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News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumFriday, January 24th, 2020 at 7:31am
Museum working party Jan 23rd 2020

Calm airs and no rain, who could possibly complain about the Tywyn weather mojo's performance this morning? “Who said that?” cries a disembodied voice, for the fog is thick on the ground this morning.

Largely unhindered the team assembled in the museum to continue our refresh of the displays and walls. Winston McCanna, Neal Chapman, Max Birchenough, Charles Benedetto, Ray Brooks, John Olsen and, belatedly, David Broadbent had a mouthwatering selection of jobs on offer; there was taking things off the walls, putting paint on the walls, taking books off the shelves, putting things back on the walls, and just for a piquant extra, moving a sign downstairs and making new shelves.

Neal got to work by transferring of the Corris enamel sign, so that it now stands above C01, our new 'Corris' display, before commencing cutting timber and MDF for the shelves.

Max got the white paint out to put another layer on the wall beside C05 and the panel beside C12, while Winston got the grey paint for the second coat of the panels and base of C08 (ex Recent Acquisitions). Ray cleaned out the boxes that John had brought across from the Gunpowder Store loft space, where spiders with dirty feet had crawled all over them, so we would have somewhere safe to house the books and folders from the shelves besides C06.

Charles ascended the heights to fix down the 'roof' panels of the space behind cabinet C12, which had sagged over the years and needed support battens, which had been installed by John during the week.

John demounted the signs and crest from the wall above the shelves before sanding down the paintwork where necessary and then masking off around the edges in preparation for painting.

Ann McCanna arrived in the very nick of time to brew up for us and we convened in the cafe with Andy and Mary Sheffield, currently serving time in the booking and control offices with time off for good painting, two other museum attendant volunteers and Keith Theobald who was in to check on the museum curator e-mail account and open the Awdry Study for a visiting enthusiast. As we broke out the biscuits and chocolates David arrived and pulled up a chair too. With a new face at the table the inevitable question got asked “Did you go to grammar school too?” “Yes.” the preponderance of grammar school educated to secondary modern school educated volunteers shows no sign of disappearing it seems. However the 'perks' of being a volunteer were highlighted, free tea or coffee and an almost bottomless tin of biscuits, this morning featuring chocolate AND toffee coated digestives AND supremely ginger biscuits. Another topic of discussion were changing police arrest tactics, out goes the Dixon of Dock Green approach “You're nicked son.” “Alright guv, it's a fair cop.” to a more The Sweeney system “You're nicked.” “You'll never catch me coppa!” CRUNCH! (Sound of getaway moped hitting the tarmac).

Back in the museum David John and Winston moved the Awdry display cabinet so that we could mask off the wall behind it while Charles Max and Ray put some of display items back up on walls and the attendants cupboard door. Winston and Ray moved onto clearing the shelves and then cleaning them and boxing up the books and folders.

John removed two very grubby 'roof' panels from the boxed in area to the right of the Awdry Study and discovered a long lost heating control panel; just how it was supposed to be set or even control the temperature from inside a totally sealed 'box' remains one of the many unsolved mysteries of the construction of the museum building!

By the close of play three cabinet panels had been painted grey, two more wall panels had been repainted in white, one and a half walls had their display items rehung, one cupboard door regained all its display items and the pile of sawdust downstairs where Neal was working was significantly larger.

Photos by John Olsen.
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumSaturday, January 18th, 2020 at 10:09am
Museum working party 16th Jan 2020

The Tywyn weather mojo is huffing and puffing a lot these days, the high winds overnight broke a rope securing one of our wagon covers but the other rope held firm so that we did not have to recover it from up the cutting or further afield.

This mornings team were quite happy to be inside as the wind and rain lashed Wharf Yard; Ray Brooks, Max Birchenough, David Broadbent, Neal Chapman, Charles Benedetto and John Olsen picked up from last week. In the office Trustee Keith Theobald was sorting through the Curator e-mail in-tray.

Max and David started applying white paint to the sections of wall cleared last session while Charles and Ray removed the final items from cabinet C08, Recent Acquisitions, to put them either in either C11, C12 or C06 or store them in the Oakeley wagon pending going on display.
With all the items out Charles and John attempted to remove the back panel of C08 in order to make painting it easier, this involved removing the glass shelf and the wires supporting it. Alas whoever stuck the Recent Acquisitions foamboard on the back panel effectively scuppered the removal itself, so Charles had to start laboriously masking off the interior prior to painting in situ.

Ray shuffled the items in cabinet C06 to accommodate extra Welsh Highland items (from C08) and placed another displaced item in C12 before carefully writing out the movement tickets to keep track of the various changes.

Neal secured the brass commemoration plaque (in C11) to the rear wall using the original fixing holes once the right size brass screws had been located. This allowed a bit more shuffling to bring the brass plate recording the Gibbons rebuild of No. 1 to move down from the shelf, which freed a space for the ticket rack from cabinet C12 (keep up!) to go on the shelf.

John and Neal discussed the arrangement of new shelves to be made for the Giesl wooden casting templates display beside cabinet C01 on the ground floor and then moved onto completing the internal re-arrangement of C01 as the new shelf height interfered with viewing of the Corris Quarries wagon plates and an enamel sign. Out came everything on the shelf, and the shelf itself, before marking up for new fixing holes and drilling could commence and ultimately the sign and plates being secured in their new more visible locations.

Coffee time saw us convene in the cafe with John Alderslade, who had stopped by to put his name down for the half term opening of the museum, Chris Parrot who happened to be in the building, Andy and Mary Sheffield who had paused their painting operations in Control and Keith Theobald. Max had brought a feast of chocolate biscuits and John a box of dark chocolates so that we didn't get around to the additional biscuits that John Alderslade had brought, more for next week! Our ruminations at one end of the table were of sticking whistles and things that go bang inside a steam engine and bring proceedings to a halt, whilst at the other end of the table, racing rust of Mini Coopers (the original ones) gave way to a very loaded question, 'What has XXXXX (a well known leader of the Free World) ever personally done to you?'

Back in the museum the first coat of white paint had dried sufficiently for the next to be applied and Charles got in on the painting act with grey paint in C08 and on the removable panel of the Tyers plinth, which was looking very tired.

Max and John transferred the large displaced items from C08 and C11 to the Oakeley wagon for safe storage with Ray filling out the movement tickets to keep every moved fully recorded.

By the close of play five cabinets had been re-organised, three wall panels had been repainted white and one cabinet interior had been repainted grey; a not dissimilar colour to the sky outside!

Photos by John Olsen.
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumFriday, January 10th, 2020 at 9:58am
Museum working party 9th Jan 2020

A Happy New Year to you all as we continue our saga of life in the museum in 2020. Having had a long lay-off the Tywyn weather mojo greeted the team back with dry and gentle airs as they assembled in the museum.

Charles Benedetto, Neal Chapman, David Broadbent, Ray Brooks, Winston McCanna, Max Birchenough and John Olsen put the food and booze fuelled days of Christmas behind them as they moved to the first floor in their search for painting perfection. But before paint can be applied displays must be removed; Charles, David and Neal got to work with screwdrivers and that funny little tool made of copper pipe hardwood core and two panel pins that removes the stubborn decorative screwcaps, while Max exercised his artistic talents drawing up a sketch of what item went where and which, of the many holes revealed, were the ones to use when the panels go back up again.

Ray settled down to the task of cleaning the two Giesl ejector wooden casting templates, well he had made a comment upon how grubby they were last year and they need to be clean as they will be on display this season.

John got the set of Trustees skeleton keys out to open the storeroom for such items as ladders to come out and dismantled Christmas trees to go back in, as Ann and Winston McCanna were busily engaged in packing away the tree and its many accoutrements down on the ground floor.

With the display panels removed sandpaper was applied to the holes that had been 'plugged' last year, leaving little patches of filler proud, and to remove any stubborn bits of dirt/paint/whatever left by the panels and signs. Then after the dust had been cleared up, masking tape was applied to floor and rails etc before the dust sheets were put down ready for painting to begin.

At this point John introduced a new game, move the engine; a game for at least three players where the object is to move the 5 1/4” gauge model of No. 4 from cabinet C11 to cabinet C01 without damaging the engine, the cabinets, or indeed the players. The cabinets and engine were all carefully measured to ensure it would fit in C01 in all three dimensions, then a platform was constructed from the red boxes and sundry packing timbers to the same height as the cabinet floor. A further red box was placed on the floor beside the stack so that the lowering could take place in two stages, the final stage being onto a sturdy wheeled dolly especially imported from Somerset for the purpose of the game. The model slid across onto the platform with comparative ease and then with two providing the 'grunt' and a third man steadying the model against wobbling, the two moves were made.

Success! No. 4 was wheeled out to the lift and brought down to the ground floor for the reverse procedure, where the Jenga tower was reconstructed; but only after the glass shelf in the cabinet had been removed. It was decided that the engine should be smokebox to the south, like William Finlay, then up she went in two smooth lifts to be slid into her new home; phew! But this was only the start of the story and fortunately coffee time intervened to recharge us.

Ann served up our brew and biscuits in the cafe and tales of the vast amounts of chocolate that were either consumed, or still to be consumed, in the McCanna household were released. Disappearing glaciers came into the conversation after travellers tales that compared Talyllyn Lake with Lake Louise in Canada and going out onto the Athabasca Glacier as it slowly shrinks. Still in Canada, during a visit to Kamloops, the hospitality of Canadians was extolled when they kept an ex Canadian National 2-8-0 in steam an extra day so that Winston could blow its whistle; outstanding.

Refreshed we said adios to Winston and Ann as they had to leave early and returned to the game of musical cabinets. While one team worked on fitting the model Corris slate waggon back into C01, a second team took the opportunity to re-populate C11 with Talyllyn items from the recent acquisitions cabinet. A lot of standing back, shuffling of items and looking at the layout from many angles ensured that we made the best use of the space without overcrowding the cabinets. There are further adjustments to be made, particularly to C01, but that is a job for next week.

By the close of play three cabinets had had their contents redistributed, two walls had been cleared of display items, one (Heavy!) model engine had been safely moved and the team were well pleased with the results.

Photos by John Olsen
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumSunday, January 5th, 2020 at 4:05pm
Opening Times

The museum is now closed until February half-term week 15th to 23rd February. It will then be open on weekends March 21/22 and March 28/29. Daily opening from 4th April. See our museum website for more details.
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumSaturday, December 21st, 2019 at 10:03am
Museum working party 19th Dec 2019

The Tywyn weather mojo delivered a sparkling morning at Wharf after the overnight deluge and high winds but the teams attention was firmly fixed on the museum refresh. David Broadbent, Andy Sheffield, Max Birchenough, Neal Chapman, Charles Benedetto, Ray Brooks and John Olsen took up the tasks from last week that needed to be finished ready for opening over Christmas.

Before anything else David, Max and John arranged some extra protection for the blue tent, which had taken a battering during recent weeks, necessitating the ropes being re-tightened at least three times. John had brought in two load straps that were tightened down across both ends so that even if the ropes loosened again the straps would hold the tarpaulin down. They then manhandled a heavy steel plate, ex wagon no. 136, across the western face of the tent and lashed it in place to deflect the worst of any future storms.

Inside Neal, Andy and Charles drilled the holes in the newly painted post, courtesy of John during the week, and affixed the heavy cast iron Cambrian Railway trespass sign in front of the Oakeley wagon. Then they attached a perspex display notice holder to the sloping top of the post, all ready for a freshly minted description provided by Malcolm Phillips. In fact most of the museum Trustees were present today, engaged in the Association of Independent Museums 'Prospering Boards' initiative; this provides an external 'consultant' to help the board focus on how it is delivering its objectives and how to develop the museum in the future. Our consultant Claire was on site for the day talking to the trustees and the volunteers to get an initial picture of how the museum worked. She was given a tour of the museum as the working party got down to business so she saw the volunteers in action and also the fruits of their previous labours.

Ray got busy with a duster to shift the grey veil that had inevitably descended on the locos as a result of our earlier redecorating, while David, Max and John replaced the smaller display items that had been moved as a part of the process. They then cleared away the excess tools, fixings, paint, brushes and any other loose objects so that Max could give Henry the Hoover a good workout.

Come coffee time there was a bit of a discussion as to where we might imbibe as the few free tables in King's (the staff were laying out for the TR staff and volunteers Christmas lunch) already had patrons at them and the sparkling morning was just a tad to cool to sit outside. Llechfan was suggested and with the assistance of its sole resident the lounge was cleared so that we could decamp to its cosy warmth where we were joined by Mary Sheffield, Sue Benedetto, Ann and Winston McCanna for our festive mulled wine and nibbles. The table was laden with goodies, two varieties of mince pies, buttered bara brith, chocolate mini Christmas puddings, spiced flapjacks and Christmas fairy cakes all served with generous slugs of warming mulled wine. The chocolate mini Christmas puddings were immediately held up as the very paragon of chocolatfulness, not like those chocolate chip (singular) Hobnobs (good, but just not up to this standard); the working party have spoken! Partway through the proceedings John escorted Claire across to Llechfan to have a little mulled wine and chat to the volunteers and explain what she was doing with the Trustees before asking for the volunteers feedback; and they weren't shy about giving it.

Post coffee, for indeed many still found enough room for a brew, we returned to the museum to do a final walk round checking that the power was on to all the lights, displays and cabinets, which sometimes required the skills of a speleologist to reach the power sockets; well done David. With the museum declared safe and fit for our visitors there was time for some idle chat before those attending the TR Christmas lunch took their places at table and the Trustees continued on with their meeting with Claire.

By the close of play, too many calories had been consumed but just enough mulled wine drunk, oh and we finished part one of this winters refresh of the museum. A big thank you to all the attendants and other museum volunteers for their support throughout 2019, please come back for more fun in 2020.

We wish our readers a Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year, and please come and see what we have been up to this winter.

Photos by John Olsen
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway Museum
News from The Narrow Gauge Railway MuseumSaturday, December 14th, 2019 at 3:51pm
Museum working party 12th Dec 2019

The early birds got the best of the Tywyn weather mojo's efforts this morning, arriving before the deluge started. But safely dry in the museum the team began to tick off the jobs. Winston McCanna, Ray Brooks, Neal Chapman, Andy (two f's in that) Sheffield, David Broadbent, Max Birchenough, Ian Evans and John Olsen worked on both floors to progress the refurbishing and refresh of our displays.

On the first floor Winston Ray and Ian cleaned the glazing of cabinet C12 and then located the slate plaque recording Edward Thomas work for the Chapel he attended and placed it in C12. The Talyllyn Railway staff and key tokens displaced from C12 were arranged neatly in C09, in the 'Signalbox', complementing the other narrow gauge railway signalling equipment.

On the ground floor Neal and Andy sanded smooth the filler that John had applied, during the week, to the holes in the piece of MDF being used as a new display board for the Dinorwic Quarry enamel notices and then applied a second coat of grey paint to it. The upper sign was demounted from the existing display board ready to be attached to the new one once the paint had dried.

Max David and John lifted the plateway display items back up onto the newly painted shelves and secured them in position, well after a bit of consultation with the photo of the display before painting, as not all the items had their modes code visible on them. NB for next time around, re-apply the codes.

Ann McCanna was on hand to brew our morning coffees, which we took in the company of Chris Parrot in the cafe. The chocolate chip Hobnobs were not held in the same high esteem as their fully chocolate covered brethren; the shortage of the single most important ingredient was noted - 'only one chip!'. We raised our mugs to toast Tom Place who turned 91 today, Happy Birthday Tom. John Bate has been hospitalised with pneumonia so we wish him well. Any mention of hospital invariably sets off a chain of anecdotes; go in for one illness come out with another altogether! On a lighter, if still sad note, we mourned the passing of the Apostrophe Protection Society, although our little bit of punctuation is alive and well in these missives.

Back in the museum the cabinet reshuffle, the one that matters, was completed with the transfer of the Dinorwic enamel sign from the Recent Acquisitions cabinet to its new home behind 'Rough Pup', the Queens award for volunteering moving to C12 and the Hafan and Plynlimon rail and models moving to the temporary display cabinet for next years exhibition about the tramway.

Neal and Andy put the new display board up and secured the latest Dinorwic Quarry sign in place before moving on to fixing a new post in front of the Oakeley wagon to hold the Cambrian Railways cast iron notice.

With many hands working, the Plateway display descriptions were re-secured in place and the Birkby Brickworks wagon carefully returned to its home under the shelves, whereupon the last descriptions could be re-attached.

The unused MDF and assorted bits of timber that had been taken out of the North Wall store were returned to storage and a general clear up of the museum made.

By the close of play six plateway displays had been restored, four cabinets had been re-shuffled, two enamel signs put up, one post fitted and the odd French Hen shooed out of the museum....

Photos by John Olsen