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By Kat Dibbits on

Power Hall update: Wrapping the engines

While the Power Hall may be closed to the public, this doesn't mean our team aren't hard at work preparing the building for its major renovations starting this Autumn.

And luckily, they’ve allowed us to go behind the scenes to take a look at the work happening this week.

Three people in hard hats and hi-vis vests work to cover a huge machine in green tarpaulin at the Science and Industry Museum's Power Hall

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!)

A white-coloured machine is partially covered by tarpaulin in the Science and Industry Museum's Power Ha;;

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 in 2021, two years’ time.

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.

A man with grey hair in a yellow hard hat and hi-vis vest ties two pieces of tarpaulin together with rope in the Science and Industry Museum's Power Hall

Two ropes wrapped around a brown metal barrier holding a tarpaulin down in the Science and Industry Museum's Power Hall

A man in a white hard hat and yellow hi-viz reaches to fix two tarpaulins together in the Science and Industry Museum's Power Hall

Some of the machinery is in slightly awkward spots…

A machine wheel in the rafters of the Science and Industry Museum's Power Hall has been mostly covered by a green tarpaulin

…And it’s a good job that our team have a head for heights!

A man wearing a blue hard hat and yellow hi-vis vest stands at the top of a ladder fixing two tarpaulins together in the Science and Industry Museum's Power Hall

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:

Two men wearing hard hats and hi-vis vests stand in front of a huge sheet of tarpaulin at the Science and Industry Museum's Power Hall

And this is our Victorian hydraulic engine:

A huge machine is covered by green tarpaulin in the Science and Industry Museum's Power Hall

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 until 2021, 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.

 

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