A world class industrial heritage site


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Good News – the Forge is back in business


“Nothing works at the Gasworks” is no  more! Not only do we have steam thanks to the great efforts of Tom and John and the operations team in reinstating the new boiler, but also Peter Mason our blacksmith has the forge up and running having had to repair a leak in the tuyere  (the air pipe coming directly in contact with the fire on the bellows of the forge).  If you want to find more out about the operations of a Forge check out this site http://www.beautifuliron.com/forge.htm.

Peter is presently cleaning up old equipment by an annealing process where the steel is quenched (rapidly cooled)  in oil.



Rust, Restoration and Routine.

Tuesday 14th January, work day with plenty of action. First, recent high winds and generally inclement weather have paid their usual price, and rusty and dirty machines awaited us today. Suffice to say we “rolled up our sleeves” and got on with the clean up. We are dammed if we do and dammed if we don’t with our cleaning regime: required to oil to prevent rust, but oiled surfaces attract dust and dirt. Tom and John discussed this and decided, with all due consideration, balancing machine conservation with satisfactory exhibit presentation to the public, continuing this cleaning regime is still the best option. The only problem being its very labour intensive, and places a large responsibility on the small operations team.

Mack and Tom continued work on restoration of the no2 exhauster, Stan continued with the weirs pumps restoration, while Bob H. and John got stuck into the cleaning duties.

Tuesday, (along with Wednesday), we hosted the University Hands on Science – Gasworks Snacks program. The visiting group showed the usual enthusiasm, and we look forward to continuing our community educational efforts. A highlight was Tom’s model steam traction engine, and the students showed much interest. Notable was the very appropriate questions asked by our younger visitors who have never experienced the “steam age” as us older generation have.

A.J. Grant limited, delivered to us a collection of iron work tools, originating from the Green Island Cement Works. These tools are destined to enhance Peter’s forge operation and exhibit.

The finger mark on the big exhauster coupling indicates the “overall condition” of all the exhibits – before cleaning.


Before and after, on the big exhauster flywheel 


Little engine, big engine. Tom’s model steam traction engine. 


 The selection of iron working tool received today.


 Cleaning in action, mops, brushes, shovels, rags and jet fuel (yes – jet fuel) used in the cleaning process.


Mack and Tom work on the no2 exhauster restoration.


 Tom addresses Hands on Science students in the engine house.

Many hands make –

Work day today, and for a short while we had twelve arms, hands, and feet on deck, but must add, only four pair available for heavy work. Taking advantage of the four-on-deck we moved the “indoor governor” and the associated valve to a temporary position in the main Engine House hall. This is work-in-progress with setting up and cleaning up still required over the next few days to be followed in due course by appropriate treatment of the valve body.

Two visitors from Scotland today and John took time out to make a fuss of them. They spent over an hour at the museum, returning very positive feedback and leaving a generous donation.. They had heard about the us by word-of-mouth, but on their enquiry, the (Mercure hotel) reception had no knowledge of our operation. Being fair to the Mercure, the receptionist “looked us up” and correctly directed the visitors – Thanks Mercure.

The governor and valve relocated to the main Engine House hall today. Work-in-progress, also the wall behind could do with some TLC.


There’s an old piano, and its playing hot –

– Behind the green door. (muso’s and rock-n-rollers will recall the original 1956 song by Jim Lowe, or perhaps the 1981 version by Shakin Stevens!)

“John! See those (green) doors over there”, pointing to the DE boiler solid fuel area external doors, “ they came from ’round the front, where the main entry glass doors are now.”
“That’s interesting Bob, I didn’t know that, what was there before?”
“A big sliding door with a smaller “trap door” attached”
“Obviously the larger hole has been framed up to accommodate the new doors”
“Yeh. Back when smoking was banned on site, Joe (not real name) would sneak out for a smoke and when a boss came by he would jump back in through the trap. One day it happened just like that, except the main door was already open, and Joe jumped through the trap straight into the brick wall, doing more damage to himself than the wall. The boss just turned and walked away. ”

“See those pipes”, Bob pointed to the gas main exiting the engine house toward the detarrer and the ammonia washer, “they used to be above the ground, we filled this area in so to allow vehicle access to the rear of the Anderson room.”

Having previously partially excavated the said pipes to exhibit, only to have them filled in again, John kept silent.

“The (probably coke -Ed) trucks used to back in, in front of the condenser towers to get to the boiler house. They didn’t always get it right! See this damage” Bob continued, pointing to the Engine house extension NW corner.

“Now that’s really interesting,’ John replied.

“Yeh, after several hits, they finally gave up returning the wall to “square” and just patched it up on the (45*) angle.”

The boiler house doors today – relocated from the “front” of the Engine House


The boiler house extension, after a few bumps they just left it! 



Scrubber scrubbed up.

Repainting of the Ammonia scrubber liquor pump, motor, and associated valves is now complete. While only a small section of the overall Ammonia scrubber artefact, and never attempting to “return-to-service”, the work has reinvigorated a previously very sorry looking visitor attraction sub-system. The motor fan cover was damaged beyond the repair abilities of the volunteer, but for record, the parts have been labelled and stored for any future efforts. Without the fan cover, the motor rear end stub shaft is exposed to the weather. Several attempts at conventional systems, i.e. oil & kerosene, grease etc. spectacularly failed to prevent over-night bright metal rusting on the motor stub shaft during our recent rain/shine cycles. In desperation the volunteer applied the donated Nyalic repair kit system to this small stub shaft. Early results after several rain/shine cycles indicate Nyalic is a successful rust prevention system. For record the paint systems used were: After cleaning with kerosene, application of Turgo “blackguard” rust converter followed by a calcium plumbate primer. An acrylic undercoat (roof paint) was followed by either a Rust Kill oil based paint, (red) or an acrylic “metallic aluminium” silver top coat.

Total cost = $427.00
Donated material = $150.00
Volunteer hours (equivalent at $15.00) = $225.00
Board approved expenditure = $52.00



With Age Comes Knowledge.

Is this what museums are all about? I believe the answer is yes.

Work day today, and a modest amount of “work” progressed, but a large amount of planning, scheming and interaction achieved. It was great to see Tom on site, as an unexpected change to his Lyttleton work resulted in a free day that he generously assigned to us. Thanks Tom.
Sean called to finalise data for the proposed on-going work plan, Bob H continued his (most appreciated) “grounds” work, Mack continued with the no2 exhauster oilers, and Tom and John caught up, and attended a multitude of small tasks.

Today’s theme records the generous donation of items from the senior brigade. First, (the other day) Lex Smith brought in more of his technical books for the library. Lex also donated a pair of white overalls with the instruction: “I hope someone can make good use of these”. Don’t worry Lex, John has clobbered these for his own and will wear them on public days when his old Delta set are just too dirty!
Today Jill Hammell brought in a few “left over” “St Andrews cookery books” to be sold at our reception. Jill’s driver being “now you have The Brinsley Showroom, visitors may be interested in this book” Thank you Jill.

In keeping with today’s theme, a file pix is attached.

Remember this – it’s only just over two years ago.



Another day at the Office

A good Ops team turnout at today’s work day, and various projects advanced. John was surprised by literally “last minute” advice of today’s Probus group visit, but all went well with Craig “doing” the introduction and Fitting shop hosting, while John completed the group’s Engine house tour.

With the immediate and near future in mind, John “nailed” Sean and explained the need to firm-up proposals for the recently blogged task list, and to prepare (for want of a better word) a business case for the Board of Trustees to sign off. Specific items included relocation of the Beam engine and at least two of the governor tanks to the main engine house floor, allowing the return of the #2 exhauster to full operational status.
Creation and acceptance of the low budget, but high value plan, will allow Operations volunteers to get-on-with-it, knowing any immediate efforts would be useful and accepted in the larger picture.

While with John, Sean also indicated his preference to advise de-clutter of particularly, the Donkin/reception area, and removal of the many small and medium size appliances to storage.


 Stan and Brian progress the Dunedin Engineering Boiler feed pumps restoration.


 Keith and Mack plan the next task on the gas engine restoration.

What lies Beneath ?

This week contractors replaced the temporary sump pump, the subject of a recent blog. Recording the event lead the blog editor to consider this addition to the “ volunteer resource series” of blogs.

Legend has it that the gas works site is located on and around the bed of a stream, sourced near the old St Kilda Quarry, now Francis Hodgkin’s, and flowing into the harbour. Over the years the stream bed was filled and piped, and subsequently hidden from view.

Certainly, South Dunedin folk are well aware of the high (shallow) water table that rises and falls with the tide. The museum is not exempt, and with a labyrinth of now often open underground pipes (the subject of a future blog) without intervention, the museum would be regularly flooded. Four sump pumps are installed on the museum site, all now serviced and maintained by DCC city properties. Two pumps are associated with the Fitting shop, under the library floor and outside at the library Eastern wall. Two pumps are associated with the Engine House, one draining an external sump near the condenser towers, and the other draining an internal sump at the eastern end of the Electric Donkin exhauster. The latter pump is the one replaced this week. Operations volunteers routinely monitor these pumps, and note while running times increase during rainfall periods, even in dry times the sump pumps regularly cycle with incoming flows. In other words, these pumps are essential to preventing ground water flow into the museum buildings.

Today’s pictures record the two Engine House pumps, now both new this year, and the last remaining section of old, and then unused, drainage pipe recovered from the now Gas holder legs site during early days at the museum. Also included is a pix of the painting indicating the first retort house, clearly showing a stream in the foreground.

This section of drainage pipe recovered from early site works.


 This pump drains the external sump.


 This pump drains the internal sump, under the chequer plates


This pix, reproduced in our museum book, is mounted on the wall near the beam engine.


Today 01/10/13, Lawrie Forbes from Zealsteel Ltd, delivered to us a donation box, intended to encourage donations toward our boiler replacement. To our total and collective delight, the finished article was not just a box, but a sculpture in metal, made from totally relevant raw material, and entirely appropriate for location in the boiler house. Pictures tell the story, we are told. In this case the pix associated with this blog record the genuine skill and forethought gone into the creation of the money box. That is only half the story!

Lawrie advises:

*The background plate is fashioned from steel recovered from the Kensington Gas holder.

*The door is a stoke hole door from the scotch boiler on the TeWhaka (steam ship). The boiler, and therefore the door, were originally installed in the Greymouth tug, Kawatiri, and later transferred to the TeWhaka.

*The name plate “TeWhaka”  is a genuine artefact from the steamer, having been installed in recent years due to legislative requirements, after the original plate had been removed. Originally “straight” the plate has been curved to fit the sculpture.

*While Lawrie retains ownership of the sculpture, he advises we have long term loan as long as we wish _ Thank you Lawrie


Lawrie Forbes priceless “money box”. 


Tuesday’s 01/10/13 Moving Moments.

Mack and John assisted the 150 group by moving the fridge and table from the Fitting Shop to the engine House, and re-ordered an area for Saturday’s functions. Tom and John moved some gas stove exhibits to a more presentable position. Mack moved some gas main cutter tool artefacts, set up some displays, and prepared some temporary information sheets for the Anderson room. John and Jonathan ran through any safety issues associated with lighting and effects installations for the upcoming Saturday Evening gala. Tom completed his repair and maintenance work on the Small exhauster valve gear project. Glynn installed lighting track in the gas appliance showroom.

Mack set up this temporary display of Gas main tools.



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