Museum working party 4th Aug 2022

The skies were distinctly dark and threatening this morning in Wharf yard but luckily cleared to blue skies by the time the full team had assembled. Allan Black was back with Andy Sheffield, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen to progress the rebuild of wagon no. 136 (the three slat slate wagon).

With the cover off the frame the first task was to turn the frame over and then to select the drawbar that fitted best out of the two available. With this achieved the selected bar was centred up and the frame marked for the channelling of the timber. John was volunteered to use the circular saw to cut across the frame members before Allan and Charles chiselled out the unwanted wood. Andy took an angle grinder fitted with a wire brush to the drawbar, as its long period in storage had allowed rust to perforate the paint. John hammered away at more rusty patches on the splayside wagon door with the welders hammer in between holding the drawbar for Andy to work on the sides.

Coffee was called after we have waved away the second train and we joined Di Drummond and Keith Theobald in the bright sunshine on the platform.

Returning to the wagon frame our next task was to get the old wagon floor out of the Gunpowder Store and lay it on the frame so that the approximate position of the bolt holes for the axleboxes could be marked up. There were two sets of axleboxes in the store and the first set had been cleaned and painted but the bearing brasses were badly worn and no longer parallel; clearly these could not be re-used without further work. The second set was retrieved and although in better condition some of the brasses were loose and all had significant wear, again more work would be required on these in addition to cleaning and re-painting.

That turned the teams attention to the available wheelsets, which had been standing out in all weathers for three years and showed varying degrees of wear to the axle stubs and rims; these too would require workshop time to fettle them.

The old floor plate was returned to the store and the frame turned over after the rebates had been treated with wood preservative so that a second coat of preservative could be applied to the inner faces and underside before the cover was put back on.

The drawbar and tools were put back in to the Gunpowder Store and site tidied before the end of the session.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 28th July 2022

Another bright dry morning in Tywyn that allowed three jobs to be progressed. Andy Sheffield painted the bare timber of the Corris mail waggon headstock with primer, Charles Benedetto applied a generous coat of wood preservative to the freshly stripped sides of the new no. 136 frame and John Olsen continued to bash off the rust from the inside surface of the splayside wagon door.

At coffee time John parted company with the working party as Chris Grimes of the GRMT had arrived with his wife to measure up the Baldwin whistle off Peggy for a possible replica to be made.

After a spot of refreshments Chris and John went up to the Slater Room to begin work on the whistle. They were joined by Luke Ryan who was to perform a photogrammetric survey of the whistle by taking a series of high resolution digital images of the whistle before any dis-assembly was attempted. Once this was completed we discovered that the two nuts holding the bell in position were only finger tight and easily removed, during which it was noted that the brass nut, although badly scored, still had the WD symbol and legend stamped into it.

The bell did not slide off as it was threaded but it could not be fully removed due to damage to the threads on the central steel pin. However the larger gap did allow us to peer inside the bell and discover that the top was a shaped casting held in place by four rivets. An attempt to unscrew the central pin was halted by its clearly rusted condition so photos were taken of the internal details before screwing the bell back down and re-attaching the two nuts. A full set of measurements was made and a series of photos with a ruler in the picture for scale measurements to be taken at Chris’s leisure.

The rest of the team enjoyed an extended coffee break with Ann McCanna and Mike Green before Andy departed and Charles came to see the whistle close up. With the whistle safely back in the display case Chris took his leave from us and we packed our tools away.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 21st July 2022

The sun was shining on Wharf yard this morning as the working party team of Charles Benedetto, Andy Sheffield and John Olsen was reinforced by Ian Evans.

The first item on our agenda, once the first train of the day had left and we received the all clear from control, was to hand shunt the wagons on the Wharf Edge siding. We wanted to extract the TR wooden bodied wagon from in between the museum wagons and remove the FR flat loaded with scaffolding to allow the shunting to take place. With the FR flat parked on a separate siding we shuffled the wagons so that the two slate wagons were at the north end, closest to the museum, then came the incline and splayside wagons and finally, separated by a space to show the wagon turntable from the balcony, the covered wagon. The wooden bodied TR wagon was shunted up behind the covered wagon as it is an appropriate association and can help us tell the story of the transshipment outwards of finished slates for sale and inwards of foodstuffs and coal for the villagers of Abergynolwyn.

We took our coffee break at this point in the company of Malcolm Phillips, David Broadbent and Mike Green.

Before starting any further work John took down one of the moving words displays so that Malcolm could perform a firmware update ready for new text to be loaded by Keith. We then crossed the tracks to work on the new wagon frame for the rebuild of the three slat slate wagon no. 136, which we placed upon the stands recycled from the condemned frame of the same wagon over 3 years ago.

Charles and Ian used the angle grinders fitted with abrasive discs to remove the paint from the underside and inner faces. This follows the precedent of the frame of the covered wagon, no. 146, which did not have paint on these faces and was in very good condition with no significant rot; the unpainted surfaces were allowing the water that did penetrate to safely evaporate. Andy took a roll of masking tape and a tin of grey topcoat metal paint to complete the touching up of the covered wagon. John took on the task of knocking off the loose paint and rust from the inside of the door of the incline wagon, which was showing signs of extensive corrosion after last winter standing outside unprotected from the weather.

At the end of the mornings proceedings the wagon frame was covered over with the black maintenance cover and the site tidied up.

Photos by John Olsen.

Museum working party 14th July 2022

Another warm and sunny morning out in Wharf yard but Charles Benedetto and John Olsen had a job in the museum to occupy them.

The museum is playing host to North Wales artist Carwyn Jones multimedia exhibition of Quarrymen of North Wales featuring A0 portraits of the five men and a video of interviews they gave about life in the quarries. John had done some work during the week attaching velcro tabs to some of the frames constructed last week so that the first three portraits could be mounted in the longest frame quite quickly. However it required assistance from Keith Theobald and Mark Carwardine to hold the somewhat flexible plywood frame upright as the portraits were lined up and attached and then lift the entire assembly up and over the stairwell balustrade for the strategically placed clips to engage with the balustrade top.

We paused for a coffee and biscuit break in the hot sun, out on the platform, in the company of Mike Green before returning to the relative cool of the museum to assemble the second frame.

This frame held one portrait and a large landscape format board that gave the names of the quarrymen and the quarries in which they worked. Although only holding two items it was still a four man lift to get it locked onto the balustrade top opposite the first frame, as access was limited by the signalling equipment present.

The final pair of frames held just one item each and the first to be assembled was the A0++ title board. Once the frame was together and square, the velcro tabs had to be added in the appropriate locations to match those on the reverse of the display board; additional velcro hook tabs had to be attached to the display board where they were missing or had been replaced by loop velcro. Once these issues had been resolved the placement only took two persons to achieve. The final frame was to hold the final portrait beside the title board; this too required the velcro hook as well as loop tabs to be added in the right places before the portrait and frame were lifted over the balustrade and engaged with the title board with overlapping velcro tabs.

But the mornings work was not finished as Keith needed assistance in clearing the office of the slides given to the museum by Don Newing’s family and the safe storage of boxes of Don’s files in the long term storage space behind cabinet C12. Only when the puzzle of fitting the many boxes into the confined triangular space was achieved were we able to re-secure the panel and call a halt to proceedings.

Pictures by John Olsen and Keith Theobald.

Museum working party 7th July 2022

Early cloud gave way to bright sunny skies over Tywyn Wharf yard, the perfect conditions for the working party. This morning Andy Sheffield, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen continued working on the framework to hold the A0 Quarrymen portraits produced by North Wales artist Carwyn Jones.

John had painted the cut pieces of ply during the week and commenced marking out where the numerous fixing holes need to be drilled; Andy and Charles set up a production line on a couple of picnic tables. By coffee time most of the holes had been drilled out and the edges de-burred before the pieces were laid out on the ground to check that everything was in order for a trial fitting.

Our morning brew was taken out on the platform in the hot sunshine together with John Alderslade, duty attendant, Keith Theobald and Mike Green.

Post custard creams coffee and chat the frames were taken into the museum and assembled into the four panels for test fitting against the central stairwell balcony railings and marking for the fixing holes. The frames will be non destructively fixed to the railings with plastic waterpipe clips. Having achieved a successful fitting, the frames were disassembled and returned to the Gunpowder Store for final painting to take place and for the fixing holes to be drilled out.

Photo by John Olsen

Museum working party 30th June 2022

A warm sunny morning boded well for the Tywyn to Abergynolwyn leg of the Queens baton relay and our labours were temporarily halted to see it off up the line. This morning regulars Charles Benedetto and John Olsen were joined by first timer Robert Morgan.

The first task of the day was to dismantle the Giesl ejector display and pack it away under the stairs; a somewhat easier procedure than erecting it had been. Our second task was also inside the museum as the diesel engine interactive was no longer booting up when the power is turned on in the morning. To investigate the cause, and overcome it, we needed to lift the unit up and out of its slot and then move it forwards to gain access to the rear where three panels cover the workings. We removed one end panel to find no reset button of any nature and moved to the other end where we discovered the monitor controls and the black box that holds the video file. Pressing the monitor power button elicited a response and the boot up proceeded as normal; this indicated that the units internal rechargeable battery had become exhausted at some time due to a longer than normal shutdown, ie a COVID lockdown. We left the unit running to allow the battery to be recharged and went for our coffee.

This morning we were joined by Mark Gibson, duty attendant, and Chris Parrott and Ann McCanna for coffee, custard creams, double chocolate digestives and chat.

Refreshed, we checked that the diesel interactive had recharged sufficiently by turning it off and on again and seeing it boot up correctly. After unplugging it we manhandled it back into position and connected it up again. As it booted correctly we went across the tracks to attend to other jobs on the to do list.

The first was to use the tie bars that Roelof van der Molen left with the museum after he delivered the new wagon frames, several years ago now; these had been his construction aids and he had no immediate need of them. Two were used to strengthen our ageing wagon support stands, which were made from the two halves of the condemned frame of no. 136, the three bar slate wagon, and they will shortly be supporting the new frame for no. 136 as we begin the long delayed rebuild. The tie bars were overlong so Charles and Robert cut off the excess and dressed the ends to remove sharp edges. They then assisted John as he cut a sheet of 8×4 ply into three pieces, ready for further sub division to make the support frames for the Carwyn Jones portrait exhibition that the museum is playing host to this year.

As the morning concluded all the tools were tidied away and the support stands placed ready for the future wagon rebuild.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 23rd June 2022

A bright sunny morning was the perfect weather for Andy Sheffield, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen to complete the refresh of the splayside (no. 213) and incline (no. 117) wagons by applying the second coat of bitumenous paint to the floors.

John progressed the new part for the Corris mail wagon dumb buffer while Andy and Charles wielded the paintbrushes. The TR wagon inspector Tim Wilkinson did the rounds as we worked, passing all the wagons fit for running on the line except the Corris mail wagon due to the rot in the frame.

Our morning coffee was in the company of David and Mandy Broadbent, Ann McCanna and Mike Green, out on the platform with the sun beaming down.

Post coffee chat and chocolate biscuits the painting team moved on to touching up the covered wagon (no. 146) corner plates, as these had suffered some scuffs during storage, and the nuts and bolts, which needed to have the topcoat applied.

John completed the shaping of the new piece for the dumb buffer and left it in place pending anti rot treatment and then repainting of the headstock and both buffers.

The two slate wagons (no.s 164 & 101) have been shunted on to the Wharf Edge siding to join the covered wagon (no. 146) and we await one final shunt to release the two TR wagons and line up the heritage fleet in full view of the museum as part of our World Heritage interpretation display.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 16th June 2022

Ideal weather conditions to work outdoors this morning, but the first job of the day took Andy Sheffield, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen into the museum to retrieve the Giesl Ejector display from storage and assemble it on the ground floor for photography during the coming week. Having accomplished this with the aid of Frank Nolan’s ‘muscle’, the team went into the yard to the Aberllefeni Quarry counterbalance wagon.

This wagon is showing advanced signs of deterioration and was playing host to a wide variety of heavy metal and timber objects, most of which were not related to the wagon itself, and threatened to cause damage if not removed. The smaller items had already been removed, but it was a three man job to extract the remains of a slab wagon, possibly from Bryn Eglwys Quarry, and transfer this to a grounded metal wagon body. This allowed three cross timbers from a TR wagon to be removed as well, considerably lightening the load on the timber frame of the Aberllefeni wagon.

Our coffee break was taken in the hot sunshine on the platform in the company of Ann McCanna, Mike Green and David Broadbent, who is currently on very light duties.

Post coffee the tarpaulin was removed from the splayside wagon to allow the rusty patches on its floor to be cleaned up with wire brushes. Three men with angle grinders made smart work of this task and after the muck had been swept and vacuumed up, the floor was immediately painted with a coat of black bitumenous paint; taking care to catch all the little dimples that were very difficult to see against the bright light reflecting off the new paint. The tarpaulin was put back over the wagon in light of possible storms over the weekend and the site tidied up to conclude the morning.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 9th June 2022

The grey skies proved to be an accurate forecast of this mornings weather in Tywyn. Charles Benedetto and John Olsen had not long uncovered the splayside wagon and setup the power supply to the two angle grinders when the first heavy raindrops began to fall. The wagon was covered over again and an early coffee taken to see if it would dry up; it did not, but we enjoyed the company of Ann McCanna and Mike Green with our coffee and biscuits while we waited.

With rain still falling it was time for plan B, which entailed measuring up for a new piece of timber to replace the rotted end of the dumb buffer on the Corris Mail Wagon and beginning to cut it to size. While Charles was engaged on this job, John measured up for new mounting brackets in the museum and sourced suitable lengths of wood from our stock in the north wall storage area and then cleaning off the old wood glue and MDF before cutting each piece to length.

The morning wound up with the rain still persisting but some progress made on the new part for the Corris Wagon and the brackets.

Photo by John Olsen

Museum working party 2nd June 2022

A bright sunny morning in Tywyn on the Queens official birthday and the start of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Max Birchenough, Andy Sheffield and John Olsen were on hand to remove the cover from the incline wagon, no. 117, and begin coating the floor with black bitumenous paint.

John returned to the Corris mail wagon as the rotting wood had largely dried out. After removing the loose flaky wood with a wire brush the soft wood was treated with hardener to help exclude any further water penetration. While this was left to harden John then turned his attention to the splayside wagon, no. 213, as rain earlier in the week had revealed that there was still a low point in the floor that was not being drained by the holes he inserted last week.

The first train of the day was double headed by No’s 3 and 4, with the latter carrying the museum’s Queen’s Coronation Headboard; we paused in our labours to take photos.

By coffee time much of the incline wagon floor had been painted and the site of a new drainage hole had been cleaned up with a wire brush ready for drilling.

We joined Ann McCanna and Mary Sheffield at their table on the platform and were joined by John Alderslade, duty attendant, Mike Green and Neal Chapman for our coffee, biscuits and chat.

We returned to the tasks in hand and completed the painting of the floor of the incline wagon, which we left uncovered to let the paint dry more rapidly. With a new hole drilled John primed the bare metal with grey acid etch primer and then treated the last unpainted nuts and bolts on the covered wagon, no. 146, which is currently on the Wharf Edge siding.

Photos by John Olsen