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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, January 19th, 2019 at 7:58am
Museum working party 17th Jan 2019

A sparkling crisp blue morning courtesy of the Twywn weather mojo saw members of the working party assemble inside, as the temperature outside was only just above 0oC, and crack on with a number of tasks. Today Winston McCanna, David Broadbent, Neal Chapman, Max Birchenough and John Olsen had a choice of painting, carpentry and musical display boards.

The Eastwell signal post still needed three of its sides sanding down and re-painting so Winston got out the abrasives and began the job. John described the construction of the frame of a new display stand for the car gwyllt to David and Neal with the help of a few bits of timber and a drawing with the necessary dimensions inscribed on it. The stand will feature a sloping top, set at 1in 6, which was the ruling grade of the inclines at Craig Ddu, so that our visitors will see the 'wild car' in the correct orientation for the first time in many years.

John and Max then migrated upstairs to play musical display boards, the object of the exercise being to open up the gap between the 'People, parcels and pigs' panel and 'The Irish way' adjacent to it, to allow the two framed line drawings of the rolling stock of the Listowel and Ballybunion monorail (currently in the Recent Acquisitions cabinet CO8) to be hung between them. This involved de-mounting each board in turn and moving each 3cm, in the appropriate direction, before re-securing them to the backing board. Sounds easy but as each panel weighs a not inconsiderable amount the second part of the job raised a bit of a sweat.

Coffee time was called partway through these tasks as Ann McCanna had generously brewed up for us and served it in the cafe. Here we were joined by other volunteers, Andy Sheffield and Phil Sayers, to sup in the sun and eat the delicious selection of biscuits on offer.

Refreshed we returned to the museum to apply, paint, glue and effort to our various jobs. We were discussing the new car gwyllt display and how we might utilise the existing display board or perhaps replace it, as it now has a number of holes in it that will no longer serve any purpose and would look rather tatty, when we were joined by Keith Theobald. He helpfully pointed out places where we might find suitable sections of rail for the display (the existing rails are welded to heavy steel mounts that will not fit the new stand) but it was agreed that a mock up of the stand in situ should be viewed by the trustees for approval before completion is undertaken. This decision didn't interfere with the current job of building the frame, which is continuing.

With the two display panels back up, John and Max turned their attention to the environs of the new Polstore plan drawer unit. The first little job was to insert shims under two corners to stop the drawer unit rocking slightly. With the shims in place fabricating a board to mount the two new A3 flip mounts on above the Polstore plan drawer unit was the next item to tackle. The concept is to stand the board off the wall by ~ 3 inches so that our visitors do not have to lean over the drawer unit too much to view the paper items in the flip mounts. Delving into the north wall store (created during the installation of William Finlay out of a previously inaccessible space behind the gasworks engine, now where Baguley 774 stands) we extracted suitable pieces of recycled MDF (saved during the demolition of part of the wall beside the platform entrance) and found a suitable sized piece to cut the mounting board out of. After the new sawn edges had been sanded smooth the two flip mounts were secured to it so that both can be fully opened without clashing in the middle.

By the close of play new frame parts of the car gwyllt display were clamped up to allow the glue to set, a space had been created for the Listowel and Ballybunion line drawings, the signal post had been sanded and primed and the fabrication of the new flip mounts board was well underway.

Photos by John Olsen
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumSunday, January 13th, 2019 at 8:14pm
Museum working party 10th Jan 2019

For the first working party of the New Year the Tywyn weather mojo put in a rather lacklustre performance with a cool overcast morning greeting the happy workers. This morning David Broadbent, Max Birchenough, Winston and Ann McCanna, Phil Sayers and John Olsen assembled in the museum to contemplate a session of musical cabinets.

While Ann got on with packing away the baubles and tinsel of the Christmas tree the team cleared the contents of cabinet CO8, (the recent acquisitions cabinet beside Dot) and put packing around the shelf to stop it banging into the glass during the move. The station bench was moved out of the way to provide as much working space as possible. The Giesl display was manhandled up onto rollers and pulled clear of the route that CO8 was due to take, then the route was surveyed with a tape measure to see how best to make the move as pain free as possible.

It was concluded that once CO8 was on the rollers it would be best moved out beyond the Manx Railway signal post and then turned through ninety degrees to move it level with the south end of the 'Signal Box' where it would turn through ninety degrees again to push it into its new position. Easy to plan, now came the execution. To lift such a heavy cabinet which was already only inches from the wall seemed a Herculean task but fortunately the use of a long lever made it possible. With a piece of timber to take the brunt of the lifting moment and a stack of timbers as a fulcrum, the south end of the cabinet was carefully lifted high enough for a set of rollers to be inserted. Then the whole lifting circus moved to the north end, where at least we had more room to gather around the cabinet, and the process repeated to get the cabinet in a mobile state.

Very gently, with frequent pauses to check we were clearing the various obstacles, the cabinet was moved along the chosen route and with a bit of shimmying at the end, snuggled up to the wall. Now we had to get it back down on its feet, but as luck would have it, it was coffee time and we all decanted to the cafe to join Andy and Mary Sheffield who were busy doing maintenance jobs in Llechfan while no one was staying there. Biscuits, coffee and good company worked their magic and we returned to the game of musical cabinets.

Out came the long lever and bits of timber to raise first the north and then the south ends so the rollers could be extracted and with a huge sigh of relief the team could step back from a job done. Well almost. Having moved the Giesl out of the way we now had to move it to a position just inside the 'Signal Box' so that it was not obstructing the opening of cabinet CO8, and then demount it from its rollers. Fortunately the Giesl is nowhere near as heavy as the cabinet, but it is very top heavy so care had to be exercised not to tip it too far. With the moves successfully achieved the display items that we had removed from CO8 were replaced in it, but not in display order as the items are due for updating. As a final tweak we re-oriented some of the lights to alleviate the worst of the shadows caused by the new arrangements, but we will likely fine tune these more before we re-open for half term.

With some time still on the clock we went downstairs to lay out dust sheets over William Finlay, Baguley No 774, the Guinness loco and George Henry and also cover part of the floor area so that we can use it for construction of new display boards and a stand for the Car Gwyllt, as well as paint the timbers from wagon no. 146, which have been languishing in the cold of the Gunpowder Store.

So by the end of play four locos had been sheeted over, one Christmas tree had been packed away, one cabinet had been wafted across the museum and one Giesl had had a little light shunt and the way was clear for the delivery of the new museum grade drawer unit the following day.

On Friday, the smart new drawer unit, made by Polstore and in part funded by a grant from the Welsh Museums Federation, was delivered to the museum, and carefully moved into the place formerly occupied by the Giesl. This will provide valuable additional storage for the small objects in our collection which are not currently on display, and enable them to be examined my museum visitors under supervision.

Pictures by John Olsen and Ian Evans
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumFriday, December 21st, 2018 at 10:01am
Museum working party Dec 20th 2018

Our hard working weather mojo pulled another dry interlude out of its hat this morning as the team assembled for the final working party of 2018. Max Birchenough, Neal Chapman, Ray Brooks, Charles Benedetto, Ann and Winston McCanna, David Broadbent and John Olsen were on a mission to get the museum ready for Christmas opening. Many hands turned to putting the big display boards back up on the walls and reattach the smaller information signs while others got busy with the dusters to clean off the inevitable accumulations of previous industry.

John had been in during the preceding week to paint the temporary banister and touch up the yellow edging where feet had scuffed the paint so that the steps leading to the cafe were looking bright and fresh. All the dust sheets and bits of timber were rounded up and stashed away so that by coffee time only the tools were left to be packed up after a last few signs were secured in position.

Coffee, or more accurately coffee, mulled wine, Christmas cake, mince pies and biscuit selection were served in the cafe. John had brought in the wine, the cake came from Neal, the biscuits from Max and the mince pies from Mary and Andy Sheffield who joined us for our festive feast of chat and frivolity. Sue Benedetto helped us out with the mountain of food on the table, which we made a very respectable dent in during our extended break, before taking doggy-bags away with us.

A final bit of work and cleaning after the break was carried out in high spirits, as we rolled the Host wagon back into place, returned the tools to their safe storage then went round the museum checking that all the lights and displays were operating, ready for Saturday morning.

There will now be a well deserved two week Christmas break, with working parties re-starting on Thursday 10th January 2019, when we will be indulging in a little musical cabinets up on the first floor....

From all the team here in Tywyn a very Happy Christmas and New Year to you all, and please come and admire our handiwork in 2019.
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumFriday, December 14th, 2018 at 4:52pm
Museum Working Party Dec 13th 2018

Our wayward weather mojo was keeping the Atlantic rains at bay this morning but let the Siberian winds in the back door! Nevertheless, a hardy band battled their way to the museum to continue our restoration work. Neal Chapman, Max Birchenough, David Broadbent, Ann and Winston McCanna and John Olsen were in full rebuild mode.

Neal put in a sterling performance with the paint roller while David, Max and John inched cabinet CO4 into its new position, which required not only getting it to roll over the uneven slate floor, but also turn through 90o on rollers that didn't swivel. Mission accomplished, Winston took over with the glass cleaner to give both the inside and outside faces a much needed clean before any of the artefacts were replaced in it. Max once again proved to have an excellent head for heights as he painted the upper section of the east wall, working at the opposite end to Neal so there was no clash or paint dripping on Neal's head.

David and John returned to the Duffield Bank Railway tipper wagon to secure it in its new orientation; an exercise in contortion to get the drill into position and then drive the screws home. Ann was busy upstairs adorning the Christmas tree before stopping to do a head count for our morning coffee break.

Coffee was taken in the corner of Kings Cafe as most of the space had been laid out for the staff and local volunteers Christmas lunch at 1pm. But we had enough room to squeeze Andy Sheffield in at the table, especially as he had brought Stollen cake all the way from Bruges. This was not the only culinary gift being served as Neal had brought in Bara Brith as well! We enjoyed both cakes over a session of 'Compare the Rail Journey', with examples of exemplary service where the trains did exactly what they were meant to and woeful tales of late running, overcrowding (spilling over into First Class too!) and shabby bus replacements. Truly we live in a land of milk and sour cream.

Back in the museum, Ann and Winston carefully restored all the artefacts to cabinet CO4. David got to show his painting talents as he applied a coat of white gloss paint to the once cracked and peeling face of the signal post. The rest of the gang, now joined by a welcome extra set of hands attached to Ray Brooks arms, started tidying up the dust sheets, peeling off the masking tape, and dusting down the locos.

By the close of play one cabinet had been moved, cleaned and re-populated, one wall had been given a second coat of paint, one signal post had received a topcoat and four locos had been dusted down; the less said about the partridges, French hens and other shenanigans in the Christmas tree the better!
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumSaturday, December 8th, 2018 at 7:55am
Museum working party Dec 6th

The Tywyn weather mojo was having a lie in this morning leaving cold grey drizzly skies over Wharf Station, but the working party were safely, and warmly, ensconced in the museum. Max Birchenough, David Broadbent, Neal Chapman, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen picked up were they left off last week. Max and David were armed with paint rollers and they weren't afraid to use them on the east wall of the museum, laying down a blistering white paint barrage to cover all the scuff marks and finger prints left by so many visitors. Neal and Charles sanded down the cut edges of the supporting frame for the “Slate from the shadow of Snowdon” display panel that they erected last week and then touched up the bare wood with museum grey. John hoisted the signal post off the floor to begin removing the flaky paint that marred one side of the post, starting with sander and scraper but graduating to the hot air stripper when the first two methods proved inadequate to the task.

Having completed the work on the frame, Charles and Neal were tasked with making a temporary bannister for the two steps beside George Henry; in days of yore folk who needed a bit of additional stability when ascending/descending these steps had made use of the car gwyllt, as it hung vertically beside the steps. This wasn't really very good for the long-term conservation of the car gwyllt and now that it is to be re-sited nearby even that limited hand support has gone. The brief was straightforward, use some of the salvaged heavy duty plywood from the old slate wall to provide a vertical sloping top support to which a piece of rounded 3x2” timber would be attached as the handrail; the height was set as the same as the glass on the stairs as this was then convenient for tots and older visitors alike.

Ray Brooks appeared just before coffee time, reporting that he was on the sick list this week, however he was up for a bit of coffee brewing in the absence of our brewer in chief Ann who was away. We were joined at coffee by Chris Parrott and proceeded to examine the downstream consequences of recent legislation to reduce the risk of earth dams collapsing after heavy downpours, we don't just talk about trains you know!

Post coffee, chocolate biscuits, shortbread fingers and bourbon biscuits we returned to the museum where Max once again earned his wings by ascending the scaffold tower to paint the upper reaches of the wall while David prepared wooden chocks to immobilise the Duffield Bank Railway tipper wagon, not only against little hands rolling it out from the wall but also from altering the angle of the tipper body in its new configuration. Charles and Neal proceeded to generate sawdust aplenty, sawing drilling and ultimately fixing the temporary bannister in position; this will be painted grey and yellow to provide a visual contrast for any partially sighted visitors to locate easily.

John completed removing the old paint from the signal post so that re-painting can commence next week and then ascended the step ladder with mini paint roller in hand to reach the parts of the east wall behind the Oakeley coal wagon that Max, atop the scaffold tower, could not reach.
David decided to complete the DBR wheel chocks as a home project having marked up suitable pieces of timber. By the close of play, one coat of white paint had been applied to the east wall, and a small area on the north side too. One bannister had been fabricated and secured in position and one prepared, signal post had been stripped of paint and one supporting chock had been drilled.

Work continues next Thursday. Report by John Olsen.
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumFriday, November 30th, 2018 at 1:37pm
Museum working party 29th Nov 2018

The Tywyn weather mojo must have got wind of our winter work schedule in the museum as it made no attempt to divert the heavy squally showers racing in from Cardigan bay; fortunately our coverings over the wagons in the yard were doing their job with a little help from John tightening the ropes on Wednesday.

Today's team needed their waterproofs to get to the museum but once inside Winston McCanna, Ray Brooks, Max Birchenough, Neal Chapman, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen could shed their dayglo orange. Several jobs were on offer and Ray, Max and Winston got out the screwdrivers to demount all the notices and display boards at the east end of the ground floor in preparation for the walls to be repainted crisp white. John explained the re-arrangement of the display board “Slate from the shadow of Snowdon” to Neal and Charles and assisted them getting the Car Gwyllt off its vertical 'incline' as the first part of the job. He had pre-painted the necessary timber to re-erect the “Slate from...” display board in place of the Car Gwyllt display board, all Neal and Charles needed to do was secure it in place, attach the board, trim the excess timber, easy.

Ray and Max helped John de-mount the somersault signal so that its timber and ironwork could also benefit from a refresh, especially the wood of the post, which was peeling badly on one side due to water damage in times past. With this last obstacle out of the way Winston was able to remove the last stubborn perspex notice cover, which needed a gentle tap to get the front cover to slide off. John, Ray and Max next applied masking tape to the skirting boards, door frames, MO5 wire frame and cabinet edges to make the painting job nice and neat at the edges. While Ray cleaned up the perspex

John and Max ascended the giddy heights of the scaffold tower to move the big monitor display further to the north so that it is less likely to get hit by anyone passing below with ladders or other tall pieces of kit. It was a bit of an effort to get it to slide along the rough surface of the steel I beam but with one person lifting the weight and the other applying a bit of a push to the mounting it was moved as far as it would go and the nuts tightened up to lock it in place.

Ann McCanna came in to do the coffee headcount before brewing up for the thirsty workers and we were joined by Malcolm Philips, Andy and Mary Sheffield in the cafe for our mid-morning chat session and two TR luminaries, Mike Green and Chris Parrot stopped by to add their opinions to the mix. Fortified by shortbread and chocolate biscuits we returned to the museum, Neal and Charles getting the display board fixed at one end and then attaching the second upright. Max and Ray removed all the ironmongery from the signal, shifting big nuts and bolts and finally removing the two cap sections so that the post and side arm are now free for sanding and painting.

John adjusted the position of the cast track section for the Duffield Bank Railway tipper wagon so that the tipper could be rolled back into position with the tipper sideways on so that visitors can see the 'workings' of the wagon more clearly. We learned from the gent who requested photos of the tipper that it wasn't a part of the DBR wagon fleet but rather it was used in the on-site iron foundry, which accounted for its simple coupling arrangement.

Charles and Neal drilled their last holes and safely secured the display board in position so that the packing timbers could be removed and the sawdust hoovered up, very neat job. Cabinet CO4 will be positioned against the new uprights so that even if someone falls against the display board it won't fall over. By the close of play grubby white walls had been exposed and the edges masked off ready for painting, a signal had been dismantled ready for its refurbishment, the Car Gwyllt had gone into hiding under the stairs and the “Slate from the shadow of Snowdon” display board had done a 180 degree turn.

Also this week, we received our certificate of commendation from the Marsh Trust for engaging presentations which was awarded this year (application made last year). We did not win an award, but it was nice to receive an honourable mention.