Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Ever busy

If it's been quiet on the blog it normally means we have been really busy! And that is probably an understatement.

I will use this post as an opportunity to sum up our main annual event Steam on the Levels which is where most of our time and effort has been concentrated these last couple of months.

The event couldn't have had better weather, we were so lucky and it had to have paid a major role in the success of the weekend. To put it briefly the event over doubled its takings on last years event and saw around 1000 people on site over the weekend. It's a record for the museums 35+ year history and we hope to continue building the event as sustainably as possible. 

We had many more exhibitors and a great range of different things from the usual classic cars, tractors etc to model railways, visiting locos on the 2ft narrow gauge railway, bee keepers, pole lathe turning and much more. The event has become a fantastic family day out that really is worth coming to look at. The money raised goes into a project fund pot which is only spent on achieving on site work (no boring administration costs such as insurance etc) and is presently supporting the much needed facilities extension to provide extended tea room, visitor and volunteer toilets and a mess room for volunteers to be able work from. Once this project is completed the money will be used to look at other large scale projects involving the housing of stored steam engines and restoration of the listed buildings.

Please take a look at our gallery on the website under 'extras' and see the video here... http://youtu.be/LDl1ZS07cMk

For all those that visited, exhibited or volunteered thank you for all your support.

Jason Keswick
Steam on the Levels Coordinator

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Continuing progress

Both the fence and the extension have continued. The fence is now completed and as Chris has proved his skills we might convince him to get a couple of other fencing jobs underway! 

The extension is on going but good progress is being made. The two windows have been fitted in the openings. Unlike the way they were fitted in the original building where they were finished flush to the external facade we have set these in to allow shutters to also be inset. The next stage will be for our builder to complete reclaimed brick cills to the underside and then render the extension. This will allow us to fit shutters over the glass elements and paint the outside.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014


The poster says it all, if you would like more information on us, visit our website or pick up the phone. Always happy to talk to those interested!

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Spring Progress

As the weather shows some signs of improving so does the work around the museum site. Now the roof has been completed on the new extension, work is underway to complete the doors and windows. As ever the Trust has limited funds and so will be 'up cycling' where ever possible. This includes a mess room door and tea room French doors all sourced from people who were replacing them with upvc. Physically nothing is wrong with either sets so with a good sand and paint they will serve us well for many years to come. 

The fence along to the engine house however was a bit rotten and as many visitors lean against it, it was decided it should be replaced! Chris has spent a couple of days taking out the old and putting up the new which is now looking great.

On the engineering front Bill has been busy working on line shafting to drive the two lister deep well pumps and the lee howl pump from Kelways in Langport. Most of the work is being done by him at home, however he has made a start putting up the main support brackets. Not a job for the feint hearted! 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Tea Room Heater, from Water to Air...

On other boiler related items, this one purchased by your scribe a few years ago is not fit for returning to steam... so if its no good for producing hot water, it can at least  produce hot air! Therefore it has been fitted back together as a wood burner for the museum tea room to replace the problematic tortoise stove. It has had its fittings returned so will look like a steam boiler and fit in well with the surrounding equipment.

Roofing Completed

The builder has now completed the roof, all the connection details to the existing building have been completed and the wood work has been painted in Buckingham Green. The end gable was rendered to a bell cast and this has also been painted. The scaffolding was then removed. Work will now progress with windows and doors to get a fully water tight shell. A good site clear up will also be needed before we get back into steam in two weeks time. 

A start was also made on repairs to the bell tower on the existing exhibition hall roof. The steel frame was clad with bedroom cupboard louvers and these had rotted out years ago. The sides had then been clad in rough bits of plywood which had also rotted. All these bits have been stripped back, a new frame screwed to the steel frame and tanalised feather edge cladding fixed to that. Corner detailing was added and given a coat of primer. A new plywood roof clad in galvanised flat steel sheet will be completed in time and the wood work painted in Buckingham green.

Monday, 10 March 2014


Things have progressed well with the facilities extension in the last week. Having purchased all the materials it was decided our volunteers lacked the time or physical strength to get the job done so the builder who put the block work up for us has been contracted to carry out the roofing. The pictures below show what three and half days of labour gets you! We had enough spare tiles for one side and had to purchase new tiles for the other. The three rooflights provide natural light and ventilation to the three toilets below, two public and one volunteer. Work left to do includes the flashings to the existing roof, finish ridge tiles, render the end gable. Our volunteers are going to carry out all the painting required before the scafold is removed in two weeks time. Guttering will then be put up, down pipes will be temporary until rendering is carried out later in the year. 

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

BBC Countryfile

Last Friday saw a pretty hectic day for the museum! Two weeks previous we were contacted by a producer of the Countryfile show to ask wether they could film the museum, conduct interviews and see it all running in steam. This in itself was not a problem and we would happily bend over backwards for an opportunity like that. However as previous posts have shown, the boiler was out of ticket, had no chimney and the site was in a state of winter maintenance clutter! 

So after some running around, some well timed volunteer effort and a last minute boiler inspection we were ready for filming. The boiler was steam tested on the Monday before the Friday filming and passed with flying colours. All seemed perfect, however...

Countryfile wanted to see the Easton Amos pump, on the Steam test at the beginning of the week this was no problem. On the Friday morning of filming, we also had just enough water to pump, however a few hours later the Environment Agency turned on a fourth pump next door and reduced the rhyne level down to the point where our pump was no longer in the water! On top of this by the time the boiler was up to full working pressure a leak developed on one of the mud hole doors. These leaks have a nasty habit of progressively getting worse. So as the film crew and presenter Ellie Harrison turned up we had a very leaky boiler and pump with no water to pump. Faces started looking a bit down...

A decision was made to run every steam item we had until the boiler pressure was reduced to nothing, a brave chief mechanical engineer went in to carefully tighten the mud hole door, and thankfully it sealed up. With a frantic throwing action the firebox was filled up with wood and pressure soon rose to 50psi again. We still didn't have any water for pumping though and after a quick phone call to some Environment Agency staff we know, we waited. Filming began around the Marshall boiler, the railway and filming other steam engines. Just as the crew wanted to begin filming the Easton Amos an EA engineer turned up and turned off two pumps for a short period in order to allow the rhyne level to rise just 6" enough for us to prime our pump!

So after an eventful start the day ended with a happy Countryfile team. The piece will be on your TV's within the programme on the 16th of March. Please let us know what you think! 

Monday, 17 February 2014


With the visual inspection of the boiler complete, a steam test is required. Since the original boiler chimney had to be removed due to a large amount of corrosion, the temporary aluminium one (a sheet rolled, pop riveted and slid down the inside of the cast chimney base) lasted a few steamings but eventually got damaged in the wind. So this Sunday saw temporary chimney number two erected. Made from a peice of donated 600mm spiral wound ducting, the original chimney flanges have been bolted on and the whole thing proped up. Let's hope that we don't see anymore of these storms! It actually looks quite good and might get a paint of black to help it blend in. Temporary at Westonzoyland normally means years! Report to come later on how it does in its test run.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Boiler Inspection

On Monday the Marshall Boiler received her annual inspection. This requires it to be drained down, all the mud holes and inspection plates to be removed as well as all the firebars and fusible plugs from the firebox. A good wash out is done to get rid of any sludge from the bottom. 

Having climbed into the firebox the inspector taps every stay with a hammer to hear if any have cracked. He looks in all the opened holes to check the general condition of stays, fire tubes and other structural components. After a quick cup of tea he gives it the all clear with only a couple of minor items to sort before the next test. Now that's done everything has to be put back together with new seals and tested for leaks. It will then be fired up for a steam test where the safety valves will be checked to ensure they blow off at the required pressure (50psi) and that the gauge is reading correctly, water sight gauges work etc. 

Monday, 10 February 2014

Winter Programme Update

With the rain still falling and the water level rising across large areas of the Somerset Levels our volunteers are still progressing with the projects in hand.

Having had a scrap skip delivered to the museum, this has now been filled to the brim and taken away. As part of the clear up operation some unused equipment was sold off, including two large Broom and Wade compressors. All these funds will be reinvested in new equipment. Our ride on lawn mower requires a new cutting deck, some areas of fencing need replacing and we have purchased a new compressor to start the Crossley Diesel engine. This compressor is single phase and has a max working pressure of 360psi. We only require 250 but means we won't be running it to its limit. All that is required now is to wire it in, get our 600psi tank tested and installed. After nearly two years out of action it should be seen running again in time for April.

With the high winds experienced again over the last week. A large area of brittle trees had fallen over so these have been cut down and turned into logs for the wood burner. Once the ground drys up further winter trimming will be progressed to get the place tidied up before the new season starts.

In order to begin steaming again the boiler needs its annual inspection and certification so the boiler was stripped down and washed out, inspection is imminent. Once visually inspected, it all gets put back together and a steam test is carried out in order to prove safety valve settings etc.

Whilst all this activity was happening, on the opposite side of the engine rhyne the Environment Agency and a private pump hire company were busy setting up two large diesel pumps. These are rated at 60 tonnes per minute each. Why they are putting them in is a 500 page book in itself so I won't go into it! 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Facilities Extension Phase II and other progress!

With a new year well and truly started and spring around the corner (we hope) thoughts have turned to how we can progress our building project at the museum. 

Due to the lack of volunteers and the physical effort required to roof the extension it has been decided that a builder should carry out this vital task. So work should begin at the end of February. This doesn't mean that volunteers can sit back and relax! With the need to erect scafolding the timber sheds that are within a meter of the end of the extension have to be moved/removed! We have decided that short term one of the sheds will be kept and relocated whilst the rest will be cut up for boiler foder. Initial work was spent clearing our existing traverser shed so that parts could be moved into here from the doomed sections. A timber store along the side has now been removed ready for the sheds to come down.

On other news the exhibition hall is to get a new steam exhibit. An Evans steam pump is to fitted alongside the robey engine. It will then be connected to a tank outside for pumping demonstrations. This will bring our collection up to 31 working steam engines by far the largest collection in Great Britain (awaiting challenge!)

With all these steam engines needing steam Bill is working on testing an idea for a forced blower in the chimney to try and increase draw and therefore oxygen through the fire. This in turn will hopefully make the fire burn quicker and hotter producing more steam. It is being trialled with a Diesel engine but would eventually be driven by a steam engine should it prove workable. 

On the railway we have taken delivery of the last load of steel sleepers. These all need stripping of bolts and clips, sorted and will need to be dry stored ready for building new track panels. A job for the warmer weather! 

Traverser Shed cleared out 

The wood store being removed

Wood store now a pile of boiler fuel!

The evans pump in kit form! Nice easy job really! 

The Clarke compressor will make way for the pump.

Blower connected to Diesel engine for tests.

Steel sleepers arriving by trailer.

Stacked awaiting bolt removal and de-rusting.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014


Keep an eye out for our new flyer being distributed as we speak. It will be in all of our leaflets and separately on display. It promotes both Steam on the Levels 2014 and this years adjusted steaming dates (take note).

If anyone has anywhere to display them let me know and I will make sure you have a handful! jason.keswick@wzlet.org

Wednesday, 15 January 2014


Well this Sunday gone turned out to be rather cold! With the threats of flooding and some temporary road closures earlier in the week around the museum it seemed to spur volunteers on to make an appearance just to say they could make it! Most of the day was spent watching the environment agency play around with 6 pumps next door! Along side the permanent diesel pump station they had put in place 5 temporary diesel powered pumps to take excess water from the rhyne back into the river parrett. This was not due to water on the Westonzoyland and Middlezoy section of moor but because Westonzoyland and Andersea areas on the other side of lake wall were a bit full. They were therefore pumping it from one moor to another and then at the pumping station taking it back into the river. 

The newly painted WZLR open wagon returned, it is still to receive lettering down the side but due to the current air temperatures vinyl stickers don't stick very well! This job wil be done when ambient temperatures allow. It runs very well and looks the part with the box van.

The temporary chimney has been removed, flat packed and ready for the scrap man, the second temporary chimney is work in progress. It will be made from 600mm spiral wound galvanised ducting. It needs attaching to a steel flange that has been cut off the condemed original chimney before being pulled into place. This should hopefully last two years whilst we work out costs and apply for funding to replace it properly.