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It’s a small world for Gardline engineers turned toymakers at Great Yarmouth museum

PUBLISHED: 13:02 27 March 2018 | UPDATED: 13:47 27 March 2018

Pat O'Grady, museum clerical assistant with Steve Hodds of Gardline who has fixed the machine built by Ron Fuller who died last year. Photo: Time and Tide Museum

Pat O'Grady, museum clerical assistant with Steve Hodds of Gardline who has fixed the machine built by Ron Fuller who died last year. Photo: Time and Tide Museum

Time and Tide Museum

He was a toymaker genius whose spinning mechanical marvels were mini masterpieces with no other purpose than to delight and entertain.

Great Yarmouth seaside landmark automata made by automata toymaker Ron Fuller.
On display at the Time and Tide Museum.

Picture: James Bass

Great Yarmouth seaside landmark automata made by automata toymaker Ron Fuller. On display at the Time and Tide Museum. Picture: James Bass

But with so much in his mind - and little on paper - Ron Fuller’s death last year meant there was not much to go on when one of them went wrong.

At Great Yarmouth’s Time and Tide Museum they faced an impasse when their beloved seaside automaton spectacularly failed in haze of sparks and smoke.

Unsure who to turn to clerical assistant Pat O’Grady approached his chum Steve Hodds, positioning manager at Gardline in Great Yarmouth.

Mr Hodds, whose team of electrical experts usually fix ships and multi-beam echo sounders all over the world, was up for the challenge.

The automata being fixed. Photo: Time and Tide MuseumThe automata being fixed. Photo: Time and Tide Museum

And over five weeks the department applied its skills to the Tom Thumb sized circuitry to fix it for free.

MORE: Photo gallery: Great Yarmouth automaton has ‘more moving parts than a Boeing 747’

“Everybody loved it.” Mr Hodds said. “It was quite a challenge because we had no circuit diagrams and more than that none of us had actually seen it running.

“We gutted the electronics, built a bank of fuses and rebuilt a couple of the circuits.

“It took five weeks to get it into a condition where it was operable.

Great Yarmouth seaside landmark automata made by automata toymaker Ron Fuller.
On display at the Time and Tide Museum.

Picture: James Bass

Great Yarmouth seaside landmark automata made by automata toymaker Ron Fuller. On display at the Time and Tide Museum. Picture: James Bass

“And when we took it back to the museum said they were sure there were bits that were working they hadn’t seen before.”

The automaton features scenes from Yarmouth’s history and holiday heyday and was built especially for the town in 2013.

A spokesman said: “Unfortunately the fault to the mechanisms was quite extensive and had caused quite a lot of internal damage.

“Sadly Ron Fuller passed away in 2017 and so it was feared that without Ron’s skilled craftsmanship, the limited circuit diagrams and sparse literature explaining its wiring and construction would never provide enough information for the repairs to be achieved.

Great Yarmouth seaside landmark automata made by automata toymaker Ron Fuller.
On display at the Time and Tide Museum.

Picture: James Bass

Great Yarmouth seaside landmark automata made by automata toymaker Ron Fuller. On display at the Time and Tide Museum. Picture: James Bass

“Steve generously devoted many hours of his own time during lunch breaks and spare time to work on the project, with the support of the positioning team at Gardline.

“Without budget or instruction manual they painstakingly reconstructed the broken elements; rewiring and redesigning where necessary.”

Mr Hodds added: “It’s not often that a company such as ours can give something back to the culture of the town and thereby support the likes of the local museum service.”

The Museum is open 10am to 4pm Sunday to Friday.

Great Yarmouth seaside landmark automata made by automata toymaker Ron Fuller.
On display at the Time and Tide Museum.
Britannia.

Picture: James Bass

Great Yarmouth seaside landmark automata made by automata toymaker Ron Fuller. On display at the Time and Tide Museum. Britannia. Picture: James Bass

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