Museum working party 26th May 2022

The weather was 50:50 this morning as Andy Sheffield, Max Birchenough , Charles Benedetto and John Olsen assembled for the mornings activities. In the absence of wagon no. 146, which was still sitting in the siding at Brynglas following Don Newing’s ashes interment last Saturday, the team tackled three other wagons.

Andy got the job of finding all the bits of the FR slate wagon that had not been painted with black bitumastic paint last week, Charles and Max used wire brushes in the angle grinders to clean the light rust off the already stripped floor of wagon no. 117, the incline wagon, prior to priming with acid etch primer and John baled out wagon no. 213, the splayside, before drilling two drain holes in the floor.

By coffee time Andy was satisfied he had found all the last specks of sand coloured primer and covered them, Max and Charles had cleaned off the exposed metal of the incline wagon and given it a thorough clean with brushes and then white spirit and John had bored the drainage holes, wire brush cleaned the floor area immediately around them in the splayside wagon. Both wagons were covered over in case the low clouds decided to rain on Tywyn.

The appearance of Mike Green at Wharf heralded coffee time, which was taken in his company in the cafe, as it was blowing quite hard outside.

Post coffee the rain had stayed away and Andy had to retire for a previous engagement. John applied primer to the new drain holes in the splayside wagon and then handed the brushes on to Charles and Max to apply to the incline wagon. Casting a critical eye over the FR wagon John spotted more than one area of sandy speckles and applied more bitumastic paint to the frame, especially the hard to see and reach places on the underside. The incline wagon was covered over to allow the primer to fully cure in the dry and the worksite tidied.

Photos by John Olsen.

Museum working party 19th May 2022

Another fine dry morning in Tywyn, but wagon no. 146 was absent from Wharf yard. Having been taken to Pendre for an inspection over the pit, and given a conditional clearance to be used on the line, it was parked on the ash road and did not return to Wharf. In consequence Charles Benedetto and John Olsen turned their attention to the Corris Mail wagon, which had a report of rot in the south west corner dumb buffer. On removing the iron reinforcing strap it was discovered that the rot had penetrated both the headstock and the solebar at the joint. A third opinion from museum Trustee Malcolm Phillips was sought and the wagon frame unanimously condemned as unfit; therefore the Corris Mail wagon will not be allowed to be used for any photo charters or other events until it has been overhauled and the frame completely replaced.

Our attention then turned to the FR steel bodied slate wagon that had been shot blasted and primed some weeks ago, then partially painted with black bitumenous paint and covered over while we worked on no. 146. To make painting the undersides of the steelwork easier the frame was lifted onto additional packing timbers with the kind assistance of Chris Parrott. We took our coffee break out on the platform in the company of Malcolm, Chris and Mike Green.

Post coffee, painting commenced in earnest and continued until the frame was painted all over; there are still unpainted areas lurking in the darker corners which will be attended to in due course when there are sufficient hands to safely turn the frame onto its side. To allow the paint to fully cure the frame has been left uncovered for the moment.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 5th May 2022

A dry morning allowed further progress on the finishing touches on wagon no. 146. Max Birchenough, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen worked on cutting off the excess threads on the door bolts before painting them with black Hammerite.

Max began by wire brushing the two chains that secure the lower door and then painting them with black Hammerite paint. Charles and John needed to perform some restoration work on one of our (ex wagon 134 frame) stands before it could be used as a painting stand, as some unkind soul had handled it very roughly and caused one timber to split and the diagonal bracing to come adrift.

While Charles finished replacing the fixings crews with heavier duty versions John used an angle grinder with metal cutting disc to shorten the overlong bolts on the individual doors. As each was completed the door was handed on to Max who masked around the metalwork and then painted the nuts and bolts and touched up the hinges.

Coffee was out on the platform in the sun with Mike Green before we returned to angle grinding and painting. Charles used the second angle grinder, with a wire brush head fitted, to clean the rust off two of the FR wagon axleboxes ready for priming.

With all three doors completed and additional nuts and bolts on the wagon painted black, no. 146 was sheeted over and left outside the Gunpowder Store so that John could work on it during the week and it could also be inspected to ensure it was mechanically safe to be run on the line.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 28th April 2022

After our Easter break the team assembled on a sunny dry morning to re-assemble the modified and re-painted upper doors of wagon no. 146 and hang them in place.

Charles Benedetto, Max Birchenough and John Olsen were joined by Andy Sheffield later in the proceedings. The upper pair of doors has a similar design problem to the bodywork of the wagon, i.e. no diagonal crossbracing, so they can easily ‘droop’ on the hinges, fouling the lower door. The hinges themselves needed packing washers to carry the weight and adjust the vertical position so that the upper doors did not foul the lower door when being closed. With some gentle persuasion, followed by physically holding the doors in the correct position, the many bolts could be tightened to retain the correct attitude.

This was when we found that one of the short odd shaped metal straps that hold the doors ‘rainstrip’ in place, could not be moved sufficiently far to allow the door to be properly closed. In the past this had been ‘solved’ by carving part of the upper edge of the door away with a chisel but with time marching on we had no desire to expose fresh wood and then have to re-paint it with primer, undercoat and two topcoats. The offending metal strap was reduced in width with an angle grinder and the cut edges filed smooth to achieve the desired fit; this now only requires touching up with black Hammerite.

We took our morning refreshments in the cafe in the company of Ann McCanna and Mike Green before returning to attend to further minor issues. One of the roof straps had required new holes to be drilled in it and rather than leave the old holes as potential rust pits we filled them with black Milliput. A second more pressing issue was to substitute a bolt for the coach screw that secured one of the end metal straps to the wagon frame, as the screw was no longer holding tight. Andy drilled the hole through the frame in short order but unfortunately the 130mm stainless steel coach bolts we had were just too short to go all the way through the wagon frame and thick metal strap; and would have fouled the transverse frame rod to boot. John opted to buy a length of 12mm studding rod to use instead.

The structural work is thus pretty much complete with just cosmetic work, such as shortening the protruding bolts and painting them to match the bodywork, to complete.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party report 7th April 2022

Another cold bright start in Wharf Yard for Andy Sheffield, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen, where the mission was to straighten up wagon no. 146. By stringing a chain from the top corner to the opposite bottom corner, and tightening it with a turnbuckle, it was hoped that the trapezoid would become a rectangle; that was the plan.

First two 100mm long bolts had to be inserted in place of the 65mm ones already fitted so that the end of the chain and eye bolt of the turnbuckle could be secured with nuts, ensuring that they would not come off the bolts during the tensioning procedure. Then all the bolts on the south face were slackened off to allow planks, ribs and roof to move (hopefully) into the new alignment. By measuring across the two diagonals we were able to establish how close to square we were and avoid over tightening the turnbuckle. With foam pads in place to protect the paintwork, the tension was applied and then the bolts re-secured once the diagonals were of equal length. We then stopped for a coffee break in the warmth of the cafe where we were joined by Keith Theobald, Mike Green and John Alderslade.

Post coffee we slackened off the chain and then put the doors back on the north side to see how much had shifted; this was promising so we repeated the tensioning procedure for the north side too. With all the bolts tight once more, the doors were re-hung and with a bit of adjustment we got them all to close up. But it was clear that the left hand top door was not able to close fully due to the inadequate gap between the wood of the door and the adjoining planks; this would require about 4mm to be removed. Similarly the right hand top door could be made to close, but only by lifting it over the bottom door; removing a triangular sliver of wood was needed to correct this fouling. The bottom door did not require any adjustment so all the bolts could be tightened up. John volunteered to trim the doors and repaint the cut edges so that the doors could be fitted after Easter as there will be a two week break over Easter.

The next museum working party will be on Thursday 28th April. We wish you a Happy Easter from all of the museum volunteers and trustees.

Photo by John Olsen

Museum working party 31st March 2022

A very chilly north east wind but bright sunshine for the team of Max Birchenough, Charles Benedetto, David Broadbent and John Olsen this morning. Wagon no. 146 was rolled out of the Gunpowder Store and rotated 180o on the turntable ready for today’s exercise of door fitting.

First all the slack nuts and bolts on the east, south and west faces of the wagon were tightened up, but those on the north side left slack to allow for adjustments. The bottom door fitted with only minor adjustments but the two upper doors required the hinges to be fitted first and we encountered our first hiccup, the hinge packing pieces are all individual and some shuffling was necessary to get all four fixing bolts through all of them; a process not helped by cold fingers. To warm up we adjourned to the cafe for morning coffee in the company of Mike Green, Ann McCanna, Di Drummond and Keith Theobald.

After refreshments we split the team so that two could apply a layer of black bitumenous paint to the FR wagon frame, as the primer alone does not confer good weather protection to the metal, while the other pair worked on getting the doors to fit. The painting team pressed ahead with no problems but the door team found one of the fixings for the lower door could not be fitted as the hole was round; it needed to be square. A search for a chisel of the right dimensions failed so John volunteered to attend to this as a piece of homework.

Further adjustments of the door aperture did achieve closure of the upper pair of doors, but not easily. It would appear that, with the lack of diagonal cross bracing in the original design, the door aperture is not square and this is leading to the doors binding. There was insufficient time to attempt a remedy as the clouds came over and it began to snow so that the FR wagon frame needed to be covered over, no. 146 rolled back inside the store and the tools rapidly put away.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 24th March 2022

Max Birchenough, Andy Sheffield, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen convened at the Gunpowder Store under sunny skies to continue with the refurbishment of covered wagon no. 146. John had applied further coats of Hammerite paint to the new roof strap during the week so that it was ready to be fitted in place. It required a bit of gentle persuasion for the holes to align, but then the bolts and coach screws could be tightened properly to complete the re-roofing work. The interior ironwork was then masked off with tape prior to a further coat of light grey paint. While this was going on Andy had been applying more primer to the FR steel wagon chassis as the spraying had not been able to get into all the nooks and crannies.

The mornings coffee was taken out on the platform in the company of Malcolm Phillips, Keith Theobald, Mike Green and Ann McCanna, who is still nursing her injured left arm. Jammy Dodgers were on the biscuit menu alongside the more usual chocolate Hobnobs.

After our refreshments we resumed our painting work with Max and Charles in the van and Andy out in the sun. John was engaged in an ongoing construction project to safely and effectively display our ‘fishbelly’ rails in the museum.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 17th March 2022

The team, Max Birchenough, Andy Sheffield, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen, assembled under cloudy skies in Wharf yard and rolled wagon no. 146 out of the Gunpowder Store to test fit the new roof strap that had now been drilled with holes at the positions we marked previously. It fitted with little effort and was then removed so that it could be cleaned and painted.

A rain shower intervened and early coffee was taken in the company of Mike Green and David and Mandy Broadbent. The shower had passed over by the end of the break allowing the strap to be painted with its first coat of smooth black Hammerite. The inside of no. 146 still had the alphanumeric codes painted on each plank (applied to aid re-assembly) so these needed to be over painted; a light grey emulsion paint was chosen and applied with rollers.

The FR steel bodied slate wagon frame was shotblasted during the week and Chris Smith then immediately sprayed it with a special metal primer to protect the bare metal; our thanks to Chris for his efforts on our behalf. The frame was then covered over to protect it from the weather and it will be moved back to the Gunpowder Store when a friendly Bobcat operator is available.

The axlebox lower halves of the FR slate wagon needed to have the old paint and rust removed from them so a start was made using wire brushes and an abrasive disc. No. 146 and all the tools were returned to the Gunpowder Store at the end of the morning.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 10th Mar 2022

The morning started dry so that Andy Sheffield, Max Birchenough, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen could shunt the heritage wagons to bring the incline wagon close to the Gunpowder Store for ongoing work in the near future. The shunting also returned the Corris Mail Waggon to its normal location on the weighbridge, as it is not anticipated that it will need to be moved when the Gunpowder Store roof works begin.

The roof strap for wagon no. 146 was drilled with 14mm holes where we marked them by Pendre, many thanks to those involved. Our thanks too to Keith for conveying the strap to and from Pendre works in his van.

The Ffestiniog steel bodied slate wagon was dismantled into three parts on Monday and conveyed by Bobcat to the shotblasting site around the curve in Wharf Yard; our thanks to Steve Thorpe for driving the Bobcat.

Thanks are also due to Tony McIlwrick and Bob Denton who repainted the weighbridge mechanism and weights during Outdoor Week when rain shutdown their outside activity.

The rain intervened whilst we were having our coffee break with Keith Theobald, Frank Nolan, David and Mandy Broadbent and Mike Green. David reported on finding correspondence between the Rev Awdry and Sarah Eade in the collection of stamps, covers and papers that he is cataloguing for the museum as a home project; we hope to accession these to boost our Awdry collection.

The team used the remaining time to clean the large glass panel, the glazing around William Finlay and the stainless steel balustrade supports, in the entryway of the museum and paint the new handholds in the display plinths with matching grey paint.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 3rd March 2022

The weather in Tywyn this morning was a persistent soaking fine rain, so Andy Sheffield, Max Birchenough, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen convened inside the museum to work on the grey exhibition plinths. These plinths are used to display heavy quarry rail castings and are incredibly difficult to move as they have no hand holds; this mornings job was to correct this deficiency. By using a hole cutting drill to bore two holes and then cutting out the intervening MDF with an oscillating head power tool fitted with a blade attachment, a simple handhold was made in each end of three plinths on the ground floor of the museum. The holes were then filed and sanded to remove any sharp edges.

To make the work easier the display items had all been removed from the plinths; this revealed that some of the coach screw fixings were beginning to pull the MDF apart, potentially allowing the heavy castings to be moved. To prevent this occurring the damaged holes were opened out to 12mm and coach bolts, left over from the rebuild of wagon no. 146, threaded through to provide much more robust and durable fixing points.

In total three plinths were modified and washed down prior to re-attaching the display items and restoring them to their correct locations ready for when the museum is open over the weekend.

Photos by John Olsen