Museum working party 24th Aug 2023

Fortunately the grey skies were not a prelude to rain in Tywyn this morning, so a full mornings activity was possible. Allan Black, Max Birchenough, Andy Sheffield, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen were present this morning with a short appearance by Pete Thomas to deliver the two oak pegs he had made off site, before he had to go to attend to other matters.

The cover was removed from the upturned Corris wagon body so that Max could swab it down with white spirit in preparation for a coat of grey metal paint over the primer, which was applied by the double team of Andy and Charles. Allan glued the pegs into the unwanted holes in the Corris frame then he and John got the frame onto its side to drill out the 26mm diameter holes for the brake gear shafts. They followed these four holes with smaller diameter holes for the brake lever mounting plates. Max cut through the rusted bolts holding the brake operating arms onto the shoes so that he could then use a wire wheel to remove the few scraps of remaining paint and a lot of rust. Just before our coffee break we got the Corris frame back up onto the stands ready for the bolt head rebates to be chiselled out.

We had our coffee chat and chocolate biscuits with Ann McCanna, Keith Theobald and Grace Jordan, who is helping with the mammoth task of sorting and cataloguing the MRFS ticket collection, thank you Grace.

The sun was now out in the yard and Charles, Andy and Allan turned Chippendale to cut the bolthead rebates, replicating those on the old frame. Max cleaned the brake parts with white spirit and then painted them with black Hammerite, along with one side of the drawbar. John was also applying black paint, gloss black to the undercoated door of the Gunpowder Store; a second will probably be required for full coverage and long term protection against the Tywyn weather.

The cover was put back over the Corris body and the tools tidied away and the freshly painted brake and draw gear stowed inside the Gunpowder Store until next week.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 17th Aug 2023

The sun was shining and the wind was blowing strongly from the East but that was fine for the working party. Allan Black, Max Birchenough, Charles Benedetto, Oliver Jenkins, Pete Thomas and John Olsen were on hand to take the wagon cover off the Corris wagon body, turn over the ex GWR slate wagon metal basket in the Gunpowder Store and generally get work underway.

Max completed his primer painting of the Corris drawbar and then applied fresh primer to a corner of the ex GWR slate wagon frame, where the bituminous paint had fallen away and rust set in, after the rusty spot had been cleaned up with a with brush. John and Charles used the welders hammer to finish chasing out the seam between the sides and floor of the Corris wagon, which was very pitted, and then Charles used an angle grinder plus wire wheel to clean it out of any remaining loose material. He and Max then embarked on removing the rust from the second half of the floor underside, cleaning right back to bare metal.

Allan and Pete had to re-assemble the brake gear on the new frame as marking the position of the holes for mounting the brake operating arm had not been done before we took all the clamps off last week. Oliver painted the remaining parts of the metal basket that hadn’t had the second coat of metal paint while John applied grey undercoat to the zebra striped door of the Gunpowder Store in preparation for a black topcoat. We stopped for coffee when Ann McCanna took our coffee order and then packed out one of the platform tables as we were also joined by David Broadbent, Andy Sheffield and Mike Green.

Back at the work site Allan and Pete found that the central holes that Roelof had used when making the frame overlapped with the positions of the brake lever mounting bracket holes; to overcome this two pegs will be made from spare oak timber and fitted before drilling out the holes. Pete left site early to get the pegs made as a homework project. With the departure of the 11:15 train came the departure of Oliver from our ranks as his holiday in Tywyn is now coming to an end and we wished him bon voyage; he will return next year.

John completed painting the Store door in undercoat so that the Gunpowder Store now sports a fetching two tone finish. The new Corris wagon frame was dis-assembled and the metal parts stored under the upturned body; it is hoped to drill the remaining holes next week when the pegs are ready and we have a new 26mm wood auger bit for drilling the brake shoe hanging arm holes.

With Max Charles and John each wielding a brush the remaining half of the Corris wagon floor was painted with grey acid etch primer in quick order and the wagon cover placed back over it. The drawbar went into the Gunpowder Store along with all the tools and the site left safe and tidy.

Photos by John Olsen.

Museum working party 10th Aug 2023

Wharf yard was very warm this morning and before work began John reminded everyone to drink a little and often to prevent dehydration. We had a substantial team; Pete Thomas, Allan Black, Oliver Jenkins, Charles Benedetto, Max Birchenough, Robert Morgan and John Olsen on hand to tackle several projects.

After the wagon cover had been taken off the upturned Corris wagon body and the metal basket in the Gunpowder Store had been turned over, work proper could commence. Initially Max, Oliver and Robert had their hands on the wire brush fitted angle grinders, with Max cleaning up the Corris drawbar and Oliver and Robert stripping the rusty base of the Corris Mail Waggon body back to bare metal. Charles was in the cool of the Gunpowder Store putting a further coat of paint on the ex GWR slate wagon basket while Pete, Allan and John discussed the steps required to get the new Corris frame onto its wheels in order to establish where to drill the mounting holes for the brake shoes and began laying out the bits in their correct positions.

Ann McCanna arrived to take our coffee and tea order and we stopped work just before the 11 am service departed up the line. We were joined by David Broadbent and Keith Theobald for our caffeine chat and chocolate biscuits.

There was a swap of jobs after the coffee as Oliver joined Pete and Allan as they finished putting temporary bolts in the axleboxes and used our suite of G clamps to hold the brake shoes in place on the wheels. The addition of the brake operating lever led to the first of many small adjustments, with additional clamps being employed, before the final mounting hole positions were centre marked. Max completed his cleanup of the drawbar and applied the acid etch primer to one side and the ends. John and Robert were not far behind as they completed the clean back to metal using an abrasive wheel to finish half of the underside, whereupon Robert did the honours with the primer.

Charles completed the painting of the basket with assistance from John ‘You missed a bit’ and the freshly primed drawbar was brought into the Gunpowder Store to keep the rain off it. With the cover back on the Corris wagon body and the new frame chocked to prevent it being moved the site was tidied and left safe for visitors to walk around.

Robert had brought along a selection of tools to offer the working party, which were gratefully accepted as they complimented and extended our current inventory. Thank you Robert.

Photos by Allan Black and John Olsen.

Museum working party 3rd Aug 2023

A shower drenched Tywyn not long before the team assembled in Wharf yard this morning and then we were untroubled by the weather for the rest of the morning. Oliver Jenkins once more joined Allan Black, Pete Thomas and John Olsen to work on the Corris wagon and the ex GWR steel bodied wagon.

With the wagon cover off the new frame for the Corris Mail Waggon we used the drill jig, made for the rebuild of wagon no. 136, to hold the auger vertical to drill out the three marked holes for the drawbar bolts. The frame was then turned over and laid upon the upturned Corris wagon body to mark the positions of the four fixing holes. Two of the holes in the wagon body had been opened up with a file to provide maximum ‘wiggle’ room later in the rebuild. Following Pete’s suggestion for getting an accurate centre hole, John took the cordless drill fitted with a 20mm flat bladed wood bit under the body and used it to mark the four hole positions; getting out was much harder than getting in!

The frame was then placed back on the supports and the four holes drilled out using the auger and jig. Pete and Allan measured and marked the rough locations of the pairs of axleboxes while Oliver set to work on the rusty wheels once more with a wire brush and John cut off the four remaining fixing bolts holding a corner bracket to an old frame cross member. With the rough locations established the positions of the axleboxes were fine tuned to less than 5mm deviation and the centres for the fixing holes made with the cordless drill and appropriate sized flat blade bits.

It was getting close to eleven am so we stopped to have our morning coffee and chat with a selection of three different types of biscuit, two chocolate covered; we had just about finished when Ann McCanna and Tom Place arrived for their morning coffee.

Back at the worksite Oliver went inside the Gunpowder Store to complete the first coat of metal paint on the ex GWR metal slate wagon basket while Allan, Pete and John went round the eight vertical axlebox hole positions drilling them out with the auger and jig. The frame was then demounted and clamped on end to repeat the drilling of the horizontal fixing holes, first in the north side then the south; Oliver being called forth from painting to assist with the lifting and shifting.

The frame was put back upon the supports and the wagon cover placed over the upturned Corris wagon body to keep it dry for next week. The axleboxes were stored away in the covered wagon, no. 146, as space in the Gunpowder Store is severely limited by the presence of the metal basket.

The tools were packed away and the site tidied and left in a safe condition.

Photos by Allan Black and John Olsen.

Museum working party 27th Jul 2023

The cloud base hovered low over Tywyn this morning, but the wet stuff had gone inland so that work could proceed in the yard. This morning Allan Black, Charles Benedetto, Pete Thomas and John Olsen were joined by Oliver Jenkins, who having tried out being a museum attendant also volunteered to get his hands dirty on the working party.

The first order of the day was to move all the tools and sundry boxes of bits out of the Gunpowder Store so that we could bring the metal basket of the ex GWR steel bodied slate wagon inside for the next two coats of paint; thus weather proofing at least this job. This was duly achieved and then a sleeper crib was made up to support the basket off the floor at a more comfortable working height. The Penrhyn point lever, that has been getting under our feet for months now, was moved to the inside of the covered wagon, no. 146, for safe keeping, along with the four lower bearing housings from the ex GWR slate wagon.

The new frame for the Corris Mail Waggon was moved a few feet to give easier access all round and Allan, Pete and Oliver started work on adjusting the rebates to allow the drawbar to slot in place. Allan and Pete then continued by cutting new rebates to allow the drawhooks free movement on the slightly shorter drawbar, while Oliver got down and dirty knocking old paint and rust off the Corris wheel sets. Charles began to apply the first of two coats of metal paint to the basket and John sanded the top half of Gunpowder Store door leaf which was suffering from exposure to the Tywyn weather.

With the first train waved away, Ann McCanna arrived to collect our coffee and tea order and we downed tools for our break in the company of Malcolm Phillips and Mike Green.

Back at the work site Pete had to leave early leaving Allan to complete both draw hook rebates, Oliver knocked off more rust, Charles completed three sides of the metal basket and John painted the newly exposed wood with white primer. At the end of the morning all the tools were returned to the Store and the wagon cover put over the Corris frame to leave the worksite safe and tidy.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 20th July 2023

It was looking pretty wet in Wharf Yard as the team gathered in the shelter of the Gunpowder Store this morning and work was delayed until the heavy shower passed over.

Allan Black, Max Birchenough, Pete Thomas, Andy Sheffield and John Olsen then got the cover off the ex GWR slate wagon basket and laid out the old Corris draw bar on the new frame to mark the rebate positions. John was preparing a fresh batch of conservation wax inside the cover of the Gunpowder Store, ready to apply to the metalwork of wagon no. 136 (as an experiment to see if it could help fend off the Tywyn weather), Max was happily painting, Allan fitting another dumb buffer and Andy and Pete cutting the first rebate when the rain returned and caused a hurried restoration of the cover and retreat inside.

The shower persisted and John called an early coffee break as nothing could proceed outside. We were joined by Ann McCanna and Charles Benedetto for our break and the sun broke through to dry the yard out.

Now the rain was past work could proceed uninterrupted, almost, as a visitor and her son enquired after our activities and Max and Andy stepped up to act a their guides; well done chaps. With the basket fully primed Max moved onto bashing the worst of the rust off the Corris wagon drawbar for John to take over with a wire brush fitted angle grinder in between fitting sessions as Andy and Pete chiselled out the three rebates. A bit more fettling of the rebates remains to be done and the wood has been marked for further attention.

Allan moved onto the last dumb buffer and had it in place by the end of the morning. John did get to apply the conservation wax to no. 136 and the effect on the left over rain water, chasing it off the bobbins etc, bodes well for the longer term preservation of the wagon.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 6th July 2023

A dull and blustery morning today in Wharf yard and a big HIAB equipped truck was in the process of loading three TR wagons to go to the Glynn Valley 150 event as the team assembled.

Allan Black, Pete Thomas, Max Birchenough, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen removed the protective cover from the ex-GWR steel bodied slate wagon basket and then shunted wagon no. 136, the three slat slate wagon, closer to the electricity supply ready for work to commence. Charles continued to finish his clean up of the drawhooks to be fitted to no. 136, whilst Max and Allan plugged in their angle grinders to remove more rust from the basket. Pete got down, and dirty, with the cutter blade fitted angle grinder to trim off the excess thread of the long bolts on no. 136 and John applied heat to the first of four rusty nuts holding the final pair of axleboxes to the expired Corris mail waggon frame.

By the time we had waved away the first train of the day Max had swapped removing rust for applying wood preservative to the new Corris frame as he and Allan were getting too close for safe working. Ann McCanna’s arrival signalled coffee time, which we had out on the platform with her, David Broadbent (fresh from his latest round of treatment) and Mike Green.

Post coffee, chocolate and chat we returned to the other side of the line where we turned over the new frame for further wood preservative and Charles opened up a can of black Hammerite to paint the drawhooks and the new lateral axlebox bolts, on no.136, with. With one axlebox remaining to free off, John found that last weeks generous lubricating of the rusty nuts with WD40 had sufficiently penetrated the threads of the last pair so that no heat was required to remove them, just a lot of muscle power.

Max opened a tin of black bitumenous paint to paint over the four heads of the short bolts holding the axleboxes of no. 136; this is an experiment to see if it is a superior rust proofing to Hammerite on galvanised bolts. He also painted the nuts and remaining threads of the long bolts under the frame with the same intention, to test its efficacy. Allan got in on the painting action to apply acid etch primer to the parts of the metal basket that he and Max had cleaned up.

With the wagon cover back on, no. 136 shunted back onto the weighbridge and the drawhooks placed inside the Gunpowder Store the site was tidied and left safe.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 29th Jun 2023

A bright and breezy morning in Wharf Yard and two team members were on site early to make the most of it; this morning extra hands Ian Evans and Robert Morgan turned out to join regulars Andy Sheffield, Allan Black, Pete Thomas, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen.

The first order of the day was to go round wagon no. 136 tightening all the nuts and bolts up, then Charles took up a wire brush fitted angle grinder to clean up a pair of drawhooks as the set we had prepared had been used to replace life expired examples on other wagons. Allan and Pete had the other pair of angle grinders to continue the de-rusting work on the ex GWR steel basket, while Robert, Ian, Andy and John set the new frame for the Corris mail waggon on the stands (recycled from the old wagon 136 frame) for wood preservative to be liberally applied by Robert and Andy.

Ian and John continued the patient dis-assembly of the Corris mail waggon frame, cutting off a final nut holding the frame together and the penultimate nut holding the drawbar in place. The new frame was turned over for the bottom to be treated and then a sleeper crib made to support the drawbar and cross members before the Corris solebars were knocked off each side, freeing the cross members and allowing the central cross member to be turned over for easy access to the last nut on the drawbar. John applied heat with the blow torch and Andy gave the nut its coup de grace to release the drawbar completely.

With the 10:30 train waved away coffee time was called and we took over one of the octagonal picnic tables under the canopy. Max Birchenough and Mike Green joined our coffee, biscuit and chat as the Slate Heritage Trail train was boarding its full complement of passengers.

Back on site the work of de-rusting and cleaning continued alongside the next dis-assembly job, removal of the Corris axleboxes. One solebar was lifted onto the new frame so that we could work at a comfortable height and John once more applied the blowtorch to the first rusty nut after the threads had been wire brushed; it didn’t shift despite the use of the club hammer on the spanner. But John was already heating the next nut and when that was given a whack it moved quite readily. In short order all the nuts were heat treated, including the first stubborn one and successfully removed without damage to the cast axleboxes.

Allan and Pete ceased their cleaning and applied a coat of acid etch primer to the newly exposed metal to protect it from rusting. Charles completed his cleaning of the drawhooks so that they can be painted next week and the, now free, Corris wheelsets were moved out of the way and the sleeper crib dismantled.

With the track clear no. 136 was shunted up onto the weighbridge and chocks inserted. All the metal work removed from the Corris frame were stored inside the upturned wagon body and the wagon cover placed over the ex GWR metal basket, leaving the site clear and safe for the Anything Goes gala over the weekend.

Photos by Allan Black and John Olsen

Museum working party 22nd June 2023

Another bright sunny morning in Wharf yard greeted the working party team, Max Birchenough, Pete Thomas, Charles Benedetto, Andy Sheffield, Ian Evans and John Olsen. Despite distractions in the yard taking place just feet from the work site, the main business of the day got underway after a quick shunt of the Corris Mail Waggon frame and the new no. 136 frame.

Pete went to work on the remaining rusted nuts that held the last pair of angle plates inside the Corris frame and Max painted a set of washers with black Hammerite in readiness for the re-assembly of wagon no. 136, the three slat wagon. The floorplate of no. 136 was lowered onto the frame after the remaining horizontal axlebox fixing bolts had been annointed with Evil Green Grease (EGG) by Andy and loosely screwed in place. Then the bobbins and wooden slats were retrieved from the Gunpowder Store and loose assembled in place like some large scale Jenga game. With the four long corner bolts, suitably greased with EGG, inserted through all the bobbins and slats it was time to wave away the first train and go for our coffee break so that the distraction could carry on without the sounds of the working party interfering.

There were no guests to join us for coffee chocolate biscuits and chat this morning on the platform, under the canopy for a smidgen of shade.

We returned across the tracks in time to wave away the Slate Trail Train and then get stuck into the reverse ‘Jenga’ puzzle. It was whilst trying to get the end central long bolts to thread through that John noticed that, despite his labelling the slats and pointing the labelling out to the team, some of the parts were in the wrong place. Cue dis-assembly of the slats to free the misplaced ones and insert them in their correct positions; with an additional twirl of 180o for good measure, we now had the ends all loose bolted.

Just four more long bolts to fit and while three went in with a bit of pushing and pulling, screwing and finally driving home with the rubber mallet, one bolt would not cooperate as the lowest slat had twisted just enough to thwart the bolts entry into the hole through the floorplate. Not to be defeated John used one of the sash clamps that we recently acquired from the estate of Winston McCanna, a long time gang organiser, to press the twisted slat enough for the bolt to be pushed home. Nuts and washers were then tightened up by hand before an early halt to proceedings was called as John had an appointment with our MS Mabon ap Gwynfor.

The long overdue return of wagon no. 136 to running condition is almost over, while the restoration ‘journey’ of the Corris Mail Waggon is just beginning.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 15th June 2023

A hot sunny morning for the team after the fortnights holiday break, but fortunately for Allan Black, Charles Benedetto, Pete Thomas and John Olsen the yard by the Gunpowder Store is shaded by trees.

The first task of the day was to assist Keith Theobald in getting the platform scales, that had been repainted by Steve Crane, out of the Store and into the Weighbridge house. To make the task possible we first shunted the new wagon no. 136 frame and the old Corris Mail Waggon frame west out of the way. Then the scales were partially dismantled to lighten them, as it is an extremely robust cast iron item, followed by laying down plywood and sterling board sheets to roll it over so that Keith could get the Bobcat forks under it. A delicate lifting and moving operation got the weighing machine to another set of boards leading into the Weighbridge House where it was tipped on its side and manhandled through the doorway, rolled across the floor and into its final resting place in the north west corner; where it was re-assembled allowing the temporarily displaced furniture to be brought back inside.

With a growing thirst, and the first train waved away, we went into the relative cool of the cafe for our coffee break in the company of Ann McCanna, Malcolm Phillips, Andy Sheffield, Mike Green and Tom Place. Even inside the chocolate on the biscuits was becoming runny in the heat.

Back in the yard the Corris wagon frame was shunted back up beside the Store and the metal basket of the ex GWR steel bodied slate wagon moved away from its frame and placed atop the upturned Corris wagon body; this was to make the remaining stripping and priming activities easier.

Allan cleaned off one end and then use the acid etch primer to protect the newly cleaned metal. Pete used an angle grinder with cutting wheel fitted to cut off more rusted on nuts to release another internal corner plate from the Corris frame while John used an old fashioned hacksaw to cut through one of the drawbar fixing bolts. Charles applied the second coat of black bitumenous paint to the new floorplate of wagon no. 136 and left it to dry.

The wagon cover was placed over the metal basket to protect the bare metal from the forecast rain later in the week and the site tidied of tools and tripping hazards.

Photos by Allan Black and John Olsen