bounty. Our idle ramblings took in such delights as virtual bell ringing; yes friends when Mike Green tells you about virtual bell ringing you do wonder if he isn’t ringing yours, but no, it is a real phenomenon in the world of campanology. But with Mike ‘in the room’ the conversation soon turned to other burning issues such as the breakfast eating habits of the royals, that will not be repeated here as they may constitute treason…. Not so the unfortunate eating habits of our canine companions, which can lead to their untimely demise after consumption of the most benign of sustenance, well benign to humans.

Refreshed in mind and stomach we returned to our labours as boxes of Sarah Eade’s bequest now descended from the museum to Keith’s van for conveyance to off site storage, and further space for other boxes of the bequest was created in the museum by shifting stored packing materials out to the Gunpowder Store. Who would have thought that paper could weigh so much? We tottered back across the tracks to put away the bits and bobs that had been taken out of the loft space, packing them inside the Store before wrapping for the day.

By the close of play four volunteers were left feeling a bit like the soldiers in the song ‘The grand old duke of York’ having marched up and down the museum stairs that many times….

Weekly Exhibit

This week, another cup and saucer from a 15in gauge railway. In 1917, the old 3ft gauge Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway had been converted to a miniature railway by Narrow Gauge Railways Ltd.

The railway carried both freight in the form of granite traffic, and catered for the tourist trade of the Lake District. The new terminus at Dalegarth included a refreshment room with company marked crockery, such as this example of a cup and saucer.

Weekly Exhibit

The 15in gauge Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway has been entertaining visitors since 1927, and received much publicity as the “World’s Smallest Public Railway”.

To cater for this market, souvenir items were sold including this example of a cup, saucer and plate. The image which shows a train at Dungeness is captioned ‘Coronation Limited, Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, World’s Smallest Public Railway’.

Museum working party 7th Oct 2021

The Tywyn weather mojo just about got its act together this morning as the team assembled under grey, but mercifully ‘dry’ clouds, and took the covers off the chassis of wagon no. 146. Max Birchenough, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen were on a mission to get the brake gear back in place and working.

The first task was to don protective gloves as we would be re-acquainting ourselves again with the evil green grease (EGG) to provide a layer off protection against corrosion and to ease the movement of nuts on the threads of the long fixing bolts. There was a short bit of discussion about how the various parts went back together as one of the operating arms appeared to be fouling a wheel flange, but the parts could not be assembled in any other way due to the asymmetry of their manufacture. We were treated to some very kind words by David Ventry commenting on our efforts maintaining the historic wagons, who mentioned something about coffee time just as the first train of the day needed waving away; we didn’t need a second reminder!

We were joined at our platform table by Kes Jones and Frank Nolan, museum assistants, John Alderslade, duty volunteer attendant, Dave McKeever, Llechfan floor cleaner for the day, and Mike Green, amicus curiae. The rustle of the biscuit tin quickly summoned Marshall Andy Sheffield along the platform to inspect and test the contents as fit for consumption. Our idle musings touched upon the burgeoning cottage industry of 3D printing that could make just about any model railway article required in pretty much any material, so long as the price was right. We posited that this technology might just repatriate some of the jobs currently residing in China, at the end of a long and increasingly fragile looking supply chain. On a lighter note we ‘rejoiced’ in the advent of Windows 11, the Windows software to end all Windows software, or was that Windows 10? Ann McCanna stopped by to say hello and Andy came back and refused a second biscuit, shock horror, until it was pointed out that they were chocolate covered Hobnobs at which point one was quickly tested.

Refreshed by our chocolate caffeine and chat we resumed our re-assembly of the brake gear, inserting new split pins and tightening up the many nuts to ensure nothing would fall off in the future. This was when we noted that the bearing housing beside the brake gear had a lot of air between it and the frame. Having tightened up the, very, slack bolts on this bearing housing we checked all the others and found them to be in a state of self loosening too; but our efforts to tighten them were hampered by another quirk of this wagon – mixed imperial and metric bolts. Fortunately Andrew Wilsons sets of spanners and sockets, that he bequeathed to the museum, were both imperial and metric so we could use the right tools for the job. The second train of the day was waved away as we were screwing the floor planks back in place, ready to put the covers back on. With the tarpaulin rope tied off and a steel plate placed on top to stop the wind whipping the whole lot off we finished work for the day.

By the close of play three men had put two brake pads and arms back onto one brake actuating arm and managed to keep the EGG off our faces.

Photos by John Olsen

Weekly Exhibit

The Schull and Skibbereen Railway in County Cork used a system of train staff and paper tickets to control the single line sections. The picture shows the train staff for the Ballydehob to Skibbereen section. This had a key attached which unlocked the red wooden box containing paper tickets. These were used to authorise a train to travel over the section of line without the train staff. The staff would be carried by a following train.

Museum working party 30th Sept 2021

It was a pretty epic fail on the part of the Tywyn weather mojo this morning with horizontal rains coming off Cardigan Bay at irregular intervals but Ian Evans, Charles Benedetto, Max Birchenough and John Olsen were warmly greeted into the Slater Room by Keith Theobald to assist in the sorting of Sarah Eade’s bequest. Sarah left a hugely diverse set of papers, documents, post cards stamps, models and more, but without a catalogue. The museum has been given the first option on anything narrow gauge and North Wales slate related so we happy few got sorting. Our pile of picks may have been small when we declared coffee time, but it would grow.

We enjoyed our brews and chocolate biscuits in the dry warmth of the cafe this blustery morning and watched as Marshall Andy ‘Two Sheds’ Sheffield, got the coach load of passengers safely ensconced on the Quarryman train. Sadly the double glazing prevented the rustle of the biscuit packet from being heard on the platform! Our mornings ramblings began with items being thrown in the firebox to generate that photogenic thunder cloud of smoke beloved of photographers, but they cannot be repeated here. Mike Green joined us as we moved onto safer territory of why Germany invaded Norway, but left Sweden unmolested, and the friendly invasion of Iceland by Great Britain. Flu jabs, and how and where to get them after cancelling the first appointment to be able to pay last respects to Winston McCanna on Saturday, enjoyed a brief moment of discussion before Bethan announced that anyone loitering in the cafe would be most welcome to help reset the tables for the upcoming large party. Strangely the chatter ceased and sorting recommenced.

A large number of annotated CDs and DVDs hinted at collections of quarrying pictures and these joined the pile of goodies along with old maps and reproductions of paintings showing Portmadoc as it developed from sleepy creek to global slate shipping hub.

By the close of play six boxes had been scrutinised by five people and the arisings condensed into one box for digital scanning and copying.

Picture by John Olsen

Weekly Exhibit

Last year we featured the lever frame from the Chattenden and Upnor Railway. Another signalling item in the collection is a mechanical point indicator from this railway. It included the facility to illuminate the indicator.

Museum working party 23rd Sept 2021

The Tywyn weather mojo was late out of bed this morning so the sun didn’t arrive until after work had started under grey skies. Charles Benedetto and John Olsen came upon a scene of rampant destruction around the Gunpowder Store; no not vandals, but essential tree surgery. One tree that was overhanging the Store has been felled, but a second that is threatening both the Gunpowder Store and Weighbridge is still to be brought down in a controlled manner. So the first job of the morning was to clear away the debris of the tree felling and then move the yellow plastic barriers so that we could shunt the wagons to where we could comfortably work on them, which meant clearing out the excess stone from the two foot where it mysteriously seems to build up in blatant disregard of the laws of physics. The first train of the day was waved away with a good loading of happy passengers and coffee time was declared as Ann McCanna had just arrived. This morning we staked out one of the platform tables as Dave McKeever brewed up our coffees in the Guards mess room.

The sun was out and the rustle of chocolate biscuits quickly summoned Marshall, Andy ‘Two Sheds’ Sheffield, from his duty rounding up stray passengers and herding them onto the train. We mused on such delights as taking the Canadian Pacific train across Canada, where one unfortunate passenger got trapped in the upper bunk of their compartment that had folded up on them unbidden! Di Drummond and Mike Green then joined the fray, the former seeking volunteers for a half term activity in the museum, ‘See an engine, build an engine’, that would give children a tour of the museum before constructing engines, Blue Peter style, from printed cut out shapes and rubber band wind up cotton reel drive units. Both having a background in adult education we were then treated to some tales of the educationally resistant youth whose exploits could only be described as stupid.

Refreshed, and grateful to be out of the world of current education, we returned to the main item on our agenda, freeing off the seized brake parts of wagon no. 146. Having ascertained that the copious WD40 treatment had not effected a release we considered our options, hit them with a big hammer or heat them and then hit them with a big hammer. Having tried the former we cadged a lighter from the crew of the ‘Quarryman’ and lit up the little gas burner, that was once used in stripping off the old paint from the wagons, and played its gentle flame over the first seized joint. After a while the penetrating oil started to bubble out of the rust so we knew something was happening and then Charles gave it a few whacks with the club hammer using the rail head as an anvil. It moved! More hammering and the rust layer crumbled so that the two parts could be separated. Hoorah! On to joint number two while the gas supply held out and more heat was applied for longer this time in the hope that less hammering would be necessary. This was a more stubborn joint and required much more hammering, but movement was seen so it was flipped over and hammered back the other way, but it was still not free as the broken off split pins remnants stopped us knocking the brake ‘pad’ off the pivot. A swift bit of filing reduced that obstacle to iron fillings and one last hammering broke the rusty seal. Success! We now had separated the parts so that we could file off the worst of the rust and use a coarse abrasive paper to put a bit of a shine on the surfaces. As a final little job the two fixing bolts were given a clean up with a rag soaked in white spirit before anointing with oil and running a nut up and down the threads to clear them of the mixture of rust and old grease.

By the close of play four wagons had been shunted, two seized brake arms freed off and no fires started.

Photos by John Olsen

Weekly Exhibit

We are delighted to receive further additions to the Awdry Collection. One very special item presented recently by his family is his clerical cloak. When not being worn, Wilbert used to hang it on his study door, and we hope to be able to recreate this at the museum.

Weekly Exhibit

The County Donegal Railway in Ireland issued stamps for the carriage of parcels on its network. The museum has a selection of stamps of various denominations.