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

Museum working party 11th Jan 2024

After a relaxing Christmas break the team reconvened in the warmth of the museum for the first working party of the New Year. Allan Black, Andy Sheffield, Charles Benedetto, Pete Thomas, Max Birchenough and John Olsen got the tools out and began by removing the cast iron points and sleepers from the third of the grey plinths and putting it up on its end for work to begin.

Allan and Andy teamed up to make the bottom plywood supports for the new castors and rubber feet and to fit them. While they worked on the plinth the rest of the team erected the two metal trestles and lifted the ‘Can you power William?’ interactive up onto them. Max and Charles then proceeded to remove the unwanted wooden feet in preparation for the new castors. That left Pete and John to go upstairs to take down the Christmas lights that had been illuminating Dot and carefully pack them away in the storeroom.

Returning to the ground floor they then moved the Oakeley coal wagon to its westernmost limit of the track so that they could erect the scaffold tower in the corner. The Cambrian Railways sign was an obstacle and so was removed, whereupon the tower base was lifted over the edging and the brakes deployed before adding the necessary sides and cross braces. The tower will allow the cleaning of the brasses in situ from next week onwards.

The cafe was closed for business but the connecting door was open so we could have our coffee inside once we had brewed it in the Guards Room. Our ruminations were not enlivened by any guests this morning.

Returning to the museum we took up our tasks once more, locating the brass cleaning materials and then returning the ‘Can you power William?’ interactive to its position beside the stairs and re-securing it with a stout cable tie. Pete was tasked with designing a clamping mechanism that will allow us to secure the interactive using a padlock so that future access to the understairs area will not require a pair of side cutters every time!

With the end of the morning the grey plinth was ready to have its exhibits re-attached and then wheeled into its correct position before locking the castors. Henry the hoover swept up the sawdust generated to keep the space tidy, and the tools were returned to their respective storage places, so we can find them next week.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 14th Dec 2023

A cool dry morning for the final working party of the year, Allan Black, Andy Sheffield, Max Birchenough, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen were once again working against the clock as the next museum opening date is Saturday 16th Dec.

This morning John had gotten many of the tools out ready and the team got stuck in to putting castors and rubber feet onto another of the grey display plinths. While Allan, Andy and Charles cut and drilled, Max used the hole cutter to make more packing spacers for the feet to match the castors in height. John got an unused LED OPEN sign out of storage to place in the window closest to the cafe door to catch the eyes of passengers on the turkey and tinsel trains and alert them to the presence of the museum. Charles drilled a mounting hole in a spare perspex leaflet holder to hang it at the attendants station beside the vertical rising door; this removes the need to overstuff the other two holders with timetables.

We took our break in the cafe, where we were joined by Lisa Brian, Keith Theobald and David Broadbent for the now customary festive nibbles mulled wine and coffee.

Refreshed, and somewhat over replete, we returned to the museum to finish the plinth job and then tidy everything away before Charles took Henry the Hoover for a spin around the ground floor.

As a final flourish to our working party we all convened in the museum entrance with the door opened up to shout out ‘Nadolig Llawen’ to Frank as he wielded his phone in video mode; the clip will be uploaded to the Welsh Government social media accounts.

Another year of activity closes and we wish you all Nadolig Llawen, a very Happy Christmas and see you in the New Year for more.

Photos by Allan Black and John Olsen

Museum working party 7th Dec 2023

A very select team assembled in the museum this morning, Allan Black, Max Birchenough and John Olsen had just one morning to complete their tasks and clear up ready for the next museum open day. With the strong likelihood of the platform glass screens being installed soon (to provide wind and rain protection for the museum and cafe entrances) Max and John removed the A2 notice board and the various signs that would interfere with the erection of the new frame to the left of the Vertical Rising Door and stowed them inside for later reuse.

Allan set to work preparing two baseplates from plywood to secure to the base of one of our grey display plinths so that castors and rubber feet could be fitted to make shifting these heavy objects much safer and easier. Max and John ascended the heights over the Eaton Railway cabinet behind William Finlay to reconfigure the signs to accommodate a new one; Max wielding the screwdriver to undo the fixings with John in a supporting role, literally as he took the weight of each sign. Neal Chapman stopped by, while he was on a mission to Wharf from Pendre, to see how things were progressing in the museum.

With baseplates fixed to the plinth and the signs that needed shuffling down from the wall we adjourned to the cafe for our coffee, chat and chocolate biscuits, and more. Keith had not only generously topped up our supply of Hobnobs but he also bought piping hot mince pies fresh from the cafe oven. Then Ann McCanna and Tom Place joined us and Ann presented us with more mince pies that she had baked; our plates overfloweth with good things to eat! Keith regaled us with the tales of the oversized wagon now standing in the yard, which should eventually reside on BR land beside the Wharf Edge siding on a track panel; but alas the track panel languishes elsewhere and so we have a big ‘cuckoo’ in the yard nest!

Refreshed, and more than adequately refilled, we returned to the museum and our tasks. Once John and Max had hung the new sign up and put back the older ones in a new arrangement, we helped Allan finish off his job. The single rubber foot trial was not stable enough so we needed to fabricate some more packing pieces out of spare plywood and MDF; the neatest way was by using a large hole cutter to make circular packing pieces that could be stacked to the right height. With two castors and two rubber feet in place the plinth was now solid and the cast iron point could be re-attached before wheeling the plinth back into place and locking the castor.

Then it was time to put all the tools away and run Henry the hoover over the floor to remove any signs that we had been working in the museum.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 30th Nov 2023

A bright, but very cold day, greeted the team in Wharf Yard this morning. Thanks to the efforts of the Outdoor Gang, who temporarily put aside their mammoth relaying of Ty Mawr, the final pair of slate wagons were moved over to the heritage siding so that they could be covered over for the winter. But there was the small matter of transferring all the metal wagon parts, that had been freshly painted with black Hammerite, from the museum to the covered wagon, no. 146, where they will be stored for the winter.

Having hefted the parts across, the team cleared the floor of the Gunpowder Store and then rotated no. 146 through 180o, to get it through the doorway without fouling the brake lever. With the wagon safely indoors we could then proceed to wheel no. 136, the three bar slate wagon, onto the wagon turntable where it will rest for the winter, and cover it over with plastic sheeting and a giant Hippo bag. John performed the necessary tying down operation under the wagon as the rest of the team pleaded various ailments that prevented them from getting down onto the cold ground.

Ann McCanna summoned us from our labours to enjoy coffee, chocolate biscuits and chat together with David Broadbent, Tom Place and Keith Theobald in the warmth of the cafe.

Reluctantly the team left the cafe to complete the wagon winterising operation by covering over the two metal bodied slate wagons and the slate waste tipper wagon, which allowed them to retreat to the museum. Indoors the tools, trestles and other paraphernalia that we had been using in the winter maintenance programme were all tidied away and Henry the hoover given an outing on the ground floor, leaving the museum in a safe and fit condition for the first of several pre-Christmas Tuesday openings.

Photo by John Olsen

Museum working party 23rd Nov 2023

Andy Sheffield, Max Birchenough, Pete Thomas and John Olsen were once again inside the museum to continue with the winter maintenance programme. Ian Evans was on the site early, ensconced inside the Host wagon guards van, to conduct a count of the number of photographic slides that we still need to scan, record and archive in preparation for a grant submission.

This morning Max joined John up on the scaffold tower as safely taking down the largest and heaviest nameplates required two pairs of hands. The plates were cleaned and polished by Pete and Andy and then restored to their positions on the wall. The plates on the left hand side were tackled first, and once all of them were back up the scaffold tower was moved to the right to reach the remainder.

The change of side was a convenient moment to take our morning coffee break in the warmth of the cafe, where we were joined by Ann McCanna and Mike Green for our topical chat, chocolate biscuits and coffee. Post coffee Ian returned to join the outdoor gang as they continued their Herculean relaying of Ty Mawr.

Back inside the museum the tower team took up their position on high and took down the remaining nameplates for cleaning and polishing. With the last nameplate back on the wall the scaffold tower was dismantled and carried down the stairs and the cleaning and polishing gear cleared away before we hung the Christmas coloured lights up in the Neptune Road window, utilising the hooks we installed for this very purpose last year.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 16th Nov 2023

Even though the weather was remarkably clement this morning the team convened inside the museum to commence our winter works. Allan Black, Andy Sheffield, Pete Thomas and John Olsen were joined by Andrea Sutherland as we tackled the cleaning of our, many, brass name and works plates displayed on the wall above the stairs.

Allan, Andrea and Andy set up a cleaning station on the first floor armed with white spirit, Brasso wadding and conservation wax, and applied toothbrushes, rags and elbow grease to the plates that John carefully removed from the display board, from atop the scaffold tower. Pete got the slightly scruffier end of the cleaning ‘market’ out on the platform rubbing down the bobbins from wagon no. 164, the braked 3 bar slate wagon, in preparation for a fresh coat of black Hammerite. The first three works plates had been cleaned, polished, protected and re-mounted on the wall by the time the coffee ‘bell’ was sounded.

We adjourned to the cafe where we were joined by Ann McCanna, Tom Place and Charles Benedetto for our usual chocolate biscuits, coffee and chat.

Much refreshed we took up our tasks again so that by the mornings end nearly all the works plates and several nameplates had been returned to their former glory back up on the wall. The larger nameplates remain to be done as it is a two man job to safely de-mount them, such is their weight. Pete completed his clean up job by wiping the sanded bobbins with white spirits, they are now ready to paint.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 10th Nov 2023

It looked like the teams luck with the autumn weather had run out this morning as strong squalls washed over Wharf yard. But Allan Black, Max Birchenough, Pete Thomas, Andy Sheffield and John Olsen got lucky one more time as they assembled, the rain blew inland and a dry, if windy, period allowed them to get the bars of wagon no. 164, the two bar braked slate wagon, out of the Gunpowder Store to place atop the frame and then lay the new frame for the Corris Mail Waggon on the top of them.

Wagon no’s 117 (incline wagon) and 113 (splayside wagon) were shunted from beside the Llechfan hedge onto the Weighbridge road and then no. 164’s frame was shunted up behind them, to allow wagon no. 146, the covered wagon to be moved onto the wagon turntable outside the Gunpowder Store in preparation for its eventual storage inside the shed for the winter. But before then three of the giant yellow Hippo bags, that had been placed in no. 164, were retrieved to cover over the wagons on top of the plastic wrapped sterling boards, to help protect the wagons from the worst of the winter weather to come. With ropes in place to hold the covers against the wind the team took an early coffee break just before the next squall hit Tywyn.

The warmth of the cafe, coffee chocolate biscuits and chat were just what the team needed to thaw out and then brave the elements again.

Fortunately the rain had ceased and a second dry spell allowed the transfer of tools, trestles and assorted wagon ironmongery to the museum to take place without getting a soaking. As the rain returned the team set up temporary work benches inside to continue with the painting of the wagon parts and also erected the portable scaffold tower on the landing of the museum stairs to enable the brass name and works plates to be taken down safely for cleaning and polishing over the next couple of weeks.

Proceedings were closed after John had outlined the other jobs to be covered during the winter shutdown period; painting of areas were there was scuffing or wear, swapping out the light rope on the Guinness loco, mounting castors on the second interactive to allow it to be moved aside for easy access to the space under the stairs and castors also to be fitted to the grey display plinths to make their movement easier and safer than the present need to physically lift them to avoid scratching the slate floor tiles.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 2nd Nov 2023

Museum working party 2nd Nov 2023

The working party convened inside the dry of the museum this morning as the rain band of storm Ciaran was still soaking the yard. Andy Sheffield, Allan Black, Pete Thomas and John Olsen carried out a number of jobs that had been on the indoors ‘to do’ list for a while.

Allan began by carefully extricating the defective light rope, that has not been illuminating the darker depths of Baguley no. 774 for a large part of the season, in preparation for replacement. Andy and Pete removed three of the sand filled weights from our set of tensa barriers, which were not 100% sound, to swap them with salvaged metal weights. The swap over necessitated finding some longer M8 bolts , but thanks to a surfeit of these left over from the rebuilding of wagon no. 146, these were sourced from our stock in the Gunpowder Store. They also cleaned off the accumulated grime from the chromed posts and base covers so that they once more gleamed like new.

John got to remove four of the long bolts holding William Finlays dumb buffer metal ends caps from the rear buffers so that they can be machined to the correct profile round countersunk heads. By removing only two bolts from each buffer the end caps and wooden blocks can remain safely in place. Reaching the securing nuts was a far from easy task and the over long bolt shanks meant that a ratchet driver could not be used to speed up the removal either; John spent a long and rather uncomfortable time on his back. By the time Charles showed up for morning coffee John had only succeeded in releasing two bolts and even this pair had resisted being withdrawn after the nuts had finally been fully unscrewed as the shafts had rusted inside the timber of the blocks and buffer beam.

We retired to the comfort of the cafe to join up with Max Birchenough, who was on traffic duty, Keith Theobald, Ann McCanna, Tom Place and duty attendant John Alderslade for our morning coffee chocolate biscuits and chat.

With the rain showers still coming and going the team remained inside post coffee with Andy and Pete assisting Allan in installing the new light rope, securing it with cable ties and spring clips so as not to damage the fabric of the loco. John tackled the second, and more inaccessible, pair of bolts on William Finlay with assistance from Allan.

Henry the hoover was deployed to clear up the rust from the bolt removal job and the tools were returned to the Gunpowder Store for safe keeping, leaving the museum in a safe condition for our visitors.

Photos by John Olsen

Museum working party 26th Oct 2023

The weather forecast wasn’t too optimistic but thanks to Tywyn’s unique micro-climate it was dry in Wharf Yard this morning as Max Birchenough, Andy Sheffield, Pete Thomas and John Olsen took the yellow cover off the frame of wagon no. 164, and then all went over to the museum. To explain; this morning John Bate received his much deserved MBE from the Lord Lieutenant of Gwynedd in a ceremony on the platform at Wharf Station and the bright yellow cover was not invited to be in the photos so it was duly removed and stored out of sight.

Before the ceremony took place we busied ourselves on a housekeeping task that Keith Theobald had requested; namely to move some of the COVID PPE and allied stock to the Gunpowder Store loft to make space in the museum storeroom for our growing collection of photos and slides of British narrow gauge railways. So we bagged and tagged and carried the stock away, or rather Max, Andy and Pete did as John took the opportunity to wash down the vertical rising door and platform access door of the museum, both of which were quite filthy, before Malcolm Phillips opened up for the day.

Across at the Gunpowder Store John evicted the wagon winterising paraphernalia from the loft space (Yellow Hippo bags and blue tarpaulins) and then replaced them with the COVID stock. The winter kit was all safely stashed in wagon no. 146, the covered wagon, as we will be needing it in a little over a weeks time as the railway ceases to run trains and we can cover the historic wagon fleet to protect it from the winter storms.

As the Lord Lieutenant arrived we crossed the tracks to take our coffee break in the cafe as Ann McCanna had arrived bearing a fresh baked load of cakes. We settled down to our extended coffee, cake, chocolate biscuits and chat with Charles Benedetto, Tom Place, Malcolm Phillips and Fiona Covington.

As the investiture guests migrated from the platform to the Slater Room we migrated back across the tracks to continue our investigation of the state of the frame of no. 164. As the loose paint and dirt were scraped and wire brushed away it became apparent that many small areas of the frame were soft around the vertical and horizontal bolt holes. Two of the packing pieces of the dumb buffers fell off when the iron end straps were removed as they had begun to rot and the glue no longer held fast. What had initially seemed like a sound frame is now looking somewhat suspect, but a final decision will only be made once we have turned the frame over to examine the already known areas of rot, and no doubt discover as yet unknown rot.

The sterling board and yellow Hippo bag were put back over the frame and fastened down after the tools had been put away, leaving the site tidy and safe for the final visitors of the season.

Photos by John Olsen