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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 MuseumFriday, September 15th, 2017 at 8:06pm
Museum working party 14th September

Start of play was rather delayed by the onset of the Tywyn monsoon season this morning; intense squalls being driven by very strong winds from the NW. Early arrivals could only shelter in the Gunpowder Store and watch the rain lash down in torrents; where were the fast moving showers we had been forecast?

With no sign of a let up Winston McCanna and Phil Sayers were given a nice dry job in the Guards Room cleaning up the printers plates of Welsh narrow gauge railway locos and rolling stock that had been made for John Boyd's seminal book. These had been donated to the museum by a visitor to the book launch event last weekend. The application of white spirit with a rag and toothbrush got most of the easily removable old ink out, but the more stubborn residue needed extra encouragement from a plastic toothpick to shift it without damaging the underlying cast metal.

John Olsen, David Broadbent, Charles Benedetto, Neal Chapman and Andy Sheffield tried to shift the recalcitrant rusty nuts and long bolts from their long resting places on wagon 136, but the tight confines of the Store were not really conducive to the swinging of large lumps of metal that were necessary.

An early coffee break was called in the hope that the forecast sunshine would finally make an appearance. Anne McCanna beat the sun to Wharf station and delivered a much needed boost to the biscuit rations, which were running low, and we were joined by Malcolm Philips, Robin Dyer (duty Attendant) and Barbara Tinsley for our customary chat as the rain teemed down. Malcolm and John took the opportunity to discuss the positions of two new 4 slot leaflet holders for the museum leaflets by the ground floor entrance from the cafe and first floor entrance from the lift. With the positions agreed Neal was invited to perform the necessary drilling levelling and hanging operations, in addition to rehanging our Welsh Museums Accreditation Certificate to make way for the first floor holder.

Outside, a meteorological miracle had taken place and the dark storm clouds had gone south to drench Machynlleth, so wagon 136 was wheeled out and a determined effort started to get all the bolts out in order to lift the floor plate and inspect the frame. John had cut open all the nuts on the long bolts last week but these still provided some obstinate resistance to being removed until the appliance of precision violence with a large cold chisel and lump hammer into the cuts cracked them open enough to turn. With one man on the top square head and one on the nut below, and a liberal spray of WD 40, one by one the nuts came off. That was when the corroded, and hence much expanded, bolt shafts played their trump card and refused to be extracted. Cue more scientifically administered brute force with one man levering up a remaining length of wooden slat whilst the other smacked the bottom end of the long bolt with the lump hammer; it should be noted that the nuts had been replaced to prevent damage to the bolt threads, this was scientific brute force!

With all the long bolts out John wielded the angle grinder to remove the heads of the 4 short bolts that remained. There was little point in trying to save these bolts as they were too short originally, only holding on by a few, but tediously tenacious, threads without the benefit of a washer between the axlebox and the nut. The heads duly succumbed to cutting and snapping off with the cold chisel so that the final coup de grace could be administered to the rusty remnants, yes knocking out with that trusty chisel and hammer combo! Finally the steel floorplate was lifted off and the wagon chassis wheeled into the sunshine for inspection and probing with a screwdriver. Oh dear, that screwdriver sank rather too deep in far too many locations around the joints and boltholes. It was clear that wagon 136 had spent too many winters on the Wharf edge road without any weather protection and the chassis was unanimously condemned. As the chassis was not going to be restored it was left out on the museum's siding ready for ultimate disassembly next week to reclaim the axleboxes and tie rods.

By end of play, in bright warm sunshine, about half of the printing plates had been cleaned up and half of wagon 136 remained intact, all the bolts, bobbins and dumb buffer caps having been placed into the Store for future cleaning up, along with the steel floor plate to keep it dry.

New volunteers always welcome on Thursday mornings. Refreshments provided.
Photos by John Olsen.
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumMonday, September 11th, 2017 at 1:54pm
Museum Working Party 7th September

Under grey skies and the threat of showers the working party assembled to disassemble. Andy Sheffield, Charles Benedetto, Neal Chapman and John Olsen took their chance to wheel wagon 136 out of the Gunpowder Store and uncover wagon 164. Neal had made his number templates and after a bit of a rummage on the paint shelves discovered the tin of white undercoat paint he needed to anoint wagon 164 with its numbers; it needed the skin taking off and thinning a bit first mind.
John had brought his angle grinder in on the assumption that the rusty nuts would not shift with anything so wimpy as a spanner and a lump hammer, he was proven correct and the sparks soon began to fly.

Working safely at the other end of the wagon Charles and Andy removed the dumb buffer metal caps and found plenty of rotting timber in the process; thoughts began to turn from refurbish to rebuild. With the dumb buffers off they proceeded to remove the drawhooks so that John could get unfettered access to all the nuts.

Anne and Winston McCanna were a welcome sight as coffee time approached, bringing not only the finest of German chocolate biscuits, but also tales of their river cruise. We were joined out on the platform by Barbara Tinsley, the duty attendant, to sample German cuisine and chat.
Winston was rather under the weather after the trip so not able to join us for the mechanical mayhem we were engaged in after coffee; whilst Neal patiently turned pencil outlines into crisp new numbers.

The removal of the nuts was rather slow until Andy 'that'll shift it' Sheffield suggested his patent method for despatching rusty nuts, apparently honed over many years of repairing old bangers, with a single vertical cut through the nut. This necessitated dropping the bolts down to get the angle grinder on them; first cut through the old wooden slats, an act relished by Charles 'Buzzsaw' Benedetto. Then gently tickle the rusty bolts down through the equally rusty bobbin centres with the lightest of hammers..... Within a short time John was able to cut through the nuts with minimal damage to the bolt threads and split the nuts open with a cold chisel. Charles and Andy followed behind with spanners and hammers to then unscrew the still recalcitrant nuts ready to complete the disassembly.

It was at this point that the Tywyn weather mojo, exhausted by fending off the rain throughout the summer, let a squally shower through and work came to a soggy conclusion. We got a bit wet putting the cover back on wagon 164; protecting the new letters and Neal's touching up of the metal straps with black to complete the refurbishment. Then we got a bit wetter bringing in the tools and finally dragging wagon 136 into the Gunpowder Store to close play for this week.

New volunteers welcome every Thursday morning. Free tee/coffee and biscuits!
Photos by John Olsen and Andy Sheffield.
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumMonday, September 4th, 2017 at 8:57pm
Museum Working Party 31st August

With periodic, and very heavy showers, wafting over Tywyn this morning as the weather mojo struggled to keep things dry, the team had a museum TLC day. David Broadbent, Neal Chapman, Richard Evans, Andy Sheffield and John Olsen attended to a health and safety issue, exhibit protection and had a big clean up after the peak season dirt influx.

The health and safety issue was flagged up by an attendant last week who observed a small child, probably 5 or younger, dash past William Finlay's running plate with almost zero clearance. Had the child cut it finer it would have cracked its head on the corner of the running plate and likely self inflicted a nasty injury. In response John fabricated a plastic 'bollard' off site (black painted with a red band at the same height as William's buffer beam so as not too be overly obvious in photos) out of black plastic waste pipe, which was fitted over the exposed corner. This is directly in the eyeline of small children so it should guide them away from any harmful collision, but should one fail to notice it the round bollard presents a much softer collision obstacle. As additional insurance a length of grey pipe insulation has been fitted over the exposed running plate edge to cushion any collision.

In the run up to coffee, biscuits and chocolates Richard wielded the Henry on the ground floor to hoover up the plastic swarf John had generated fitting the bollard and remove a generous amount of dirt that our visitors had brought in with them during the peak season. Neal's hands were a blur as he took on the task of removing the many marks of little fingers on the extensive glazed area of the museum, including the hard to reach bits on the far side of the glass just above the bottom edge!

Andy had brought in his special chammy, which came in very handy for giving the vertical rising door and entrance door from the platform a good clean down. They were covered in a mix of coal dust and grease judging by the colour of his cloth that probably comes from our engines as they stand in the platform hissing and spitting dirt. David was up on the first floor brushing up the dirt from the floor and John cleaned the floor behind the Baguley before dusting the locos down.
Coffee was outside as the rain was clearing away up the valley and we were joined by Barbara Tinsley and duty attendant Ray Brooks for our chat and chocolates.

After we had drunk and munched, David fixed a clamp, made by John, over the counter weight arm of the Isle of Man signal to prevent the minority of our visitors who wish to push very button and pull every lever, even when the latter clearly don't move, from damaging the exhibits in the process. One visitor was clearly so convinced that the arm should move that he bent the operating rod leading up to the signal! The clamp is painted bright red and sits securely over the arm so it very clearly shows that the arm is not meant to be moved, and for good measure a sign has also been attached to the signal post requesting that the item should not be touched.

The rest of us continued our cleaning and polishing so that by the end of play bright sunlight was streaming in through the entrance glazing, glinting off the polished balustrading, illuminating the grime free floor and generally showing the locos off to best effect, now sans their dusty shrouds.
Peak season is all but over and next week we return to largely single shifts, 10am-3pm, for the green service; but its not too late to sign up as an attendant, in fact we have a superfluity of vacant slots, so please contact Barbara if you are coming to Tywyn in the next few weeks.

Working parties continue every Thursday Morning. New helpers always welcome.

Photos by John Olsen.
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumSunday, August 27th, 2017 at 10:53am
Working Party 24 August 2017

The ranks of the working party were very depleted this warm cloudy morning as only David Broadbent, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen were available. Before David and Charles arrived on site John helped Keith Theobald and Chris Johnson manhandle wagon 136 off the Wharf siding across the hardcore to the museum siding so that work could begin on it.

The proceedings were enlivened by the sound of hyper excited chipmunks coming from under No. 5's bonnet! Fortunately it wasn't a trapped chipmunk, just a blown gasket, unfortunately No. 5 had been due up at Abergynolwyn as 'Rusty' for Peter Sam's party...

Wagon 164 required some sorting out of the long bolts to find the four that were long enough to go through slats frame and axleboxes, these were then wire brushed, anointed with copious green grease (yes really it is bilious green) and then threaded into position. With David extracting the bolts, John brushing them and Charles getting very greasy, work progressed smoothly up to coffee time.

By now the clouds were parting and we enjoyed coffee, chocolate Viennese Swirls courtesy of David and chocolates courtesy of John in the company of Barbara Tinsley the duty attendant, sitting in the sunshine on the platform. Having sorted most of the world's ills it came time to return to work, but unfortunately Barbara had to leave unexpectedly so the working party productivity fell as John was temporarily seconded to look after the museum.

David and Charles carried on cleaning greasing and reassembling wagon 164; in fact the copious grease led to such a smooth operation that by the time John got back to the Gunpowder Store all the bolts were in place and wagon 136 had been shunted into the Store ready for its turn for some TLC.

Early visual examination and probing with a screwdriver indicates that the frame may be in a poor state around the drawbar fixings; this may need a bit of timber surgery or if more rot is found elsewhere, complete replacement of the frame. We shan't know until after removing all the bolts and slats and lifting the floor plate off the frame.

A final shunt of wagons to get the splayside coupled up to the incline wagon out on the siding beside Llechfan allowed us to put wagon 164 beside the Corris Mail Wagon and cover the former over ready for its number to be painted on next week.
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumSaturday, August 19th, 2017 at 12:48pm
Working Party 17 August

After some wild weather days, Thursday morning was dry and breezy, perfect for getting on with some outdoor jobs and Charles Benedetto, Andy Sheffield, David Broadbent and John Olsen were on hand to do them.

Wagon 164 has featured many times in this years working parties but its days of stardom are drawing to a close as the slats were test assembled on the freshened up chassis. We had to file away some of the excess filler in the holes to get the long bolts to line up with the holes in the frame, a slow and dusty job so we were very happy to see Anne McCanna arrive and announce that coffee would be served shortly. Coffee and dark chocolate ginger cookies helped clear the dust from our throats as Barbara Fuller and duty attendant Barbara Tinsley, joined us in our varied discussions. One subject was the continuing shortage of volunteer attendants to cover the high season as many local volunteers were either away or committed to other activities, so anyone who can help out would be most welcome.

Coffee consumed we returned to wagon 164, though John took the scenic route via the local hardware store to obtain a sharp round file, the museum's one had a rather toothless performance, which speeded things up considerably. So too did the near perfect alignment of the second slats holes; if real money had changed hands one of our party would have been walking home shirtless after expressing strong doubts on the matter!

A second outdoor job beckoned while the weather mojo fended off the gathering clouds; the rehanging the freshly repainted museum platform sign, very freshly painted as David finished the brackets with black Hammerite before joining the filing job this very morning. Having extracted the mobile scaffolding from its near entombed place under the stairs we caught a break between trains to attach the brackets and then hoist the whole up onto the scaffolding. The brackets slid home along the I beam and a couple of hefty screws later we had a sign again, ready to direct our visitors to meet William in his new home.

The splay sided wagon was accumulating a fair amount of water so we rotated it on the turntable to present the closed end to the prevailing wind hopefully allowing said wind to blow any further water out via the door end. A tidy up of the site and we called a halt to our labours just as the sunshine was coming out, heralding a fine, if breezy afternoon, in Tywyn.

New volunteers are always welcome on Thursday mornings from 09:30. Free tea of coffee and biscuits (and sometimes something better!).

Text and photographs by John Olsen.
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumThursday, August 17th, 2017 at 10:56am
PHOTOGRAPHER WANTED

Allan Black, our regular photographer of Thursday working parties, has informed us that for family reasons he will be unable to do this job regularly. The work can be done in about 20 minutes per Thursday morning. If there is anybody in the Tywyn area who would be willing to do this please contact me at donnewing(at)me.com.