YVTW 2021 – A Dinas perspective

Many thanks to Teilo for sending us his account of his time at YVTW!

In 2017, my older brother Carwyn attended Young Volunteers’ Training Week (YVTW) for the first time and came back full of excitement about what he had been doing. He repeated the experience in 2018 and 2019 and so I had planned to join him in 2020, as why should he have all the fun!

Unfortunately the event was cancelled in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic, but I was determined to get onto a YVTW event as soon as possible.

This year I got my application in as soon as possible and was accepted to take part so long as the event went ahead. As the time got nearer I found out that I could participate but would have to travel to the event each day. I persuaded my Dad that he would take me on a daily basis from our holiday home near Conwy, but he then decided to volunteer as a parent helper.

As the time for the event drew near, Jo Vincent was in touch with my dad and it was agreed we would be based at Dinas, as the daily car journey was shorter than to Minffordd.

We went to Minffordd on the Sunday for the enrolment process and to also be given a very interesting talk on the NLHF and the Boston Lodge site by Paul Lewin. I also found out that I would be working with Edward Gordon and Meical Cook in Dinas and our primary objective was to re-paint a “B” class wagon.

We all met (myself, Edward, Meical and my Dad) at Dinas at 08:30 on Monday morning and were introduced to Shane (Dinas supervisor), Danny and Merik. Number 87 was being prepared for the day so we watched that before being taken to the carriage shed at the other end of Dinas station to find the paint we would be using. Whilst there, No. 87 came along to collect its rake of carriages, so the three of us stayed to watch whilst Shane and my Dad returned to the works to get the equipment ready.

The wagon was already in the shed, but they pulled it forward and opened the side door of the shed as our first task was to rub it down, which would be very dusty. We went through the necessary local H&S, were issued PPE and instructed on the correct way to use the air tools. We were also told that my Dad had agreed with Shane that if we got on with the job, there could be opportunities to work on the chassis of 143 (which was parked on the same shed road) which sounded interesting!!

By lunchtime, the old exterior paint on the wagon had been completely rubbed down. After lunch we wiped the surface clean and then Danny showed us the proper way to mix red oxide paint before we started painting. During the afternoon, Meical got the opportunity to needle gun some welded areas on 143’s chassis so that the weld condition could be examined closely.

Whilst the official plan was that on Tuesday and Thursday, we would all start at 11:00, my Dad suggested, and we agreed, that we would start at 08:30 on all days, else Tuesday and Thursday would be a short working day as we had to leave for Minffordd at around 15:00.

When we arrived on Tuesday morning, Shane and Danny were attending to some minor issues with 87, so we got on and applied the second coat of paint to the “B” wagon. The second coat had been applied by “panad” time, so afterwards we spoke with Danny as to what needed to be done next on 143. Under the boiler area were two old brake vacuum tanks and these needed to be removed. They looked like they had been there for a long time. One of them had several patches and the other looked like it had started to implode. We worked out a plan of action and then reviewed this with Danny. Once the approach was agreed, Danny pointed us to the necessary tools (including some heavy persuasive tools) and we got on with it. The task wasn’t easy, the cylinders were heavy, the bolts of different sizes and lengths and in no hurry to be taken apart.

We loosened all of the retaining bolts, then removed the tanks one at a time using a pallet jack and blocks. By the time we needed to leave for Minffordd, the old tanks were out and sent to the scrap heap.

The Tuesday evening trip up the Ffestiniog was very interesting, but I am sure that this will have been detailed elsewhere. 

On Wednesday morning, whilst Shane and Danny were ensuring that 87 went off shed on time, we focused on adding the yellow detail paint to the ”B” wagon. After “panad” the 143 chassis was pulled out of the shed and we were instructed to power clean the chassis and needle gun the large flat area under the boiler. This took most of the day, all of us having a go at using the pressure washer. After the pressure washer, Edward needle gunned the flat surface under where the boiler sits whilst Meical and I painted the new vacuum tanks. Once completed, the opportunity was taken to pull the “B” wagon out of the shed for a photo shoot. Everything was then put back in the shed and we spent the remainder of the day under the chassis of 143 digging the grease and muck out of those awkward corners with paint scrappers.

Thursday was going to be Meical’s last day of helping us so we decided that we would paint the area around where the two new vacuum tanks were going and get them up into position. We worked on the chassis in the shed as the weather outside was deteriorating. Rust inhibitor was applied to all the bare metal areas and then, after “panad”, all of the area (top and bottom) around where the tanks were going was painted before lunchtime. During lunch the paint had enough time to dry and we discussed the method we planned to use to get the vacuum tanks mounted to the base of 143. After lunch we talked over our method with Shane, which he thought was a good method so supervised us putting in the first vacuum tank and then left us to do the second.
As they had to make room for 130 to fit in the engine shed, once the tanks were attached to 143 we moved it to the other road so that we could get the “B” wagon out and take it to the siding behind the coach shed at the other end of Dinas station. By the time we had done this it had started to rain and when we tried to move 143’s chassis back to the road we were using, Bill couldn’t get up the incline from the shed. In the end, the chassis was reversed into the shed, and we sanded the track up as far as the furthest set of points. Bill then took a run at it and just made it beyond the points so that we could bring it back into the road that we had been using. It was reversed as far into the shed as possible in preparation for 130 returning to Dinas on the Sunday for some snagging to be undertaken.

It was now time to say goodbye to Meical before going over to Minffordd for our second adventure on the Ffestiniog train.

On the Friday morning we tightened up the vacuum tanks to the base of 143 and made good the black paint work before having our “panad” break. Shane received a call from Caernarfon to say that their water tower had broken. After half an hour, the broken piece was brought into the Dinas engine shed.

Shane reviewed the situation with us and a solution was quickly found. He then provided Edward and I with the modified part together with necessary spanners, nuts and bolts. It was then suggested that Edward and I should be taken on the Vale of Ffestiniog to Caernarfon and back so that we could fix the water tower problem prior to the arrival of 130 with the scheduled service from Porthmadog.

When we got back to Dinas, we had our lunch with Shane before assisting in the regular Friday task of tidying up the shed. After this, it was time to make our way back to Boston Lodge where we had a closing presentation from Jo and Paul.

2021 was the first time that YVTW has ventured onto the Welsh Highland and Meical, Edward and myself formed the first group to be sent to Dinas. Whereas Boston Lodge is a thriving engineering base with individual departments located across the site, Dinas is a single long two road shed with a second building on the other side of the mainline housing the lathes etc. There are only three full time permanent staff there so they have to do everything.

In this photo, from left to right:
Dad, Meical, Danny, Shane, Edward and myself.

I have not experienced a YVTW at Boston Lodge but I suspect that you tend to stay within the group and task that you have been allocated to.

In Dinas, I found that you get to see and experience all aspects of running a railway, from long term loco restoration, to getting the rostered engine off shed, to emergency fixes to keep the services running. Both Shane and Danny were excellent at showing and explaining to us the best way of tackling a task, but not before we had had a go at it! During the week, they also took the time to explain in detail what they were doing on the 143 restoration and what the next stages planned were.

I thoroughly enjoyed my week at Dinas, as I am sure Meical and Edward did also. I would like to thank both Shane and Danny for making it an enjoyable week and providing a range of real life work experiences.

I look forward to seeing a fully restored Garrett 143 out on the WHR next year, knowing that the three of us at YVTW 2021 had made a small contribution to its restoration.

Teilo Coates