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….

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

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

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

Museum working party 9th Sept 2021

The Tywyn weather mojo got thoroughly confused this morning, what with Corris No. 7 gracing our rails for the Edward Thomas Centenary Celebrations this weekend, and defaulted to Corris weather! But it dithered long enough for David Broadbent, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen to take the covers off the chassis of wagon no. 146 so that John could explain his cunning plan Z to free off the rusted brake gear and then for him to help erect the scaffold tower on the platform with Keith Theobald and begin hanging the first of two new museum signs; then the heavens opened.

As John was already partway through the sign hanging and up on the scaffold tower he pulled up the hood of his waterproof jacket and carried on. Then with no sign of the downpour abating he and Keith moved the tower aside to allow the first train to board its late arrivals. With No. 4 and Corris No. 7 at its head, the first train was waved away up the line and coffee time declared on the platform as rain continued to stop play outside the Gunpowder Store.

Our morning caffeine, chocolate and chat was in the company of Keith and Malcolm Philips. The opening quip about the staff assembling a new Garden Rail layout in the yard, well it was 2 foot gauge actually but you get the gist, led onto the merits of 32mm vs 45 mm track; the latter looks like ‘standard gauge’ track apparently. The Quarryman stock pulled into the platform with No. 2 in charge and the banter moved onto whether this was the most appropriate engine, No. 3 having more original parts than No. 2, and thus it qualified as a more ‘Victorian’ locomotive. But the advocate of this view had his petard hoisted to the mainbrace when it was observed that very little in a human body is original after a few years have passed, as the cells all turn over.…

Refreshed we returned to our tasks, David and Charles worked on the rusted up locking nut that prevented the complete dismantling of the brake gear and had it turning in short order thanks to the correct sized spanner and a lump hammer. While John was out on the balcony with Keith hanging the second museum sign on the palings over looking the main line to attract the eye of visitors as they come over the road bridge. With the sign secured in place John went over the tracks to apply some violence to the rusty brake gear and succeeded in shifting a split pin and some more rust, but not the bearing. The brakes were put away in the Gunpowder Store to allow time for the fresh applications of WD40 to take effect and the operating arm replaced on the wagon chassis before the whole was sheeted over. To allow a wagon to be run onto the weighbridge, for operating tours of the weighbridge over the weekend, the two wheelsets in the two foot were relocated and the approach to the Weighbridge House cleared of any tripping hazards before time was called on the mornings activities.

By the close of play two new museum signs had been hung, the brake gear of wagon no. 146 had been dismantled successfully, and one worker got wet.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 2nd Sept 2021

The Tywyn weather mojo has retreated into the doldrums again with a dry but very overcast morning in Wharf yard as the team assembled and briefly pondered whether two person constituted a working party. But enough of such idle speculation, David Broadbent and John Olsen had a seized brake system to sort out on wagon no. 146.

Acting upon advice from the TR engineering department they applied fresh WD 40 and then whacked the offending part with a hammer whilst operating the brake lever. This did have an effect, but not the desired one, as the fixing bolt was rotating. A large adjustable spanner and a bit of grunt tightened the nut sufficiently that no rotation was possible and the whacking and pumping action were repeated; success, a small but visible movement. Further, more scientific, application of the hammer moved the brake arm along the bolt to allow the rusty metal to be cleaned up with emery cloth and a wire brush before being wiped clean and evil green grease (EGG) applied. With lubrication on the joint the brake arm could be tapped the other way to allow the remaining area of rust to be cleaned off and more EGG applied.

Flushed with success, or was it the hammering and pumping, David and John cleaned up the other brake arm bearing in the same way and gave it a generous coating of EGG. Proceedings were halted to wave away the first train of the morning and its full load of happy passengers and the way was clear for coffee time.

We took our coffee on the platform table adjacent to the museum entrance and we were joined by Ann McCanna and Andy Sheffield as he took a break from marshall duties. Our idle musings started with the attempt of a dozy truck driver on the new Machynlleth Bridge works attempting to perform a limbo dance under the railway bridge, and failing spectacularly. He did succeed in ripping the tipper off the back of his truck and causing traffic mayhem on market day! At this time Frank Yates joined us and we caught up with news with him.

Refreshed we went into the museum to retrieve the ticket machine to see if Frank could work his magic upon its wayward innards. Three heads commenced analysing the situation but were still thwarted in our attempts to get a single ticket to be issued without a second jamming the machine. Frank had come armed with some of the older tickets from our original supplier and a micrometer to check the new tickets thickness against them. There wasn’t really enough of a difference to account for the jamming and the other dimensions were examined; the new tickets were narrower, could that be the problem? We removed the ticket chute and Frank spotted a fixing screw hanging loose that allowed the dispensing mechanism to wobble a bit, we tightened that up. John observed that the chute had been modified at some point to allow for narrower tickets and a slight adjustment of the metalwork was made before the chute was re-fitted. A final adjustment of the ticket ‘gate’ to allow free movement of the dispensing tines and a test run showed promise, although it tended to spit out two tickets at a time. One final adjustment was the removal of the extra weight that Frank had fabricated during his last ‘repair’ of the machine as this seemed to be unnecessary.

Now the tickets were emerging without jamming, albeit in pairs, and Keith Theobald pronounced this to be an acceptable ‘cost’ for a working machine. With David’s bus departure time approaching we tidied up the work site in front of the Gunpowder Store, sprayed some more WD40 onto the remaining lower brake arm bearings as they were still rusted solid and put the protective tarpaulin back over the wagon chassis. The final task of the morning was for Keith and John to put the ticket machine back up in position on the support pillar by the lift lobby door and tighten the nuts and bolts.

Three rusty bearings were lubricated with WD40, two free bearings were de-rusted and lubricated with EGG and one ticket machine was restored to operation.

Photos by John Olsen