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January 2023

There's always a 1001 things to do to keep the Waterworks in good condition for everyone to enjoy! As soon as the last Open Day of the year was over in 2022, our team of volunteers swung into action with an extensive Winter Work Programme.

Together we've been tackling all the work needed to ensure that the Babcock boiler and Hathorn Davey steam engine will be working again in 2023, overhauling various internal combustion engines, completely restoring the Lister narrow gauge railway locomotive that we have on loan from Hereford Waterworks Museum, giving the top meadows their annual autumn cut and rake, tackling the vast bank of brambles that was taking over the lower meadow, replacing sleepers on the Kiln Railway, decorating inside buildings, sorting all the items that we have in store for future work, and all manner of other tasks.

There's always something for everyone, and if you feel that becoming a volunteer at Twyford Waterworks is for you why not contact us - we'll be pleased to see you!

01/09/19: Ayala celebrates 80th birthday

A very special birthday celebration was held at Twyford Waterworks at the 1st September Open Day for the narrow gauge Motor Rail diesel locomotive ‘Ayala’.

Built in February 1939, Motor Rail 7374 worked initially for Glasgow Corporation Housing Department in the Govan and Pollok areas of the city and, after a period of use on various contracts joined the fleet of Motor Rail locomotives operated by George Garside (Sand) Ltd at Leighton Buzzard. It was named ‘Ayala’ there after the 1963 Grand National winner, and worked until bought for preservation in 1981 by Graham & Lesley Feldwick. Restored and operated at Wickford, Essex for many years, ‘Ayala’ has been part of their narrow gauge railway collection at Twyford Waterworks since 2004.

‘Ayala’ was suitably decorated with bunting and balloons for the occasion, which was attended by many of our visitors and volunteers. After a rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ everyone enjoyed a piece of birthday cake specially made by Carol Jones.

The industrial railway is demonstrated at all the Open Days held at Twyford Waterworks, and the final one for 2019 is on Sunday 6th October from 11am to 4pm.

Twyford Waterworks - 'Ayala' suitably de
Twyford Waterworks - Ayala's birthday ca

Twyford Waterworks Trust is delighted to announce that their 1906 Babcock and Wilcox water tube boiler and 1914 Hathorn Davey triple expansion steam pumping engine successfully passed their steam tests on 23rd August 2017 after a long period of restoration funded by Heritage Lottery Fund as part of our ambitious 'Return to Steam' Project. This major milestone, with the boiler work completed by H A McEwen (Boiler Repairs) Ltd and the engine work carried out by the Trust's own volunteers, moves the Trust forward significantly with its goal of returning the Waterworks to steam. With a number of tasks still to complete a period of testing and training is now planned, followed by a celebration for Friends of the Waterworks later in the season.

Regular public steamings will be launched in early 2018. 

Our Return to Steam Project 

When Twyford Waterworks Trust was formed in 1992 a main aim was to restore one of the unique Babcock & Wilcox water-tube boilers to working order, and to steam the Hathorn Davey triple expansion pumping engine. This was achieved in 1996, and the Trust then steamed the boiler and engine at main Open Days until October 2003.

As a result of the Asbestos Act 2002 our landlords, Southern Water, adopted a policy of zero tolerance to asbestos on operational sites, which included Twyford Waterworks. Although totally contained, the boilers were identified as containing asbestos and the Trust was instructed to stop steaming, after which the boilers were sealed in polythene.

In 2006 the Trust and Southern Water worked together to determine a way to remove the asbestos in the boilers whilst allowing restoration back to working order. The asbestos was then removed, but this also involved the removal and disposal of all the boiler brickwork, a total of 45,000 bricks. During this process the boilers were photographed and measured so that they could be restored at a later date. The work was funded by Southern Water and cost £200,000.

The Trust developed an ambitious Return to Steam Project during 2009. Twyford has one of the most complete boiler houses left in terms of its equipment, and it is unique in having a rank of three Babcock & Wilcox WIF water tube boilers. The boiler house itself gives a huge insight into Edwardian technology as it contains two sets of steam boiler feed pumps and a steam driven d.c. generator. The plan included the restoration of all of this back to original condition together with the Hathorn Davey engine of 1914 in the adjacent engine house, so that visitors could experience first-hand the ‘high tech’ facilities of 100 years ago. Of the three boilers one would be returned to steam, one would be cosmetically restored while the third would form an impressive cut away backdrop to a new education area, with interpretative displays explaining a range of subjects from how things work through to life and conditions at the waterworks in Edwardian times. Passing on skills and training new volunteers is something that every heritage centre has to take seriously and a new workshop would enable the Trust to do this, thereby keeping the site alive for many years to come. Finally attention would be given to extending the toilet facilities to bring these in line with the planned increase in visitor numbers.

The Project was given a huge boost in June 2010 when the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) awarded the Trust a Development Grant of £63,300 to enable it to fully evaluate the work required.

The project development phase was completed successfully and an application to HLF for a main award was submitted in March 2012. This was successful and HLF awarded the Trust £819,600, some 90% of the total expected cost of all the works. Contractors then commenced work, but the discovery of further asbestos in the Boiler House and the need to find an additional sum of over £60,000 to remove this, led to work being delayed until 2014.

Recognising the need for serious repairs to the main buildings, Southern Water agreed to carry out major roof repairs and external redecoration. This commenced in September 2013 and was completed to a very high standard in May 2014 at a cost of £600,000.

Since 2014 the project has moved forward, and it is envisaged that it will be completed in 2017. The working 1906 boiler has been partially re-riveted, all the water tubes and superheater tubes have been replaced, and it has passed the hydraulic test. The intricate boiler brickwork has been carefully copied and replaced. The middle 1903 boiler has been cosmetically restored, again with new brickwork, whilst the 1916 boiler now forms an impressive backdrop to the ‘Discovery Zone’ area. The Discovery Zone is now the starting point for visitors where they can find out all about the Waterworks before following trails around the buildings and the wider site, all linked with new interpretative panels. Our award winning animation film, made in 2013 with help from Twyford Primary School, can also be viewed here. Elsewhere the interiors of the buildings have been rewired and redecorated, the toilets have been rebuilt and now include disabled facilities, and the new workshop is a hive of activity as Trust volunteers continue the restoration and maintenance of the site.

All of this is great testament to our contractors, and especially to our dedicated volunteers. Alongside the practical work a vast amount of administration has been carried out, and all together the work has transformed Twyford Waterworks into a leading museum in Southern England.

Work on the boiler will be completed in early 2017, and following acceptance by Southern Water the Trust is expecting to return to steam, thus bringing to an end a huge achievement by a small and determined voluntary group.

Graham Feldwick, December 2016

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