G.W.R Container 3
We have at last completed one of our largest recent projects, the restoration of our G.W.R 1931 built container. The project was time (and money) consuming, but great fun to do, with new challenges and new skills to be mastered at almost every turn.
When the container arrived, courtesy of John Giles, we made it watertight by enclosing it in a tarpaulin and adding a temporary corrugated iron roof for good measure, and it was only when other pressing jobs were out of the way that serious work could start back in early 2017.
The first 8 inches up from floor level were rotten which included all the base frame, floor boards and the first 8 inches of the side planks. As the side planks are vertical they all had to be replaced, as did the corner posts. The base frame and corner posts were replaced first, being prefabricated by R & B Joinery of Stourport, so as to avoid us having to produce accurate mortise and tenon joints - a thing we did not feel confident with.
The new base was fitted with the rest of the structure still intact to avoid losing too much structural integrity while the job was underway, then new corner posts, the new outer planking and floor were fitted, and finally the inner plywood skin. The roof planks were OK, but the supporting hoops, which were destroyed by woodworm had to be replaced. This just left the doors to be reconstructed, which was the point reached when the last Newsletter was published.
The two top doors needed extensive repair to the outer planks, but we managed to retrieve them - Bob fitted round wooden plugs to the holes where the rusty hinge bolts had destroyed the surrounding wood. Where the planks had split, Bob opened up the splits and glued in thin strips of new wood to make good. All this painstaking work may seem over the top, but so little of the original wood had been reusable that it seemed worthwhile to make every effort to keep what we could.
The next job was to construct the bottom (drop down) door and fit that too. This left only the roof canvas to finish the structural repairs. We obtained a couple of tins of Williamson's Canvas Bedding Compound from the Carriage Department. This had to be heated up in a bucket of boiling water until it was the consistency of porridge, then spread on the roof. The canvas was placed in position and smoothed down and tacked all around the edges with roofing nails. We took the precaution of marking the positions of the screws that would hold down the fixing strips so that the roof nails didn't clash with the fixing screws. Sod's Law would have ensured that screws would have hit the nails otherwise! Once the bedding compound had hardened we applied two coats of white undercoat and a top coat to seal the canvas and screwed down the steel plates which go on top of the canvas in vulnerable areas to protect against damage from lifting chains. A final coat of white gloss finished the roof.
As a change from the original method of construction, the back of all steelwork and any areas of wood which it covers were fully painted to prevent corrosion or rot over time. Roof and gutter sealant, which never fully hardens, was used to bed the strapping and other steelwork onto the painted wood to stop water ingress if and when the container goes out into the rain. Our intention is to make the container last indefinitely if possible, whereas in G.W.R days the container was considered merely as a big strong box which would get knocked about and have a relatively short working life.
At this point the container was completely back together for the first time in many years, and all that remained was painting the sides and doors with their final coats of G.W.R Wagon Grey and carrying out the lettering.
The lettering is very extensive. In its day it would act as an advertisement for this new convenient door to door service. Fortunately, some of the original lettering was found under newer B.R. paint on the steel straps on the sides. This enabled the exact height and thickness of the lettering to be copied and in its exact original position. The full text was determined from photographs.
I was able to draw out the lettering in exactly the correct position on the CAD drawing I had done of the container. The CAD drawing is drawn full size on the computer which can reduce the scale to fit the screen or on the paper it is printed upon, a different concept to the old fashioned draughtsman's drawing which would be drawn already scaled down. The advantage with CAD is that parts of the drawing can also be printed out full size or to any other scale you like.
Yes, you've guessed it. The carefully constructed lettering was then printed out full size on numerous sheets of A4 paper to use as templates for the lettering on the container! As I am not a sign writer, I have a cheating way of marking out the letters. Having copied them on tracing paper, I go over the back of the lettering with a soft pencil. I then tape the tracing paper template onto the job and go over the front of the letters again, with a biro. This transfers some of the soft pencil lead onto the job like carbon paper would. I can fill in this outline with paint, usually two coats. It's just like painting by numbers.
Of course a proper sign writer has the exact shape of the letters in his head and can work quickly with just two chalk lines as a guide. For a sign writer the quickest lettering is script which he calls 'one stroke' but to get the curves and the thicks-and-thins looking right by my method is a nightmare and takes ages. Fortunately there wasn't much script on the container.
In the last newsletter I predicted the completion date as the end of 2017. Exceptionally cold weather delayed painting so the project over-ran by one day's work! As for budget, we didn't really have one. At first the intention was to do the absolute minimum, maybe using the dodgy original floor planks and patching the sides by replacing a few planks and retrieving some old 'good' wood to join to the bottoms of the remaining old planks - maybe by hiding the joints underneath the strapping. But the prospect of putting a foot through the dodgy floorboards and the difficulty jointing the side planks led to the decision to replace them completely for a much better job.
I must say I was somewhat seduced by the beautifully made new framework, manufactured by R & B Joinery, and was loathe to begin bodging the job by screwing on roughly repaired old planks. The plan is to display the container on the back of the Mechanical Horse flat trailer, perhaps in the Engine House at Highley. Such an exhibit would show the first commercially successful articulated lorry (once very much associated with railway company road deliveries), the very start of containerisation, as well as the importance of road vehicles in door to door deliveries by the railway companies. Let's hope that this can be arranged.
Finally, as always our thanks go to you, our supporters. Your subscription has allowed us to do this job, and the result is an important and rare (probably unique) piece of Great Western history brought back to life.
Graham has carried out some research on the electric truck and come up with a few pictures on the Internet of Conveyancer-Scott trucks in everyday use. British Railways was the number one customer, and the truck seems to have been produced in a wide variety of models, suiting a variety of needs.
The simple design utilising many proprietary parts enabled the truck to be produced as a flat bed (which we have) or a demountable body, and even fitted with an attachment to lift and move Scammell trailers. This particular version was used for 'perambulation' of Scammell trailers in goods yards. It had a device that attached to the coupling of the trailer to move it alongside the sidings from wagon to wagon. This would facilitate loading or unloading of goods for distribution, a much cheaper alternative than tying up a Scammell tractor for the job.
Graham has been working hard at Kidderminster and at home to renovate all parts of the truck and has already progressed to the reassembly stage. He has completely stripped the body, drive unit and flat bed of old rust and paint and repainted all parts. The brakes, suspension and steering mechanism have been overhauled and new tyres and tubes fitted to the rear wheels. The electric drive motor, and control box have been restored and at the time of writing the electric wiring is next on the agenda.
Graham has obtained new 'old stock' rear lights, a horn button, a light switch and a steering wheel from Ebay to replace faulty parts. These trucks did not go into full scale production until B.R. days so it has been decided to repaint the truck in early B.R. colours of carmine red with black undersides and with B.R. 'totem' transfers and lettering.
Vending Machines - by Jane
Towards the end of last year restoration of the cigarette machines had progressed nicely and had reached the stage of needing sign writing. The plain lettering was not a problem, however the more complex images which were originally applied as transfers would prove to be extremely hard to recreate directly onto the metal casing. This is where my advice was called for, having some skill in using computer generated images, I felt this was the method to use. By reproducing the detailed image digitally it could then be professionally printed onto vinyl to be put onto the machine. Mick doesn't like vinyl on heritage items but the printers assured him that the material would be very thin and once lacquered would be almost indistinguishable from a transfer.
The Woodbine Cigarettes advertisement was the first to be completed using a combination of a scan of original packaging and newly created lettering. This was identical to the original transfer as far as I could tell. The original transfer had been largely destroyed by the ravages of time.
The Black Cat advertisement was a little more challenging. Research was done to find what the original adverts were like, images, lettering style and colour scheme, before being recreated digitally to a suitable size and scale. The original transfer, if there had been one, was completely lost. There was no original packaging available to use and those shown on-line were of poor quality. Most images were photographs of damaged enamel signs.
So it was time to get out the paints, brushes and easel to paint my own version of the black cat carefully copied from the images I had found. This painting was scanned into the computer to be combined digitally with the lettering and a background panel to create the final artwork for the printers to use. This digital version was then forwarded to the printers who were then able to produce the vinyl stickers. The final vinyl came out very well and will complete the look of the machine purr-fectly.