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News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum

A museum covering all aspects of the narrow gauge railways of the British Isles, and of the Talyllyn Railway in Particular.
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumSaturday, March 16th, 2019 at 5:20pm
Museum working party 14th Mar 2019

A much better performance by the Tywyn weather mojo this morning with bright sunshine and light airs after a week of being battered by gales and worse. A smaller than usual gang assembled at Wharf as some of our regulars were having an 'awayday' on the Central Wales Line. This mornings team were Ray Brooks, Andy Sheffield, Neal Chapman, David Broadbent and John Olsen. Neal and Andy returned to the car gwyllt stand as Andy had fabricated a base frame, off site, for the new extension and was keen to fit it. Ray had been in during the week hunting for the materials to brew up some more conservation wax; alas he fell foul of a tidy up we had performed in the Gunpowder Store last year when all of the alchemical paraphernalia had been placed up in the loft. While John ascended into the loft to retrieve the bits and pieces for Ray, David measured up for the first holes for the L shaped cuphooks in the wooden template display board, ensuring all the templates would be square when fitted. Pots, pans, tubs of wax, electric hot plate and sundry other arcane implements of wax production were soon assembled on a table under the awning so that Ray could clean them up and then test the hotplate.

John put back the section of the woodland panorama behind Baguley No. 774, which he removed last week to gain access to the annoying drip that re-started during the Norwesters that pounded the museum last Thursday and again on Tuesday, and erect a catchpot system. This drip interceptor worked very well as Ray reported that the pot was 1/3rd full when he checked it on Tuesday and plenty more was coming down the pipe, rather than down the wall or pillar. Needless to say Ray emptied the pot out before leaving the building.

Ann McCanna arrived to brew up the morning coffee and we retired to the cafe with Mary Sheffield and another volunteer to enjoy dark chocolate coated ginger biscuits, a kind gift of David, and our wide ranging chat. This morning Andy was asking about Dolgoch's brass nameplates as a local dealer had acquired one and was seeking expert opinion upon its provenance. This led to a general discussion of things of value found in lofts and old clothes; not many of us have been lucky enough to find a knotted sock stuffed full of £20 notes! We also speculated on when our wandering colleagues might return to Tywyn from their Mid Wales wandering, rather late....

Refreshed we returned to the museum where John and David set up the new Penrhyn Quarry oval rail display on the shelf behind 'Rough Pup'. Those are heavy old lumps of iron to manoeuvre in the tight confines beside a huge pane of glass! Fortunately no glass, or volunteers, were broken in the process and the previously disparate items are now altogether in one display. More lighting is necessary to display them to best effect, as on sunny days the reflections in the glass make viewing less than satisfactory; this will be attended to, time permitting, before the main season starts at Easter.

We drew a line under work around midday in order to clear away all the tools and work horses, box up the offcuts of wood that had been strewn behind William Finlay and run Henry the Hoover around the floor so that the museum is ready to receive visitors this Saturday.

By the close of play the alchemists alembics, pots and pans had been cleaned and declared fit for the brewing of conservation wax, the extended car gwyllt frame had been assembled and its fascia attached, holes had been drilled in the wooden template display and the Penrhyn Quarry oval rails were glinting softly in the sunshine in their new home.

Photos by John Olsen
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumMonday, March 11th, 2019 at 8:15am
Museum working party 7th March 2019

One out of ten for performance for the Tywyn weather mojo this morning, cold, very windy and threatening rain. Undaunted the volunteers assembled within the warmth of the museum to pick up the winter works programme after the extended half term; Winston McCanna, Andy Sheffield, Neal Chapman, David Broadbent, Charles Benedetto, Max Birchenough and John Olsen welcomed Francis Stapleton back to our ranks.

This morning the car gwyllt frame and the tools were rescued from the Gunpowder Store as the skies began to throw increasing volumes of water onto Wharf station yard. Neal and Andy continued the process of building an additional end support for the now extended display stand out of salvaged plywood, which requires more work than using virgin materials to remove old nails, screws and clean off still adherent bits of MDF leftover from their former 'life' as bits of the big wall in the museum.

Winston and Francis disassembled the Penrhyn Quarry Oval Rail display and cleaned the items off with the help of Henry the Hoover, then removed the now redundant blocks of timber and sign holder prior to removing the bare box to the store, where it's internal cross bracings made handy shelves for various boxes of items awaiting cataloguing and archiving.

David, Max and Charles got down, to floor level, with measuring up brand spanking new MDF sheeting for the new wooden nameplate template display boards; our dwindling stock of recycled MDF did not have large enough pieces for this job.

John was kept busy circulating between the various groups keeping them supplied with the necessary materials and tools but there was a hiatus before the MDF could be cut as the pair of working clamps were in use by Neal and Andy. During this downtime a start was made on gently cleaning the wooden templates with small brushes to see how much grime could be removed in this manner. The results were not that visible as much of the dirt has been in situ for many years and may take more patient gentle cleaning to remove whilst leaving the items undamaged.

The first MDF cut was made just before Ann McCanna called us into the cafe to have our morning break in the company of Mary Sheffield and another volunteer who had braved the raging elements to check on the attendants booking sheets for the next openings. This morning we enjoyed butter rich shortbread treats from north o' the border courtesy of Andy and Mary after their trip to Glasgow. Andy had been disappointed not to have seen the Shap Summit sign or had it called to his attention. We consoled him by letting him know that actually Beattock was the higher summit, but he had missed that one too. Other topics for discussion were forthcoming trips on the Heart of Wales line and whether the Welsh Government could claim a penalty fare from Transport for Wales (this mornings service into Tywyn had been 20 minutes late) as the delayed volunteer hadn't paid anything thanks to being able to use his bus pass to obtain free travel; interesting conundrum.

Post coffee we continued with marking out the positions of the first set of templates ready for drilling the fixing holes; the templates will be held in place by L shaped cup hooks, which eliminates any need for drilling holes in the artefacts themselves.

Winston and Francis prepared four supports for the new Penrhyn Oval rail display and painted them museum standard grey ready for use next week. The items will be mounted behind the big glass panel where the oval rail point switch has been on display since Christmas.

By the close of play the additional end support had been fabricated, the first display board marked up, and the new oval rail display advanced. Unfortunately John discovered that the old North West corner leak had not been cured by Mick last year, and under the relentless Nor'wester the water was dripping in quite rapidly and required an immediate response if many hours of work were to be preserved. John and Andy got a container in position and covered the splash zone with plastic sheeting and newspaper to contain the water. This issue has been brought to Dave Scotson's attention and further work is planned, initially focussing on a section of defective pointing just above the lead flashing on the NW corner.

Pictures by John Olsen, apologies for the dust on the lens!
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumSaturday, March 2nd, 2019 at 9:10am
Museum working party 28th Feb 2019

Someone at weather mojo central must have pressed the total reset button causing the Tywyn weather mojo to revert to standard February weather, cold, then wet, generally miserable. Up until this morning it has been a marvellous time, lots of warm sunny days, (very happy volunteers on Outdoor Week) if only it had lasted one more day.

But the gang were not deterred, Neal Chapman, Ray Brooks, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen still donned their overalls and reported for duty. After nearly two weeks of visitors feet wandering around the museum the floors were showing an accumulation of dust and grime, so Ray got Henry out of his cupboard and started a top to toe clean.

Neal, Charles and John assembled the scaffold tower out on the platform under the museum's suspended sign; John had noticed that two of the fixing screws were hanging loose, potentially allowing the sign to creep along the I beam and fall off. Once up on the tower John discovered that all three screws came out with no more effort than a gentle pull! With Neal holding up one end of the sign and Charles acting as chief stabiliser and gofer down below, our intrepid steeplejacks moved the sign away from the wall far enough to begin the process of clearing out the old inadequate plasplugs and inserting new heavy duty ones. One hole needed to be opened out to achieve this, cue the new cordless drill, then all the new plugs were tapped into the wall. By this time the first train of the day had appeared from Pendre and Ann McCanna had arrived to brew coffee so we downed tools, moved the tower to one side to allow unimpeded movement along the platform and collected Winston McCanna, duty attendant, for coffee in the cafe. This morning we were joined by two other volunteers, one of whom, Max Birchenough, had brought with him a folder of his photos to show Winston a railmotor they had been discussing the previous time. This went round the table to much approval of Max's photos.

Once the 10:50 had been safely despatched up the line we reconvened our activities, Ray with Henry and Charles, John and Neal out on the platform. The mounting bracket needed a bit of drilling to open out the holes for the new heavier screws before they could be inserted and tightened up to grip the sign more firmly to the building. A safety clamp was re-attached after being treated with lubricant and then the work site cleared, the tower being dismantled and stowed away.

With some time still 'on the meter', Charles, Neal and John went over to the Gunpowder Store where Neal and Charles resumed work on the car gwyllt display stand and John cleaned the old paint off two of the door hinges of wagon no. 146. Just past midday the weather mojo had an epic failure and increasingly heavy rain started tumbling out of the leaden skies, forcing an early cessation of activities and a rapid stowing of gear before everything, and everyone got soaked.

By the close of play the museum was looking clean and tidy for the final few days of this extended half term opening period, work on the third support frame of the car gwyllt stand was well underway and some more flaky paint had been cast to the winds, keeping wagon no. 146 restoration moving forwards, just.

Photos by John Olsen and Neal Chapman
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumSaturday, February 23rd, 2019 at 5:50pm
Museum working party Feb 21st 2019

The Tywyn weather mojo was sulking this morning, grey overcast skies and cool wind was not what the working party expected of its first session outdoors in 2019. Ray Brooks, Charles Benedetto, Andy Sheffield and John Olsen made the best use of the dry morning to catch up on work on restoring wagon no. 146, the covered wagon. Ray and Andy got the paint brushes out to apply black Hammerite to the metal strapping of the door and grey primer for the, as yet, unpainted side boards.

Charles gave the replacement angle grinder its baptism of rust, the previous one had died through a faulty switch and been replaced under guarantee, cleaning up one of the internal ribs of the wagon. John joined this mucky mayhem with his own angle grinder cleaning old paint and rust off a second rib.

As this half terms first train of the day did not depart until 10:50am we had a chance to chat to regular volunteer Max Birchenough, who was on traffic duty as blockman at Abergynolwyn, before retiring to the cafe for a reviving brew, served up by Ray and John, in the company of duty attendant Richard Stoner. As the coffee and biscuits flowed our deliberations settled upon electric and hybrid cars and why the latter do not seem to be able to outperform conventional internal combustion engines in economy. Indeed another perplexing question for Fords was why do Brits, who have some of the most expensive petrol around, buy more V8 Mustangs than their straight 4 boosted baby brothers? It could have something to do with the exhaust note..... go figure. As we wrapped up our break we caught sight of the first TfW liveried DMU on the Cambrian, was it a paint job or a vinyl wrap? So many queries needing answers.

Back out in the yard, the paint was going on as fast as the rust was coming off, with only enough time to wave the 12:15 service off before we had to put our efforts on hold and clear everything away into the Gunpowder Store lest it rain on our endeavours before next Thursday. Needless to say having sulked all morning the sun broke through the clouds as we quit the site!

Photos by John Olsen
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumSaturday, February 16th, 2019 at 10:02am
Museum working party 14th Feb 2019

Valentines Day. Would it be love in a cold climate or massacre in hot blood? Well the Tywyn weather mojo was certainly spreadin' the lurve with bright sunshine, light breeze and mild airs as the team assembled in the museum. With half term opening just two days away Max Birchenough, David Broadbent, Ray Brooks, Winston McCanna, Neal Chapman, Andy Sheffield, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen all decided that the museum needed a lot of TLC. But first there was the small matter of putting the Eastwell somersault signal back in its correct position; with many hands to lift and secure it, the job was done with minimum fuss and no incidents. Time to break out the dust pan and brush, dusters, chammy leather and wield Henry.

The dust sheets came off the locos and the dust that had managed to settle through the coarse weave was removed to reveal a sparkling clean loco beneath.
The many lumps of timber, plywood and MDF were sorted and tidied away into the North Wall store, while the tools were put into their correct boxes and taken back to the confines of the Gunpowder Store. The trestles were also repatriated and the frame of the new car gwyllt display stand taken to the Store for safe keeping. The car gwyllt itself was then moved under the stairs, out of sight and temptations way.

All the dust quickly raised a thirst and Ann McCanna's appearance was a welcome sight as she summoned us all to coffee, served out on the platform as it was warm and sunny. At the coffee table John presented the team with a portable drill/driver with full set of bits and ancillary tools to help them maintain their productivity when we migrate back across the yard for our labours. The powerful cordless drill was a bit of kit that had been noticeably lacking and does away with the need for isolating transformers or RCD safety cutouts that mains powered drills require, an ideal tool when working in the yard.
Post presentation we settled down to coffee, chocolate biscuits and chat, which today covered garden railways and Valentines Day gifts. An epic diary failure on the part of one nameless individual led to much sage counsel on how to salvage the situation and an amusing anecdote on a seeming failure that turned out to be a postie posting the letter through an open window rather than the approved letter box.

Back in the museum the Padarn Railway points lever beside the Host wagon was moved about two feet to the west so that it would not foul the new car gwyllt display stand; those involved in the move agreed that it wasn't going to move again in a hurry as it was a humungous lump of iron!

The platform entrance door and vertical rising door glazing was cleaned inside and out using just warm water, a chamois leather and much elbow grease; then the glazed internal glass panel was brought up to the same crystal clear standard. Upstairs the last vestiges of our works were also cleaned away and Henry run round the floor as the dusters flew across the exhibits.

We had a final tweak of the lighting to improve the illumination of the new paper exhibits in the A3 flip mounts, beside Dot, to correct a perceived lack of light; one final check that all the lights, monitors and interactives were on and it was job done.

By the close of play the museum was ready to open.

Report and photographs by John Olsen.
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumSunday, February 10th, 2019 at 10:57pm
Museum Working Party 7th Feb 2019

The Tywyn weather mojo was in fine form this morning clearing away the overnight rains to leave a cool clear sky with plenty of sunshine. The happy volunteers assembled within the museum to tackle the jobs remaining before our next opening to the public at half term. On the roster this morning Andy Sheffield (released from Llechfan duties), Winston McCanna, Neal Chapman, Charles Benedetto, Ray Brooks and John Olsen were joined by trustee Malcolm Phillips.

Neal returned to the car gwyllt display stand to add four more corner reinforcements and trim the back to obtain a looser fit in the space available in order to allow the front panel to be clear of the side of the cabinet.

Winston and Andy set to work re-assembling the Eastwell somersault signal, as John had completed the repainting the post on Monday (while waiting for a film crew to take footage of the Awdry Study – which did not happen in the end as they were running so late!).

Ray, Charles, John and Malcolm went upstairs to sort out cabinet C11 as John had also had enough time on Monday to give both of the new plinths, fabricated last week, their second coat of grey paint too. A minor re-arrangement of the candle lamp and model of No 1, plus the addition of stands for the various small items, greatly improved the ease of viewing of all the items on the upper shelf. The ticket punch migrated to the right hand side on the bottom, the brass plaque was raised up on its new plinth by the rear of No 4 and the section of wooden post re-oriented to improve viewing of the bottom shelf.

Malcolm recorded the movement of a couple of items between C11 and C12 to keep abreast of the changes and Ray proceeded to cleaning and tidying up the contents of C12.

John and Charles moved on to hanging the backing board for the A3 flip mounts, as John had even had time on Monday to finish securing the two stand off battens to the wall, and priming them, while waiting for the tardy film crew!

Ann McCanna called us all to coffee in the cafe where we were joined by another volunteer and a retired volunteer for our morning dose of the three 'Cs', coffee, chat and chocolate. Ailments, ale and holidays featured in our discussions whilst supping in the sunshine.

Returning to the museum John and Malcolm discussed the possible enhancement of the car gwyllt display to include at least one additional length of rail to help tell the story of how the car gwyllt ran on the two innermost rails of both the incline tracks; something that is not really seen clearly in the old display photos. Neal was then allowed to continue his work on it.

Andy and Winston returned to the deceptively straightforward re-assembly of the ironmongery of the Eastwell signal, which needed easing of one rebate and a bolt hole to allow the process to proceed.

Charles and John retrieved the framed line drawings of the Listowel and Ballybunion Railway from cabinet C08 to attach hanging brackets and then mount the two pictures between the previously re-positioned 'Pigs, Parcels and People' and 'The Irish Way' display panels. An additional perspex display mount was put up for text, which Malcolm supplied, to introduce the two pictures.

After the pictures had been removed for hanging Ray was let loose on the Recent Acquisitions cabinet, C08, to tidy up the items and lay them out neatly.

By the end of play three cabinets had been cleaned and prepared ready for viewing, two pictures had been hung, one display back board had been mounted and numerous other tasks progressed.

Report by John Olsen

On Sunday Ian Evans and Malcolm partly populated the A3 flip mounts as shown in Ian's photograph.