I recently read a very good quote. It was the words of Herbert Austin, the man famous for founding the motor car company at Longbridge, Birmingham. He said "I would like to impress upon the people of this country that if they have the interests of the nation at heart and wish to see the solution of our unemployment problem, the dole, a thing of the past; prosperity, a condition shared by all; they should see to it that it is a point of faith to purchase nothing but the truly British article whenever and wherever possible..."
How I wish we had heeded his words. We just don't seem to make much in this country any more, and this becomes all too apparent if you try to source such things as steel forgings, iron castings and so on. This makes restoration work so much more difficult. Also many once standard everyday British items have been superseded by European equivalents. Was it really necessary to change brick and paving slab sizes to metric for example, and what was wrong with bayonet cap light bulbs?
It is now so much more difficult to make alterations and repairs when the imperial sizes are not available. Metric material and fastening sizes make all restoration work harder to achieve authentically, a problem causing heartache on the Thornycroft. This will get worse with the gradual disappearance of slotted wood screws and suchlike. I cannot help but think if we still had our strong manufacturing base some of this Mickey-Mouse nonsense wouldn't have been foisted off on us. We'll have to start driving on the right hand side of the road next - you'll see!
On quite a different note... It may be a bit early to speculate what will happen about this. Many Friends supporters have put forward the idea that we ought to try to do something about a platform canopy for Kidderminster Town. Indeed, it was mentioned in passing at the last AGM. We have always agreed that a canopy would be very nice indeed, and now that the concourse roof has been built it is the logical final step. However, the Friends have a limited workforce and tight budget, and so the project would be way, way out of our scope. However, when Wolverhampton Low Level canopy was demolished Alan Davies rescued a fair amount of steelwork and moved and stored it at a site in Kidderminster at his own expense. Sadly, at the time he was not able to get an agreement to bring it to the railway, but now there is an opportunity to bring it, and various people have shown interest in getting involved with the eventual repair, alteration and erection if (and it is a big if) money is forthcoming and everything else drops into place.
This exciting idea would not become a Friends project, but I hope to report any future developments as a canopy would be a wonderful asset to our station.
G.W.R. Works Trolleys & Trailers
Some years ago three works trailers of different types were obtained from Swindon Works for possible use on the S.V.R. They have been left in open storage and have deteriorated to the extent that the worst of them was scrapped as part of a clear-up about two years ago. (The Bridgnorth Bus Garage came under close scrutiny at the same time but we managed to save that on the understanding we would erect it 'within a year'!)
The better of the two remaining trailers has been restored by Bob Brown and looks well worth the effort (See his article 'Trollied'). But there is a mystery. What could the trolley possibly have been used for?
The load carrying area consists of two angle-iron bolster frames turned up at the ends, presumably to stop the load sliding off sideways, and the frames have oak topped surfaces probably for preventing damage to the items loaded upon them. Over the years it has been modified and the main frame has bolt holes that are now redundant. Even the load carrying frame has been modified by crudely cutting off the upturned ends on one side such that the load can be easily slid off. The long pole has an eye type coupling and is nicely balanced such that the one-ton payload could be manhandled without difficulty.
In the G.W.R Magazine of 1932 are some pictures and a short article about transport around the works that gives a few clues...
The factory comprises about 60 different shops, which co-operate in the manufacture and maintenance of engines, carriages and wagons. A large number of shops perform distinct functions in the production of, say, an engine, and yet each is dependent on other shops for supplies of work. To give one example, the finished article in the foundry becomes the raw material in the machine shops. For this reason there is a constant flow of work throughout the factory and the efficiency of the transport service decides, to a large extent, whether delays should occur, which would represent a considerable loss to the company. Delays mean that the expenses of the manufacturing unit are running on but are not being offset by work being performed.
The transport is provided by three distinct types of vehicles; railway wagons, hand bogies, and mechanical trolleys with trailers.
Investigation showed that volume was reasonably consistent. It also emphasised that work flows in well defined channels and that for this reason shops might be grouped for transport purposes.
By appointing sufficient trolleys to operate exclusively in each group it is possible to mould the service to the requirements. In order to give the system a degree of elasticity, two or three trolleys are not included in the plan but are provided to deal with special urgent work.
The bulk of the work is handled by mechanical trolleys but wagons and hand bogies are also used where best suited.
A driver for the mechanical trolley books on in the morning and is given a schedule of work for the day, directing him from shop to shop and giving an approximate time at which he must make each call.
The advantage of timing is fairly obvious. A maximum amount of work is obtained from each department and knowing when a trolley is due to arrive allows staff to make arrangements accordingly, acting as a stimulus to production. Any gap in production is immediately obvious to the receiving shop when articles scheduled for a certain truck fail to arrive. At each incoming area a man distributes incoming material and sorts and loads finished work for onward dispatch.
The question of loading introduces one of the most ingenious features of the system - the use of trailers. The standard trailer employed is a two wheeled vehicle capable of carrying one ton. In addition a number of special vehicles have been designed for dealing with particularly heavy or awkward loads. The main function of the trolley is to provide motive power, and its deck is only regarded as providing reserve carrying capacity; the actual load is carried upon the trailers which have been along the various routes according to the needs of each shop.
When the 'train' arrives the incoming trailers are detached and outgoing trailers coupled so that the trolley resumes its journey in under a minute.
But with so much depending upon the smooth working of the trailers it was found necessary to instruct drivers not to haul vehicles attached to any other route but their own , and to aid this trailers of each route are painted in a distinctive colour. In addition a driver may not proceed on his journey without a trailer. Trolley drivers are paid piecework to encourage them to take as many trolleys as possible, and to keep work moving through the shops.
The bulk of the haulage is undertaken by petrol-electric trolleys, but three or four petrol trolleys equipped with clutch and gearbox were introduced to perform work which calls for the greatest tractive effort. Their speed varies from six to eight miles per hour and are capable of dealing with loads up to two tons. The fact of possessing four wheel steering gives them excellent mobility, which together with their convenient size enables them to pass through the standard doors and to proceed to most parts of the shops.
In addition to this it has been found necessary to provide one or two tractors to deal with exceptionally heavy loads. These are similar to agricultural tractors but fitted with road wheels and strong steel frames giving them the ability to push standard rail wagons in addition to hauling heavy loads.