And luckily, they’ve allowed us to go behind the scenes to take a look at the work happening this week.
The giant tarpaulins are the final stage of a process that has taken thousands of man hours (and woman hours – many our gallery maintenance team, conservators and volunteers are female!)
The team started by carefully cleaning each engine to ensure there was no rust, dust or grit as these are particularly bad for historic working machinery like ours. It was a painstaking task – over 180 hours for some of the larger engines. The attention to detail that our teams put in to making sure each engine is properly cared for is one of the reasons why this is such a long-term project (another reason is the sheer amount of scaffolding we’ll be erecting – but we’ll tackle that in another blog!)
The next step was to coat each engine in a protective wax, which will ensure that the machines don’t seize up while they’re out of action. This is important, as it means we’ll be able to get the up and running sooner when the Power Hall does reopen.
Then the engines are covered in tarpaulins to stop any debris getting stuck in them while the building works are actually taking place. Each tarpaulin is raised over a scaffolding frame, and fixed in place using ropes and ties.
Some of the machinery is in slightly awkward spots…
…And it’s a good job that our team have a head for heights!
The scaffolding frames make our already huge machines look truly massive. Here’s Pender, which many visitors will be familiar with from our family show, Loco-motion:
And this is our Victorian hydraulic engine:
So far, we’ve used over 1000 square metres of tarp – that’s the equivalent of almost four tennis courts! But don’t worry that once the refurb has finished it will all go to waste – we will reuse the tarps in the museum or across the Science Museum Group, and if all else fails we’ll donate to our colleagues in the Manchester Arts Sustainability Team or local community groups for them to reuse.
We even managed to take some video that gives you an idea of how it feels to walk around the Power Hall with all the engines wrapped up:
The Power Hall refurb is a massive project that means we won’t be able to reopen the gallery for a while, but in the meantime we’ll be bringing you lots more behind-the-scenes updates like this one. Sign up to our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss out on everything going on at the museum at this exciting time.