After we closed at the end of October, we quickly switched into winter maintenance mode, undertaking lots of the big and little maintenance tasks needed to make sure we have the railway running well next season.
One of the ‘big jobs’ undertaken recently is the manufacture of a set of tree shears for our mini-digger. These will ‘grab and chop’ smaller trees; a video of a similar set of tree shears can be seen here. Although they can be bought as ready made attachments, we already had a hydraulic ram of the correct size in stock, and it was much cheaper to build our own in our fully equipped workshops! Initial successful tests have been carried out with a temporary blade, and the final blades, manufactured from ‘Hardox’ steel, have just been delivered and are awaiting fitting. In the new year we will be using the tree shears to carry out extensive clearance of our lineside; although sections were cleared when we first relaid track, many smaller saplings have grown in the past few decades and are blocking views from the train. Therefore we will be removing the smaller trees to help open up the views, whilst leaving the established, mature trees.
Our café building was originally a wooden bungalow shown at the Ideal Home Exhibition in 1919. Subsequently erected in Surrey, it was donated, dismantled and transported to Launceston in the 1980s, and then rebuilt to serve as our café. Unfortunately after 95 years the damp Cornish winters have taken their toll on the building, and parts of the building’s timber framework at the western (Newmills) end has rotted and requires replacing. The platform side of the lower portion of the western end has now been replaced with a concrete block wall, which will be clad to return the building to its original appearance. Fortunately the museum side has fared a little better and will require slightly less work.
We have recently taken delivery of some rolling stock which was originally at the Dinorwic Slate Quarry, where our locomotives Covertcoat and Velinheli first worked. This includes a pair of slab wagons, which were used for transporting the large slabs of slate before they were cut down into individual slates, and the ‘yellow coach’, used for conveying important guests around the quarry (including royalty – Queen Victoria allegedly rode in it). For the last few years these have been on display at the Devon Railway Centre, but following a few changes at the DRC, owner Peter Nicholson has decided to place the coach and wagons on loan to us. They will be on display to the public in our museum when we reopen next year.
Fortunately none of our four Hunslets require major work this winter and are just having minor maintenance carried out; for example, currently Dorothea is being prepared for a visit from our boiler inspector, whilst one of Velinheli’s pistons has been removed for work. However work has started on fitting boiler cladding to Perseverance, the small vertical boilered locomotive based here. The cladding itself was made at Laira depot in Plymouth – probably the first time Laira have had to work on boiler cladding in 50 years! The steelwork to finish the bodywork for our railcar has also arrived, with the intention of having the railcar ready to enter service at some time next year.