Once again it has been a while since the last blog post. Work has been progressing on various fronts, but the majority of the time has been taken up assisting with various audits and statutory visits, training and planning. Audit can be a lengthy and involved process, with visits hosted, documents supplied and then responses formulated. We have also been continuing to hone the insurance position, with a view to having a much more specific policy to our needs (and hopefully a more resistant to cost uplifts plan) in place. It has also been conference season (HRA) and also the UK Tram/Heritage Tramway Committee meetings too. So a busy month or so!
The machine shop upgrade has been inspected by the insurance company and we have a clean bill of health there. We have a few items to put in place still and we’ve been inducting two new Fitter/Machinists into the team.
A great deal of effort (and expense) has been put into the site infrastructure, with the aim being to complete a lot of the work before the Christmas season opened (last weekend) – which was completed, just in time. The next tranche of work will be focussed on sleeper changing on the Tramway, and swapping rails on the section opposite the 1950s Front Street.
I’ve had a few questions on here regarding the steam gallopers. We hadn’t used the set since 2020 and faced with more work being required, and with the exploration of a franchise model for this area of the museum, we kept them in store. The fairground is now operated (very well) by Arthur North and his family, and with a long-term outlook for the fairground secure, and recognising that others could provide a better home for the ride, it has now passed to new owners, who already have it running for this Christmas and have a plan to restore many of the other features that weren’t evident in recent years.
Whilst the machine shop upgrade has been underway, some work has been undertaken on the narrow gauge Simplex locomotive, whose loan shortly expires. This work has entailed some dismantling, and whilst at it, a basic engine overhaul. The team hit the job quickly and soon had items on the bench for inspection and overhaul where required.
Below: The engine has been removed and split, to attend to a sticky piston. It is also a chance to inspect it and fit new gaskets. Note how the block splits between crankcase and cylinder heads. As part of the work, a new exhaust pipe will be fitted.
Below: Part of the crankshaft/flywheel bearing race was missing entirely, so has been replaced. The starting handle has never been effective, due to wear of the dog mechanism, so this is also receiving attention – something that should make life easier when the locomotive arrives at its future new home.
Below: As mentioned in the introduction to this post, a considerable amount of work has been carried out around the Entrance. One job has been to complete the roadway alongside the building, installing drainage and a Tarmac surface all the way through – to ensure clean water runs onto the road, free of debris and silt. An electric barrier will be installed in the foreground, to lower vehicle speed as any internal traffic arrives onto site (and over the Tramway).
Below: There was a concerted effort to both lay new surfacing (as below) as well as tidy up the car parks and thus gain a significant amount of additional car parking space.
Below: Another job ticked off the to-do list (where it has been for a number of years), is the creation of a Tarmac path alongside the accessible car park bays, to connect these through to the admissions hall without interruption. We will be marking this area as already people have been parking on it (!), but it should greatly improve the arrival at the museum and approach into the Entrance for users.
There are to be two transport events in 2024, and a renewed focus on a more streamlined events programme overall. Costs are one element that we are watching, but also resources (i.e. the people who run them). In April, date TBC, there will be a new type of transport event, titled ‘Wheels of Industry’. This will mix road and rail, as before, but with a more curated approach to the exhibits (with around 50 being the target, including our own). There will also be a second Fares Please! event in late June. Dates will be confirmed once the plan has been approved.
Following recent occurrences at events featuring road steam, I was advised that the risk assessment for such could no longer rely on the competence of operators for part of the mitigations in place, and therefore more controls would be needed in order to reduce the risk score back to a satisfactory level. Taking this on board has given us an opportunity to re-think the event, its scale and scope. We will review the situation from 2025 onwards, though that year will have a strong railway theme throughout the year, for obvious reasons.
We have a list of exhibits to invite, and this will be taking place in the run up to Christmas. It is a bit of a change from the bring one-bring all approach that had developed in recent years, but we need to integrate these events into the museum’s daily engagement, and make sure they are appropriate to what we do and what visitors expect – enhancing what we do every day rather than substantially changing what it is we’re doing. Most importantly of all, we have to do this in the safest possible way.
I hope to confirm the dates soon, and then start to reveal some of the exhibits thereafter…
Below: There will be more on the subject of this image in a future post, but I’ll just leave this photo here as a bit of a teaser…