Museum working party 11th May 2023

A dry start brought out a good showing for this mornings working party. Allan Black, Andy Sheffield, Charles Benedetto, Pete Thomas, Max Birchenough and John Olsen were in the yard to continue cleaning up the ex GWR metal slate wagon basket and further dismantle the Corris mail waggon.

Allan and Max had to wait a short time before they could start applying the wire wheel equipped angle grinders to the basket as our electrical kit was being PAT tested this morning, but after about 15 minutes delay they were busy. The rest of the gang attempted to shift the nuts on the cross bars of the Corris wagon, but even after heating up with a blow torch the first nut remained unmoved. This was partly due to the long cross bars acting as torsion bars thus cushioning any attempt to use a hammer on a spanner to break the rust ‘seal’. Reluctantly John agreed that we should cut away the nut on one end and then extract the bar. Andy set to work with an angle grinder fitted with a cutting disc, but even with the side of the nut cut away it still took some ‘persuading’ with a hammer and cold chisel to start turning the remnant of the nut.

We stopped for our coffee break when Ann McCanna and Mike Green arrived on site and sat out on the platform in the warm sunshine that had broken through the cloud layer. We all squeezed up to make a space for Tom Place to join us as we tucked into the chocolate biscuits.

Returning to the yard Allan and Max continued the patient task of removing old paint and rust while the rest of the gang removed the two end cross bars after the nuts on one end had been cut away; but even then the bars needed to be hammered out of the frame revealing that the metal within the wooden frame had rusted very badly. Our attention then turned to the first of the two cross bars that hold the brake shoes, first with the cutting disc, then the hammer and chisel and then the hammer on the bar. The bar didn’t shift! It took the two pound lump hammer and a good swing before it began to move and only when it finally came out did we find the cause of such resistance to movement; the end had been bent into a shallow S shape. It seems unlikely that this occurred due to any operational mishap as the bar is nearly 3/4” thick, so we must presume it was intentionally bent, possibly to correct for an incorrect position of the hole in the frame causing problems with operating the brake shoes.

Rather than attempting to remove the other big cross bar we finished the morning on one of the smaller horizontal bolts holding one of the axleboxes in place using Pete’s hammer action compressed air tool, but the degree of rusting defeated it. Only after heating the nut with the blow torch and then giving the spanner a whack with a hammer did it finally begin to unscrew the bolt. It seems that the frame has been very wet for long periods of time and this not only resulted in the rot in the headstock joints, but has also likely severely corroded every single bolt passing through the frame.

We were presented with a salvaged, and slightly bent, brake operating lever and shaft from a TR slate wagon by Mike Christiansen who had salvaged it from the stream in Abergynolwyn; thank you Mike. This might make a working brake lever on a future wagon rebuild once cleaned up and straightened out.

Photos by Allan Black and John Olsen