Museum working party 20th Oct 2022

After nearly two days of Easterly gales roaring down the valley, Wharf yard was calm and dry as the team assembled to progress the wagon no. 136 rebuild.

Andy Sheffield, Allan Black, Pete Thomas, Max Birchenough, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen had all been thinking about how to mark the positions for the holes in the steel floor plate of the wagon and Andy had gone one better and assembled a custom hole punch for the job. But before we could apply it we were called to assist Keith Theobald by moving the metal parts of the first Aberllefeni incline balance wagon from their resting place beside the water column to a position where power was available so that he could grind off the heads of the many rusty bolts prior to their removal.

Back at the Gunpowder Store we cleared a path to extract the new (now 3 years old) steel floor sheet and then got it in position on top of the wagon frame. As two of the edges had been cut with a gas flame the first task was to clean the cuts up, removing the hazardous jagged edges. Andy and Charles applied a flap wheel to the task and made short work of the job. We centred up the plate but noticed that something wasn’t quite square as the plate and frame could not be made to align on all sides. We must conclude that during its lengthy storage the wagon frame has distorted by a few mm out of square, but still well within wooden wagon tolerances.

We stopped for an early coffee break where we were joined by Malcolm Phillips, Mike Green, Keith Theobald and Frank Nolan for chocolate biscuits (courtesy of Kes) coffee and chat.

Post coffee we began the task of marking the holes with Andy’s special punch rig, clamping the steel plate down so that it didn’t move in responses to the hammer blows from below. Max got busy with an angle grinder with a wire brush head, cleaning up two of the wagon axleboxes and Pete transferred our hole alignment codes from the top to the undersides of the slats so that we can start painting them without losing the vital orientation information. The punch marks were turned into drill marks by Andy and his dividers and drilling of the 6mm pilot holes commenced. Pete took over when Andy needed to leave early and by the end of the session he had drilled out the remaining holes.

In between these jobs the bits of the Aberllefeni balance wagon were returned to their storage site after Keith had completed his cutting operations. The cover was put back over the wagon frame and floor plate and the other bits and pieces that we had taken out of the Store were returned to it to leave the site clean and safe.

Photos by John Olsen