Museum working party 16th Dec 2021

The year is waning and the Tywyn weather mojo is flagging a bit, but it still managed a dry, if overcast, morning for the last working party of 2021. We were a much reduced duo this morning as we lost team members to other ‘duties’, but Charles Benedetto and John Olsen had a year end goal in sight, the fourth side of wagon no. 146.

Hauling the wagon out of the Gunpowder Store was just about manageable and it wasn’t long before one of the new end angle pieces had been aligned with the bolts and secured with finger tight nuts to start building the East wall. We had almost reached the reached the top plank when Ann McCanna turned up with a bag full of her special mince pies and Max Birchenough arrived to take pictures of the progress and join us for coffee.

With Sue Benedetto and Keith Theobald on site John handed a bottle of mulled wine to the cafe staff to be heated up as a winter warmer with our festive nibbles. Sue had brought bara brith and John cinnamon flapjacks to go with the mince pies, and chocolate biscuit selections supplied by Max; a veritable feast. We raised our glasses of hot mulled wine to toast the efforts of the working party through the year and then got on with the chatter as Mike Green swelled our numbers. Our discussions encompassed possible COVID effects on Christmas, exporting our carbon costs (if we didn’t mine it then it can’t be ‘our’ carbon) hence why buying Russian coal is so much worse for the climate than keeping our own mines going. Did you know that next year marks the centenary of the Great Western Railways absorption of Cambrian Railways? This event upstaged the slightly later, but more famous, ‘Grouping’ in 1923; you learn a lot at our little chinwags.

Refreshed by the wine, and high on the sugar, we hardy pair returned to the task at hand and cracked on with fitting the second new end angle. This had one hole misaligned by nearly 1 cm so a bit of work with a chisel and file was necessary to extend the hole through the plank to allow the bolt to be threaded through. Then the two outer straps were added in short order as, miraculously, all the holes lined up and that allowed us to attach the topmost plank, completing the side. But we went one better by installing the angle strap inside the wagon to firmly join the longitudinal roof timber to the east wall; though this required both of us to push up on the beam to lift the rib enough for the holes to align. Tired but victorious we then eyed up the challenge of getting the wagon back inside the Store, over the small but significant hump where rail gives way to concrete. We gave it a big shove and surprised ourselves by very nearly sending the wagon careening into the pile of wagon covers and boxes of bits!

By the close of play six planks, two straps, two angles and one angle strap had been attached by two determined men on a mission!

So we close our year with best wishes to you and yours for a happy and safe Christmas, ready for whatever the New Year throws at us.

Photo by John Olsen

The working parties will restart on Thursday Jan 6th 2022, COVID permitting.

Museum working party 9th Dec 2021

After its recent poor showing in letting Storms Arwen and Barra soak Tywyn, the Tywyn weather mojo pulled a proverbial rabbit out of its hat with a lovely calm and sunny morning in Wharf yard today.

But all was not well with the big sign on the Neptune Road face of the museum for John observed that it had acquired a banana-like bend of its western end due to the savage gusts out of the NW. Thus together with Max Birchenough he set about putting matters to rights; this required tools from the Gunpowder Store which led to him spotting Charles Benedetto idly chattering in the yard with Tim Wilkinson. Our third errant team member got his marching orders and joined us out on Neptune Road to re-hang the sign post de-bananaing, which is when we discovered that half the fixing holes did not correctly align with their ‘corresponding’ wall plugs. A bit of judicious opening out of the holes in the sign allowed it to be securely re-hung; with two new fixings at each end to curb any future tendencies to ‘go with the wind’.

Ann McCanna called us to coffee in the warmth of the cafe together with Sue Benedetto and treated us to her ‘Christmas Distilled’ cake, a delightful confection that included mince pies and cranberries – totally moreish but we kept one piece back for Keith Theobald as he joined us partway through our verbal meanderings. Naturally encounters with the wind featured in our discourse with Charles describing how some G scale wooden wagons were unseated from the rails by lesser winds than Arwen and Barra had thrown at us. Keith revealed that he had found the missing keys, not down the back of the sofa but actually suspended from the underpinnings of the sofa; how they managed this gravity defying transition without the aid of a dog or cat remains a mystery. With Andy Sheffield absent, all the members of the team felt obliged to eat the chocolate covered Hobnobs with his name on them, taking one, or more, for the ‘team’.

Refreshed by our chat, chocolate and cake we returned to our current project, wagon no. 146, which we hauled out of the Gunpowder Store under increasingly grey skies. This morning we attached the two vertical straps to the western end of the wagon, joggling the planks to get all the holes to align well enough to tap the coach bolts through and tighten up the many nuts. Getting the top plank in place allowed Charles and Max to secure the end wall to the roof beam with the angle strap, stiffening up the whole assembly. John ground off the square shanks from some more coach bolts ready for further work on the east end of the wagon. We were in the process of wrapping up the mornings activities when the first rain drops began to fall and quickly heaved the wagon back into the protection of the Store before collecting up the tools and stowing them too.

By the close of play three men had attached two straps, secured one top plank and rectified the wind damage to our museum sign.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 2nd Dec 2021

The Tywyn weather mojo was on top form this morning, to atone for its ‘sins’ last weekend, and the team assembled early(!) in Wharf Yard to continue the 3D jigsaw puzzle that is wagon no. 146. Charles Benedetto, Andy Sheffield, Max Birchenough and John Olsen pulled the wagon out of the Gunpowder Store and reviewed our progress – two sides on. That was the good news, the less good news was that to fit the West end long angle plates, that had been painted many moons ago, many of the bolts had to come out again to be turned around, including the ones that helped join the top of the metal ribs to the vertical part, which were absolute swines to get all three holes aligned. Now as we all know square pegs do not make for a good fit in round holes and the metal ribs all have round holes, unfortunately the stainless steel coach bolts have square shafts…. The answer was to grind away the unwanted metal with an angle grinder so that the bolts could be turned round, and so began the game of musical bolts; John modified them and the rest of the team manhandled ribs and planks to re-insert them, with the assistance of the rubber headed mallet on occasion.

We were getting into our stride when Ann McCanna turned up to start decorating the Christmas tree and dragooned Charles and Andy to shift one of the red boxes for her to stand it upon. Shortly thereafter they returned and Ann was not happy, she had been rushed to get here this morning to do the honours, and someone had already assembled and decorated the tree. As none of the gang were responsible for usurping Ann she went away to get our coffees for us. Mr Green cast his expert eye over our endeavours and pronounced the coupling hook to be on upside down, a matter attended to with a Coventry precision hammer applied to the split pin by our resident Daimler engineer Andy; sorted.

We sat out on the platform in the bright sun and were joined by Keith Theobald and Mike Green. Before starting in on our coffee chat and chocolate we stood in quiet reflection for a minute as a mark of respect for Don Newing, a longtime museum volunteer and trustee who had just passed away. As Andy had cancelled his German Christmas Market holiday he was in need of an extra boost and was allowed to break into the dark chocolate Hobnobs; that put a smile back on his face. Subjects for discussion included arrangements for the Carol Train and past winters that were exceptionally cold; we all admitted to remembering the big freeze of 1962/3 but there was a general shaking of heads for the one in 1947….. For the benefit of youngsters out there we would routinely wake up in the morning and have to scrape the fantastical shapes of ice crystals off the insides of our single glazed windows before getting the coal fires going; domestic central heating was still only available for the well heeled!

Refreshed by our calories we returned to our re-assembling and succeeded in getting most of the West end planking in place and locating the brackets that secure the roof beam to the ends but we will need a supply of longer bolts to complete the work around the door as the bottom half of the ribs was much thicker than remembered..…

By the close of play four men had re-attached five planks and two end angle plates and rolled one semi complete wagon back into the Gunpowder Store.

Museum working party 18th Nov 2021

The Tywyn weather mojo may have been stuck in dull mode but it was anything but for the team as they assembled in Wharf Yard. Andy Sheffield, Charles Benedetto, David Broadbent and John Olsen were about to put Humpty Dumpty, aka the covered wagon no. 146, back together again!

But first David joined Keith in the museum to assess the stamp and first day covers section of Sarah Eade’s bequest. With the chassis of no 146 standing on the wagon turntable the four iron ribs were attached paying attention to the orientation of the wagon, which was facing 180 degrees from its normal direction in order to fit the brake lever within the tight limits of the Gunpowder Store. The ribs all had identifying tags on and were erected in short order, just pinching up the new stainless steel nuts and bolts (purchased to alleviate the rusting problems suffered by our stock so near to the sea) to allow easier fitting of the timber panels. The panels all came with identifying text and numbers on them, so we started with S5, as shown in John’s photos of June 2018 (!) when the van was disassembled for fettling. All seemed well until S2 and S1 were added and too many holes just didn’t align properly; a re-assessment of the last rib to be bolted in place came to the conclusion that it was 180 degrees out of synch with its kin (even tags can be misleading). Once turned around the top pair of boards could be secured much more easily and the top roof spar, that linked the ribs, fitted in place.

Ann McCanna and daughter Wendy turned up to provide our morning refreshments and as a treat they bought us real coffees and flapjacks too; we were being spoiled! We were joined at our platform table by David and Keith, Charles’ wife Sue and friend and last, but definitely not least, Mike Green. As Ann and Wendy had been sorting through Winston’s study they brought some offerings to give to us, Charles particularly liked the Roald Dahl book of rail safety; at least as sane as any HSE document. Our chatter took in the results of Davids examination of Sarah Eade’s philately, which was not only extensive but contained many rarities, and her idiosyncratic history of Tywyn volumes, including the fabled volume 3, of which no trace has yet been found.

Much refreshed by our coffee, chat and, yes, chocolate biscuits too, we returned to no 146 and began to attach the panels on the north side, the door side, and noticed that we had mislaid a hole! One panel lacked a hole due to it having split as it was removed and during the repair the hole was completely filled to make a stronger job of it, but the hole needed to be drilled out anew; with time marching on we opted to leave that job for another day. The final job of the morning was to bolt the bottom door hinge plate in place using M10 fittings just to confuse everyone who had hitherto been using M12 nuts and bolts. Having cleared up the work site we rolled wagon no. 146 back into the Gunpowder Store for safe keeping until the next working party.

By the close of play fifteen panels had been re-attached to four steel ribs to the satisfaction of one and all.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 11th Nov 2021

The Tywyn weather mojo was most definitely stuck in grey mode as the team assembled in Wharf Yard for the morning fun and frolics, but at least it was dry. This overcast morning Charles Benedetto, Max Birchenough and John Olsen were joined by Tony Baker and, in a non working capacity, by Andy Sheffield (no wonder his boots were so clean!).

Our mission was to shunt the wagons down the heritage siding alongside Llechfan hedge to allow scaffolding to be erected for the roof repairs of the Gunpowder Store. The biggest obstacle, a pile of 2 foot gauge track panels, had been shifted across the yard the previous day, but there still remained the issue of fouled flangeways. John and Max shifted the mud, muck and plants out of the way so that we had a chance of moving wagons without generating hernias. The first moves were to roll the wagon wheelsets to the end of the hedge, re-railing two wheelsets that had been parked on the wagon turntable. The cover was removed from the incline wagon so that it wouldn’t be damaged by being dragged along the hedge, which has been allowed to grow a bit too much laterally. This was swiftly followed by the chassis of no. 146 after it had been de-cloaked, but it was reversed onto the wagon turntable and left there out of the way. The incline wagon was rolled down to the wheelsets, followed by wagon no. 101 and the Corris mail waggon; but even as eager hands were laid upon wagon no. 164 John called a halt to proceedings. Wagon no. 164 has a brake on it and the handle was on the hedge side so it would have become horribly snarled up in the hedgerow; it needed to be turned but to do that the chassis of no. 146 had to go into the Gunpowder Store.

We had our coffee break a little earlier than usual in order to observe the two minute silence marking the ending of the First World War and settled around one of the tables on the platform. Ann McCanna arrived not long afterwards, expecting to take our coffee orders, but finding us already supping and chatting. This mornings discussion forum re-visited dental matters as Andy had just had a filling done and had been charged a princely sum for it; he then discovered that there are different grades of ‘Denplan’ (much umbrage). We also needed to explain to him what ganja was:- marijuana, weed, wacky baccy; he has led such a sheltered life. Finally we delved into history in response to one of his questions, but a contentious part of history that will not be revisited in this missive. Mike Green arrived clutching his hot chocolate and little sponge cake but he had barely enough time for a couple of mouthfuls before 11 o’clock and Ann marshalled us along the platform edge to observe the two minutes silence, reflecting on all those killed and wounded in war.

Refreshed by our repast we returned across the tracks to move the tools and other clutter that was blocking the way of wagon no. 146 chassis into the Gunpowder Store. In short order we were ready to heave the wagon over the threshold off the rails and onto the concrete, only to be thwarted by the wagons brake lever that protrudes a long way and was about to crash into some of the wagons metal ribs. A bit of adjustment of the ribs and other bits of wagon metal work allowed a second attempt; success, sort of. The wagon needed to be slewed over somewhat so John demonstrated what was possible with the aid of a long lever, swinging the leading end across by 6 inches allowing the wagon to be rolled into place clear of the doors. Now the way was clear for no. 164 to be brought onto the wagon turntable and rotated, or not. For a still unknown reason the turntable is ever so slightly off centre and when rotated clockwise it fouls the rails at one end, bizarrely rotating it anti clockwise does not lead to fouling; so it was all the way back again and then a further 180o to complete the turn. Now the wagon passed along the hedge with minimal contact and we had but one more to shift, the splayside wagon, and it was going to go ‘through’ the hedge no matter which way it faced. But with plenty of hands and momentum on our side it too reached its allotted position on the siding.

We had one more task to achieve and that was to clear up all the stuff we had ejected from the Gunpowder Store. The tools were transferred into the museum, as we will require them for some winter work therein, but the other bits and pieces were fitted around, or laid upon, the chassis of no. 146.

By the close of play five wagons had been moved along the heritage siding, one wagon had been taken for a spin on the turntable and one wagon chassis had been parked in the Gunpowder Store.

Photos by John Olsen.

Museum working party 4th Nov 2021

The Tywyn weather mojo delivered a fine crisp sunny autumn morning for the team so Max Birchenough, Charles Benedetto, Andy “Two Sheds” Sheffield (just released from marshal duties) and John Olsen got down to business.

Max and Charles polished up the two new end angle pieces for wagon no. 164, cleaned them with white spirit before Max painted them with a special grey primer, in a patch of sunlight beside Llechfan. As Max painted, the rest of us recovered parts of the Big Tent frame from behind the Weighbridge House as the dreaded rust worm had been busy and the legs needed attention. The idea was to shorten the legs by cutting off the worst of the rusty sections, so far so good, until John picked up the end frame and it neatly concertina’d. The cross member had rusted through along its entire length and had to be replaced. With a bit of WD40 the nuts and bolts joining the parts together were undone and a new section sought out. Alas none of the remaining pieces were long enough but one had a length of wooden dowel in it that would provide the mechanical strength to join two shorter pieces together.

Ann McCanna arrived in the yard and secured our morning coffees from the cafe so that we could sit in the sun on the platform and have our chocolate and chat fix. As the biscuits were passed around Mike Green joined us and the dreaded WW was mentioned by certain parties, that’s Weight Watchers folks, so that some of us were more abstemious than others as the last of the chocolate digestives were eaten and the chocolate Hobnobs started. The coffin ordering scene from For a Fistful of Dollars somehow entered our chatter, ‘my mistake, four coffins’, before the latest round of oneupmanship – who is getting their booster jab next week?

Refreshed we returned to our precision surgery of the tent frame, cutting back the legs and re-attaching them to the crossmembers, after a little game of match the holes.

By the close of play six legs had been shortened, two angles primed, one cross member fabricated and the sunshine was enjoyed by all.

Photos by John Olsen.

Tracksider Week

During the past week, Talyllyn Tracksiders have done work to support the Museum and UNESCO world heritage status. We have replaced the modular track under the Museum’s 2 foot gauge wagons using heritage / original TR track and rail chairs albeit on new timbers. We then weighed the gang (154 lbs). Finally we did a lot to tidy the Wharf edge and tested one of the wagon turntables.


Tracksiders exists to provide opportunities for families to work together on the TR.


The photos show the Tracksiders at work, and with the new track and Ian Evans who organised the week.

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