Museum working party 21st Mar 2024

A rather overcast and breezy morning in Tywyn, but it was not the team working outside. It was our colleague from Pendre, Neal Chapman, who was installing the seat fixings to prevent our attendants seat being tipped up into the new glazed panel at the end of the platform.

Andy Sheffield, Max Birchenough, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen had just the morning to sort out the plinth with the semi-detached top that we discovered last week. Step one was to remove the newly fitted feet and castors to gain full access to the interior in order to fit load spreading plates of thick plywood for the fixing bolts and battens to firmly hold the top to the sides. Max wielded the screwdriver to remove the display notice posts and the job moved on to clamping the top down with sash clamps so that Andy could follow Charles pencil marks, with the drill. John busied himself delivering the necessary tools from the Gunpowder Store and then preparing to paint the much scuffed front of the Car Gwyllt display stand. With the two load plates being glued into position, held by temporary bolts, coffee time was called.

Going into the cafe we found Ann McCanna, and Tom, senior and junior, Place tucking into the standard gauge breakfast, so they weren’t up for the three fold bounty of Jammie Dodgers, milk and dark chocolate Hob Nobs; Andy was well pleased until Keith arrived and had a Hob Nob with his coffee.

Refreshed we returned to the museum, Andy Max and Charles securing the battens and John painting the Car Gwyllt front panel as well as the fixing plates of the feet and castors in LTE grey.

By mornings end the paint was still drying so the plinth was set on floor, sans feet and castors. The sawdust was hoovered up and the tools all returned to the Gunpowder Store.

The yellow covers we had already removed from the heritage fleet went up into the loft-space and were joined by the covers off the slate waste tipper wagon and the basket and frame of the ex GWR 2′ slate wagon from Blaenau Ffestiniog, which we removed in preparation for the Easter trains starting. Wagon no. 101 remained under wraps as it is being kept dry for sanding and repainting after our Easter break.

Pasg Hapus, Happy Easter to all our readers; there will be more tales from Wharf in three weeks time.

Museum working party 14th Mar 2024

The grey skies did not bode well for work in the yard so it was fortunate that the museum is only open at weekends for another fortnight, thus we could continue with the last of the winter works.

Charles Benedetto, Andy Sheffield, Pete Thomas, David Broadbent and John Olsen retrieved some tools and trestles from the Gunpowder Store, currently receiving much needed attention by Mick the Brick, and began the morning by removing the heavy cast iron rails and points from two of the grey plinths. This allowed the first plinth to be hoisted up onto the trestles and turned upside down in order to paint the new wheel and rubber feet mountings in mid grey.

As the second plinth was being turned it became evident that the original screws used to hold the mountings were inadequate and needed replacing. Andy and Pete got the paint brushes so that Andy could work on the plinth and Pete on the points lever display surround from the signal box, once it had been removed and the perspex inset put to one side. Charles and David removed the old screws from the second plinth and drilled deeper holes before inserting the new longer screws to hold everything fast. During this frenzy of activity John quietly removed the scuffed grey panelling and little access door, that keeps small sticky fingers away from the chain hoist mechanism of the vertical rising door, ready for a repaint. This revealed a lot of grime and spiders webs, which quickly succumbed to Henry the hoover.

Stopping for coffee when the first two painting jobs had been done we were joined by Tom Place for our coffee, chocolate biscuits and chat in the cafe.

Refreshed we returned tot he museum and swapped the first plinth and surround for the second plinth and the panelling so that our two da Vinci’s could carry on painting while David and Charles were assigned to putting up two clip frames to replace the ad hoc use of blu tak to display the no food or drink sign and a notice about the upcoming book launch in the museum.

John began to put the packs of screws and other paraphernalia back into the north wall store and then spoke to Neal Chapman regarding the manufacture of retaining clips for the bench that resides just outside the museum entrance between the wall and the support column. This space is now occupied by a very expensive sheet of glass so it is imperative that the bench be securely fixed down to the ground to prevent accidental damage to the glass. First problem, where was the seat? Having located it, behind Llechfan, Neal and John reviewed the best way to secure the clips to the ground so that Neal could then measure up for their production at Pendre.

With the painting completed and the new clip frames in situ, a limited clear up was conducted as the paint needed time to dry before all the items could be returned to their rightful locations; the two plinths were re-positioned and the heavy castings secured to them. John will complete the job and clear up on Friday, ready for the museum opening on Saturday.

Photo by John Olsen.

Museum working party 7th Mar 2024

A bright sunny morning with a cool Easterly breeze greeted the team this morning in Wharf Yard, perfect weather for the mornings activities. Andy Sheffield, Charles Benedetto, Pete Thomas and John Olsen had wagons to uncover and shunt around.

The first job was to clear the way for the covered wagon, no. 146, to come out of its winter quarters in the Gunpowder Store, which involved shifting some of the newly arrived Aberllefenni counterbalance wagon timbers and removing the Chattenden and Upnor points indicator. Then the three bar slate wagon, no.101, was rolled off the wagon turntable to allow no. 146 to be dragged out into the morning sun.

With the possibility of a photo charter requiring some of the wagons next week the team removed the yellow covers from all the ‘runners’, no. 117, 213 and 101, leaving no. 164 still under wraps as it is partially dismantled for repainting. The movement of no. 146 allowed further re-arrangement of the contents of the Gunpowder Store to allow John to uncover the shelves on the north side to check on the location and labelling of a pair of ex TR side chairs for switch rails; both were present and correct. The cover went back over the shelves and the sterling board wagon covers were neatly stacked in front of them.

Coffee time was declared and we took our seats inside the cafe out of the cool wind, where we were joined by Max Birchenough and Malcolm Phillips for our chocolate biscuits, coffee, chat and lemon drizzle nibbles.

Much refreshed we tackled the next stage of the yard work, shunting the wagons to release the two ‘runners’ from behind no. 164; the slate wagons were run down the siding, after the flangeways had been cleared of the muck that the recent rains had washed into them, and then no. 146 followed. This allowed no. 164, the two bar slate wagon with brake, to be moved across onto the wagon turntable just outside the Gunpowder Store as this is the optimum position for us to work on it.

The neatly folded yellow bags were stowed inside the Store and a start made on transferring the end door of the Corris Mail Waggon, the trestles and Workmates and the various tool boxes back from the museum, as it will soon be open seven days a week. We shuttled the items across and quickly filled the floor space so recently vacated by no. 146, but with everything removed from the museum we could do the final clear up and hoovering of the floors.

The wagons are now ready for their mechanical inspection and the museum is clear of any tools; ready for normal service to resume.

Photo by John Olsen

Museum working party 29th Feb 2024

It was a pleasant dry morning for a change in Tywyn, but the tasks in hand were still all inside the museum. Andy Sheffield, Max Birchenough, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen continued with the winter refresh of the museum. John had been in during the intervening week to paint the plywood backing boards that were cut last week and had put up the scaffold tower in preparation for fixing them to the bogus beam above the stairs on the first floor.

Andy and Charles were tasked with getting the headboard mounts evenly spaced and at the right heights to display the first three headboards, the 1953 Coronation, the Platinum Jubilee and the passing of Queen Elizabeth. Max wielded the paint roller to apply a fresh coat of white paint to the wall below the windows looking into the Awdry Study as this had suffered much scuffing from many tiny shoes as youngsters gazed in at the original Thomas the Tank Engine model on the Ffarquhar layout. John went up the scaffold tower to prepare for the drilling of the mounting holes, moving the electronic sign out of the way and arranging extra lighting on the work site.

We stopped for a slightly early coffee as Ann McCanna was on her way to the Health Centre and had baked cakes for us, yum. We were presently joined by Tom Place for our morning coffee chat and chocolate biscuits, lemon drizzle biscuits and the afore mentioned cakes.

Replete with excess calories we returned to the museum where Charles and John went up the scaffold tower to affix the first backing board and the curse of the bogus beams struck again; this time in the form of an unexpected concrete insert. Shortened plas plugs overcame this issue and the board was soon populated with the three headboards. Andy prepared the second board, which was to hold the Coronation of King Charles and the Commonwealth Baton Relay headboards while Max put a second coat on the wall and then tidied away the painting gear. John hung the second board solo as the scaffold tower could not be placed in the optimum position for two to work on it, one holding the other drilling due to the positions of the lights and the bogus beam itself. Nonetheless this board too was soon in place and holding its head boards.

The scaffold tower was dismantled as we did not require it upstairs any longer and some tidying of tools was carried out but we were spared having to stow it all away under the stairs as the museum is not open this weekend.

As an interesting aside, John was returning to the museum from the Gunpowder Store when a local lady and her two children hopefully peered into the museum. They were chaperoned safely up onto William Finlays footplate and then upstairs to view cabinet C12, as the Welsh cape and hat had belonged to their grandmother and the family still retained a second set at home. The lady was encouraged to dust it off and return to the railway in full regalia on a suitable occasion and re-establish the close ties between the Talyllyn Railway and the family.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 22nd Feb 2024

The skies remained leaden over Tywyn this morning and had plenty more rain left to deposit in the yard, so the team assembled within the museum to tackle the remaining items on our winter works list.

Max Birchenough, Andy Sheffield, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen began by putting up the scaffold tower on the first floor so that we could safely access the beam at the head of the stairs to mount more commemorative headboards. John investigated the beam with an eye to fixing the mounts directly to it and discovered that this was another bogus beam consisting largely of air enclosed in a thin skin of plasterboard; concerned that the mounts could not be safely attached to the plasterboard the team was forced to rethink the attachment strategy.

As it was now 10:30am we decided to have our discussion over coffee and chocolate biscuits and we were joined by the duty attendant David Broadbent as no visitors had yet come into the museum.

Refreshed, and with an alternative plan, we returned to the museum to get the tools out to trim a length of plywood left over from a previous beam cladding exercise to repeat the process on this beam; using the known strong points to carry the weight of the plywood to which the mounts could be securely screwed. We took the plywood out onto the platform to perform the surgery and cut two pieces that will ultimately carry five headboards.

We had to stop at this point as we needed to disassemble the scaffold tower and stow away the tools so that visitors coming off the returning trains would not have these in their way. With the museum clear we left David to guide the first visitors of the day around the museum.

Photo by John Olsen

Museum working party 15th Feb 2024

A very grey and wet morning in Tywyn that precluded any work in the yard, to which end all the wagons remained covered over. Max Birchenough Charles Benedetto, Andy Sheffield and John Olsen worked inside the museum on general housekeeping and an important repair job.

It had been noted that the window winder operating the three fanlights over the big window facing Neptune Road had become very stiff and would effectively jam when they were only part open. John inspected the winder mechanism and the openers earlier in the week and found that they were not the problem, however he noted a lot of filings in the winder which indicated a likely problem in the conduit. This morning was the first opportunity to dismantle the winder and first section of conduit, that had two curved sections in it before the first opening mechanism, as John suspected this was where the PTFE conduit lining had failed and the operating wire was rubbing on the outer aluminium wall, causing the excessive friction and the filings.

Assisted variously by the other team members in between their cleaning jobs, John removed the inner operating wire and the first conduit section; extracting the wire from the rest of the system was very easy but it required much more pull to get it out of the curved conduit; case proven. Using spare conduit and operating wire left over from the installation, John began the repair by replacing the damaged conduit section, bending it in much larger radii than the original so as to minimise any future tendency for the wire to abrade the PTFE lining.

Having gotten a successful fit for the conduit between the winder and the first window opener, coffee break was called. We were joined in the cafe by Keith Theobald, Barbara Fuller, Ann McCanna and Tom Place, enjoying caffeine and chat with three different styles of chocolate biscuits. Yum.

Refreshed we returned to the museum to thread the new operating wire through the system and then set the open and closed positions of the windows before testing the operation several times. It was now time to tidy up; the tools were returned to their respective tool boxes and we cleared away the detritus of our industry ready for our next visitors.

Museum working party 8th Feb 2024

A rather grey, wet and dismal morning in Tywyn, but as we are still able to work inside the museum this week, it didn’t present a problem.

Max Birchenough, Andy Sheffield, Charles Benedetto, Pete Thomas and John Olsen picked up from last week with Charles ascending the scaffold tower to apply the micro crystalline conservation wax to the last display panel of locomotive nameplates. Pete made adjustments to an existing headboard mount so that it would fit a different head board, while Max continued his patient rust removal on the Chattenden and Upnor points indicator. John had been working on this during the week and successfully freed it so that we are not limited to just cosmetic restoration.

Andy had brought in his own paint brush to meticulously paint the frame of the large glazed panel just inside the platform entrance in fresh white. John made a simple fillet of wood to raise the Night Mail headboard by 3 1/2” so that it now matches the heights of the others around it on the beam upstairs. He also liaised with Ros who was conducting an overdue PAT test of all the museum’s electrical apparatus; one multi socket trailing block was found to be defective but otherwise we have a clean bill of health.

Ann McCanna came into the museum to check on numbers for our morning coffee and we joined her and Tom Place for our convivial chat, chocolate biscuits and caffeine fix.

Much refreshed we returned to the museum to tidy and clear away all the tools and scaffold tower, as next week we open for the schools half term holidays; the opening will be for two weeks so we will be hoping for dry weather so that we can work in the yard.

With the museum clear of obstacles, we left Ros to his work and finished for the morning.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party Feb 1st 2024

A cool bright morning greeted the team at Tywyn Wharf this morning; Andy Sheffield, Max Birchenough, Allan Black, Charles Benedetto, Pete Thomas and John Olsen were on hand to work in the museum.

Max spent a little time on the invaluable task of sticking white crosses at four different heights (small child, child, adult and feathered friends) on the two new glass screens erected outside the museum and cafe platform south facing entrances. These markings should prevent accidental collisions with the glass, which have been placed to protect the entrances from the prevailing south westerly rains. Pete and Andy drilled mounting holes in the newly fabricated headboard mounts and sanded them smooth for Pete to paint in white, ready for use on the first floor. Andy removed the donation box beside the platform door and cleaned the frame of the large glass internal window in preparation for repainting.

Max and Charles assisted John to bring the Chattenden and Upnor points indicator from the Gunpowder Store to the museum in order to return it to working order and de-rust and repaint it after many hard years out in the yard. Allan and Max took on the roles of chief rust knockers and lubricators. Charles once again displayed his lack of fear of heights by ascending the scaffold tower to clean and polish the brass nameplates on the third and final mesh panel. John bounced from job to job supplying tools, materials and verbal incentives.

We joined Ann McCanna and Tom Place in the cafe for or morning refreshments and were delighted to be joined by Ray Brooks, a now retired stalwart of the museum working parties, for coffee chocolate biscuits and chat. Ray brought a lovely 2024 calendar featuring the quarry Hunslets at work, for the museum; we hope to prominently display it near Rough Pup.

After coffee the team convened a meeting to discuss a proposed new system for assessing power tool competency drawn up by John in consultation with Liz Porrett so that we meet our obligations under the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) legislation of 1998. After questions pertaining to the scheme had been addressed it was agreed to adopt the procedures once John had produced all the forms covering the various power tools that we use during the working parties. A wider safety discussion of yard working then followed where issues of safe working and safe site access were aired. As some of these required input from the railway John agreed to consult with Liz for answers to certain questions and consult with the other museum Trustees over an additional item.

The meeting was concluded at around noon and we returned to the museum to finish off the mornings jobs and do a bit of tidying up as the electrical department were working on new wiring.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 25th Jan 2024

Grey skies and rain were in the offing, but the team were in the warm and dry in the museum again this morning. Ian Evans boosted our numbers together with Andy Sheffield, Allan Black, Pete Thomas, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen.

First order of the day was to take down the scaffold tower and move it out from behind the Oakeley coal wagon, then empty out the afore mentioned wagon of all the wooden nameplate patterns, stamp collections and sundry signalling equipment. The scaffold tower was then re-erected in the wagon to enable polishing of the next batch of brass name and makers plates and take down all the wooden nameplate patterns to be dusted.

Andy and Allan got handy with the paint brushes while Ian and Charles were our daring ‘young’ men on the flying trapeze polishing the brass. Pete was given a padlock to replace the temporary nut and bolt that was securing the ‘Can you power William?’ interactive to the stairs; and found that the hole was too small. Cue a session with the drill to open out the hole to receive the new padlock. John was kept busy shuttling between various jobs and in the quiet moments fetched a couple of head boards out of the store room ready for part two of the morning.

With the brass shining, but not yet waxed, and the wooden patterns dust free, we adjourned to the cafe for our morning coffee where we were joined by Jane Thornton, Malcolm Phillips and Mark Tibbutt who were engaged in TR archiving. Chocolate biscuits, coffee and chat flowed freely.

Just before we returned to our labours Ann McCanna and Tom Place joined us for their coffee and biscuits.

Back in the museum Ian and Charles polished off their job, and the scaffold tower was moved out of the wagon to beside the next display of brass nameplates for next weeks cleaning. The wagon was then re-packed, somewhat less randomly than before, with space still to spare for a few more items.

Allan and Pete cut out and assembled six new head board mounting brackets, sized to fit the two head boards John had brought out. John was then able to begin shuffling the existing head boards on display to accommodate another that commemorated 40 years of the Railway Letter service and discuss display options for four recent head boards with Ian.

With no visitors imminent we were able to leave our tools and other works items out ready for more work next week.

Photos by Allan Black and John Olsen

Museum working party 18th Jan 2024

Another bright crisp, to the tune of -3oC, morning in Tywyn today as the team assembled inside the museum to continue our winter works. Today we had to bear in mind that the museum will be open on Friday afternoon at the request of Mike Green’s family, Mike having been a volunteer attendant for the past few years, so nothing could be left out where visitors might trip over it.

Pete Thomas, Charles Benedetto, Andy Sheffield, Ian Evans and John Olsen looked into the NE corner of the museum where the scaffold tower had been erected previously and found it was missing. It had been used and then stowed back under the stairs, so we had to bring it out and re-assemble it, again! With the scaffold secure Charles ascended to bring some TLC to the brass name and works plates. Pete had fashioned a very nice brass collar to clamp around the stair balustrade upright behind the ‘Can you Power William’ interactive, to permanently replace the (one time use) cable ties to secure it. A test fitting revealed that a bit of fettling was needed and he set to work with hacksaw and file.

Andy and John got on with replacing a missing strap from one of the big signs we use to advertise that the museum is open at the end of the platform; a casualty of the recent stormy weather. Ian was released to conduct his swapping over of the temporary exhibition for this years model. Pete finished his adjustments and then clamped the interactive in place with a temporary bolt pending the fitting of a suitable padlock so that future access to the understairs area will be much easier.

We took our coffee break in the cafe where we were joined by Tom Place, Ann McCanna and Keith Theobald.

Refreshed we returned to the museum where Charles continued his cleaning and polishing, while the rest of us began to tidy away the tools and Workmates etc as Pete ran Henry the hoover round both floors. John took the opportunity of the open cabinets upstairs to clean the glass inside and out and re-hang the Coronation head board back in C12 and Andy took time out to clean the salty grime off the vertical rising door in preparation for Fridays opening.

Photos by John Olsen