Museum working party 20th June 2024

After last weeks dismal weather Tywyn was bathed in warm sunshine this morning and work re-commenced on wagon no. 164, ex TR 2 bar slate wagon with brake. On site were Andy Sheffield, Neal Chapman, Pete Thomas and John Olsen.

Andy turned his attentions to the other end of the cross bar he worked on two weeks ago, cutting out the second slot for the replacement insert to be scarfed into. Neal salvaged another piece of good timber from the old rotted cross bars that will be used in the repair of the second cross bar and Pete began to cut and shape a new end piece to replace a rotten section of one of the dumb buffers.

With so much wood working going on John turned his attentions to the removal of the horizontal axle box fixing bolts, as these need to be removed to allow the timber behind them to be treated with anti rot liquid. One rusty nut shifted just before the first train of the day departed but the second proved to be a harder nut to crack and was doused with WD 40 while we joined Ann McCanna, Max Birchenough and Charles Benedetto for coffee and cakes, courtesy of Ann. David Broadbent and Tom Place joined us later as we enjoyed the sunshine on the platform and there was a run on ‘Andy’s’ biscuits as we extended our largesse to staff and volunteers.

With the Slate Trail Train waved away we returned across the tracks to continue our wood working and metal bashing; Neal moved onto fabricating a second dumb buffer replacement insert and Andy got his inserts securely glued in place with help from Pete. John left the tough nut soaked in WD 40 as even application of heat had not loosened it off, but succeeded in shifting two other nuts thus releasing one of the axle boxes for removal. The tools were stowed away and the cover put back over no. 164 at 12:30 to wrap up the mornings work.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 13th June 2024

The skies were very grey over Wharf yard this morning and the forecast was not good, but while it was dry Andy Sheffield, Neal Chapman and John Olsen forged ahead. Andy began cutting out another section of rotten timer from a cross bar on wagon no. 164 and Neal and John put a second coat of dark green paint on the lamp standard beside the water column to complete the job started by the Tracksiders. Having finished painting they were preparing to cut new pieces of hard wood to scarf into the cross bars when the rain began; sadly this was not a passing shower.

The trio retired to the cafe to have a coffee break and were presently joined by David Broadbent, Charles and Sue Benedetto, Ann McCanna, Tom Place, Keith Theobald and work experience student Peter.

With no diminution of the rain, work inside was mandated, though ‘inside’ meant under cover for Andy and Neal who cleaned the outside of the museum platform doors. John retrieved a set of large spanners, soft faced hammer and WD40 from the Gunpowder Store and inveigled himself down into the ‘pit’ in front of William Finlay, much to the bemusement of our visitors, to remove two more of the incorrect pattern fixing bolts holding the dumb buffer plates on. Neal and Andy extended their cleaning activities to the locos and many glass cabinets inside the museum once they had finished on the doors.

By the end of the morning the rain was still falling but the working party had made the best of the conditions and the museum looked much better for it.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 6th June 2024

The sun was shining on Wharf Yard this morning and after last weeks busy holiday operating schedule things were a lot quieter. Andy Sheffield and John Olsen were on site early and shunted the incline wagon and splayside wagon down the siding to join the two slate wagons on display outside Llechfan. This freed up siding space for the Corris Mail Waggon partial re-assembly that will take place in the near future.

When Charles Benedetto and Pete Thomas had joined us the cover was removed from the frame of no. 164, the ex TR two bar braked slate wagon and the salient timbers located for restoration work. Andy and Charles took on the task of scarfing in a new section of timber to replace a rotted off end, using a section of sound wood that John had cut from the scrapped short bars and trimmed to size off site. Pete completed his work securing the new end piece of wood he had scarfed in last week by adding two no. 12 brass screws for added strength. John got to work on the wagon frame with an angle grinder fitted with an abrasive flap wheel, removing old paint and glue where the dumb buffer had ‘failed’ at one end in preparation for a new piece to be fabricated to fit, and generally removing old flaking paint.

Max Birchenough came over to chat with us before he left on the first train to take up duties as Brynglas blockman for the day. We then joined Ann McCanna and our other guests this morning, Neal Chapman and David Broadbent, for our morning coffee chocolate biscuits and chat on the platform in the bright sunshine.

With the Quarryman Train waved away we migrated back to our tasks. Andy and Charles used the oscillating saw to trim the rotten timber out of the bar and then chiselled the last few millimetres to get a precise fit of the replacement timber section. Pete completed his scarfing in with a jack plane so that the new and old wood were smooth and level. He then moved on to giving the wagon frame of no. 164 a good sousing with wood preservative over all the bare timber that John had removed the paint from, the headstocks and dumb buffers and the top surfaces of the frame. John went round the vertical holes with the patent bottle brush to ensure that plenty of preservative reached those dark pits of potential rot.

With the morning drawing to a close the tools were packed away and the site cleared of wood offcuts before the cover was put back over the frame of no. 164 for another week.

Photos John Olsen

Museum working party 30th May 2024

The skies were grey and threatening this morning over Wharf Yard but the train was loaded with happy and excited kids, lots of kids, all here for Children’s Day on the railway.

There was slightly less excitement on the far side of the tracks where Max Birchenough, Pete Thomas, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen prepared to reveal more rot and rust on wagon no. 164, the ex TR two bar braked slate wagon. Max got the show rolling by painting the red oxide top coat on the final side of the Corris Mail Waggon end door, while Charles finished marking out the cuts on the second replacement cross bar for no. 164 and Pete began the painstaking business of cutting and fitting a new piece of wood to replace the rotted end of one of the long bars from no. 164.

John made modifications to the aluminium discs that marked the underside and corner locations of the first set of bars that we dis-assembled from no. 164, by cutting them into different geometric shapes, so that over painting them wouldn’t hide their identity (as has happened in the past…..). He then knocked out the heavily corroded fixing bolts of the corner brackets to reveal the very poor state of the wood in the mortice and tenon joints.

We had waved away two full trains by the time Ann McCanna came over to see us, with a limping Andy Sheffield in tow, ‘on the sick’ this week. We were joined for coffee by David Broadbent, who had completed his railway stamp/mail duties, and also Keith Theobald, taking time out from general museum duties and assisting the Tracksiders.

Post coffee John and, new engineering manager, Graeme Wigglesworth discussed welding door brackets on the floor of the Corris Waggon where the old ones had come adrift; a straightforward job made more problematic by either working in Wharf Yard or conveying the body to Pendre for the welding. Back across the tracks, and another train waved away, Max got down and dirty with the corner brackets that John had removed from the second set of bars, first with a welders hammer to knock off the larger lumps of rust and then an angle grinder fitted with a wire wheel. Charles continued his cutting and shaping the second cross bar while Pete planed his replacement wood to a precision fit for gluing into place.

David and John took flapwheel fitted angle grinders to the two long bars to remove the loose paint and totally strip the undersides; this will allow water that penetrates the wood in the future an escape route. John scraped and chiselled out the obvious areas of soft rotted wood before David liberally doused the timber with wood preservative. The de-rusted corner brackets were treated with anti rust fluid that should penetrate the deeper rust spots that even the wire wheel could not quite reach. The second set of cross bars are in need of replacement timber as the end tenons have largely rotted away, but we shall use the sound timber from the condemned set of cross bars for this purpose. Pete clamped up the replacement piece and will add strengthening screws next week once the glue has fully cured.

The grey skies still threatened rain but thankfully it hadn’t dropped any as we cleared the site and put the covers back over the Corris Mail Waggon and the frame of no. 164.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 23rd May 2024

The grey skies over Wharf Yard did not bode well for the working party as Charles Benedetto, Ian Evans, Pete Thomas and John Olsen huddled in the shelter of the Gunpowder Store doors, where a cauldron of conservation wax was gently melting in preparation for Tracksiders next week. But the rain held off so that Charles could begin cutting and shaping the first of two new cross bars for wagon no. 164, the braked two bar ex TR slate wagon, and Pete painted the first set of corner brackets in between stirring the cauldron.

Ian and John clamped the end strapping of the Aberllefenni counter balance wagon to our trusty old stands for Ian to cut off the last two cross tie remnants. That left the two very large securing nuts to be undone using an old imperial spanner and club hammer. Despite Ian’s best hammering the nuts remained fast and John brought out reinforcements in the shape of the blow torch; it still took two heating sessions but then the first nut gave up the fight and was released.

The first train of hardy souls was waved away and the tools put in the dry as a shower came over and we sought refuge in the cafe where Ann McCanna had ordered our coffees, abetted by Andy Sheffield who was still on holiday, in Tywyn. We were joined by Malcolm Phillips, Max Birchenough and Tom Place to enjoy Ann’s latest baking, melt in the mouth delicious macaroons.

The rain showers persisted, but so did we, as Ian and John took the hammer and heat to the other rusted on nut, Pete completed his painting and stirring of the cauldron and Charles finished fashioning the first cross bar. Ian and John then set about preparations for the jobs the Tracksiders will be undertaking for the museum, assembling painting gear, wire brushes and recycled conservation wax, in addition to the two fresh pots that Pete had ladled out. The final pieces of the preparations were two old, and very heavy, wagon doors that were moved under cover of the gazebos where they can be cleaned and painted with primer no matter the weather next week.

The disassembled end strapping was put away in the Gunpowder Store along with all the tools and work benches and the parts of wagon no. 164 were once more covered over against the elements that were again drizzling on us.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 16th May 2024

Another bright sunny morning in Wharf Yard as the cover came off, the largely dismantled, wagon no. 164. Charles Benedetto and John Olsen carried on with last weeks work on the wagon bars; cleaning off the loose paint from the long bars and removing the old paint and rust from the corner brackets. They were joined by Rob Langham for the morning, who volunteered his services in his down time before his next turn on the locos; thank you Rob, you are a true gent. The Corris door was fetched out of the Gunpowder Store and Rob set to work painting its outer face with red oxide; the first of two top coats. Charles used wood hardener on all the suspect areas of timber of the bars, ie any cavity, and left it to soak in so that filler can be applied next week.

With the first train of the day waved away we stopped for our coffee break together with David Broadbent, duty museum attendant, Max Birchenough, platform inspector, Keith Theobald, jobbing cashless paypoint installer, and old hands Ann McCanna and Tom Place. Rob nobly opted to get the painting job done.

Back across the tracks John and Charles cut two new pieces of wood to replace the rotted end bars, using the circular saw to cut 98% of the way through the plank with Charles finishing off with the handsaw. Before leaving Charles marked out the cuts to form the tenons on the ends of the new bars. John opted to keep going with de-rusting the last two corner brackets and then treating them with anti rust liquid so that they would be ready for painting next week.

While waiting for the anti rust treatment to cure John made a good start on removing the remnants of the old fixing bolts of the end strapping of the Aberllefenni incline counterbalance wagon. A combination of hammer and cold chisel dislodged all but two of the small bolts but the two large nuts holding the cross bar and sides together will require further ‘softening up’ with more WD40, and the blow torch. Max kindly assisted in covering no. 164 over and John completed the tidy up of the site and stowing of the tools.

Photos by John Olsen.

Museum working party 9th May 2024

The sun was shining on Wharf yard this morning, glinting on the pristine grey paint of the new bogie ballast wagon, parked in the centre road after its delivery earlier this week.

Andy Sheffield, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen were on site to take the yellow protective cover off the slightly less than pristine wagon no 164, now partly dismantled for renewal of the paint. The first task was to roll the wagon partway into the Gunpowder Store so that we could slide the new Corris wagon frame off the top and into the Store. This accomplished we took apart the upper set of bars, that we removed the bolts and brackets from last week, and discarded the two shorter end pieces as the rot had gone too far in the ends to be salvaged.

Andy and Charles set to with chisels to clean out the rotted timber of the two long bars and clean up the wood filler that had been used in the last re-paint a few years back. John set to work on two of the corner brackets, knocking off flaking paint and rust with a welders hammer and then cleaning back to bare metal with a wire brush in one of the angle grinders. The first train entered Wharf Station somewhat late, was rapidly turned around, and duly waved off .

We joined David Broadbent and Max Birchenough on the platform to have our morning coffee chat and chocolate biscuits, welcoming Tom Place when he arrived. Tom showed us an interesting newspaper cutting from a Canadian paper detailing a monumental steam train trip that is crossing Canada, the USA and terminating in Mexico. The loco heading the train is a Canadian Pacific Hudson (4-6-4) N0. 2186 that has been specially prepared for the promotional event marking the merger of Canadian Pacific and the Kansas City Southern railroads.

Back on the narrow gauge we returned to our labours with Andy and Charles using a flap wheel fitted angle grinder to remove any loose paint and provide a key in the sound surface. The bare timber, especially the fixing holes were treated with wood preservative, to keep the bars in good condition for a few more years exposure to Tywyn weather. John finished his cleaning of the two corner brackets and applied an anti rust treatment to the inner faces as these had suffered the most corrosion pitting that even the wire brush could not clean off 100%. The bars and brackets were then stacked on top of the wagon frame and covered over once more before all the tools and trestles were packed away in the Gunpowder Store for another week.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 2nd May 2024

The skies were grey over Tywyn this morning but no rain fell so working outside was not curtailed. Alas we were down to just Charles Benedetto and John Olsen this morning, as other commitments depleted our ranks.

The first job was to finish treating the new timber for the Aberllefenni counter balance wagon; last week we did the frame and sides leaving just the floor planks to do. The first coat was achieved before the first train departed so we used the intervening time to record the pieces of the old Corris mail waggon photographically with a tape measure in frame to allow future measurements to be taken. The rebuild is utilising a standard TR wagon frame that is of a differing cross section of ~ 5×4 inches whereas the condemned frame was ~ 7×4 inches, so it is important to record these changes. Measurements of the metal plates and rods were also taken as a prelude to having new ones made as the rods were very wasted where they had been in contact with the timber of the frame and the internal reinforcing plates will require new smaller versions to be made.

Having waved away a lightly loaded train we collected David Broadbent from the museum and Max Birchenough from control for our coffee and biscuits in the cafe. In the absence of Andy there was a ‘run’ on the chocolate Hobnobs.

Returning to our labours we gave the floor timbers and second dousing with wood treatment and then returned them to the dry of the Gunpowder Store. Uncovering the kit of parts of wagon no 164, the ex TR two bar slate wagon with brake, we removed the nuts and washers holding the four corner straps on the upper set of bars and knocked the rusty bolts out. Removing the straps revealed that the ends of the cross bars were badly rotted and disintegrating and there was also evidence of rot in the longitudinal bars to a lesser degree. It will require removal of the paint on the longitudinal bars before we can establish if they can be saved or not but the cross bars are beyond further use.

Having covered the wagon back over and put away all the tools, we left the site tidy and safe.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party April 18th 2024

A cool bright sunny morning in Wharf Yard for the first working party after the Easter break.

Andy Sheffield, Pete Thomas, David Broadbent and John Olsen took full advantage of the dry spell to sort some of the old iron and timber behind the water tower. With a class 97 loco to be named in the near future on the mainline siding behind Wharf Station, we needed to identify, and tidy up, our historic artefacts from in amongst TR items and old bits of wood and metal that had been dumped there.

First the large, and heavy, Aberllefenni counter balance wagon drawbar needed to be shifted off the ex TR wagon frame so that the grounded frame beside it could be placed on top of it; luckily no. 7 was being watered and we were able to borrow the youthful third man to help us shift it. A bit of shunting of the two historic wagons allowed a lot of museum material to be placed in the two foot and then ‘covered’ by the counter balance wagon. Keith joined us to point out the TR material and the rubbish to be placed in the appropriate skips, but that task was for after waving away the first train and having our coffee.

We were joined by Charles Benedetto, Ann McCanna, Max Birchenough and Tom Place for our refreshments in the warmth of the cafe as the chilly north west wind had piled up the clouds.

Suitably watered and fed we returned to the yard to shuttle the waste to the skips in the yard and tidy up the ground around our wagons; whilst piling the TR material for the Outdoor Gang to deal with in due course.

Before we wrapped up for the morning we reviewed the most pressing tasks for our attention next week, which are to attend to the paintwork of wagon no. 164, ex TR two bar slate wagon with brake, and to treat the replacement wood for the Aberllefenni counter balance wagon rebuild with anti rot fluid prior to assembly of the frame. The Corris Mail Waggon rebuild is on hold until after no. 164 is returned to service.

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.