In an effort to focus the mind on items around our station which clash with our heritage image, I have walked around camera in hand taking pictures of all the offending objects that I can see. These range from plastic electric lamps to laminated signs.
The idea is to consider each of these 'heritage howlers' in turn to see if there is a way to replace them with an authentic 1930's designed item, hide them, or in some other way reduce the adverse impact they have on the heritage atmosphere of the station.
Clearly there are some items which are not easy to put right, such as litter bins with plastic bin liners which are obviously incorrect for the 1930's period, are unsightly, but on the other hand need to catch the eye to encourage our passengers to use them.
However,there is much that can be done to put right some of the howlers. For example the plastic poster board at the front of the station has been replaced by an accurate replica of a wooden G.W.R board. The result is a worthwhile improvement.
It is easy to forget that the attraction of our railway to potential visitors is not just the steam train ride, but an all-embracing glimpse into the past.
Finally, we are now back in our 'quiet period' and the Christmas rush is over. The amount of work put in by the volunteers was fantastic and the results as spectacular as usual, with the station, particularly the concourse, splendidly decorated. And it is hard work to take it all down.
The Great Western decorated their stations, too. We have a picture in our possession of 'The Lawn' at Paddington Station decorated to celebrate the 100th Christmas of the Great Western Railway. Next Christmas will be our 50th Christmas so maybe we can do something similar…
This year our AGM falls on the 5th of May this year. It begins at 8pm in the Porters Hut at Kidderminster. All members of 'the Friends' are invited to attend as usual. Tea and biscuits will be provided!
When we built the lean-to extension to our storage shed in 2006 we made the decision not to install electric lighting as there were three large windows (converted from ex-G.W.R signal box windows) letting in light, and as this part of our building was to be used for long term storage there seemed no necessity to rummage around in the evening when it is dark.
However, the recent erection of the S & T storage shed immediately alongside has cut out much natural light, and as our storage shed is now also our workshop and the lean-to is our main access, we have decided to add lighting for those long winter nights and the occasions when we need to look for something. We decided to run all cables through steel conduit as this has sufficient rigidity to support the fluorescent lights. (The conduit can only be supported by the roof steelwork which runs at a six foot spacing.)
Steve,having the necessary qualifications, agreed to help with the project and together we installed the four lamps, two switches and wiring in 60ft of conduit in just a few days. Steve left me alone to pull the wires through for the two-way switches and I got in a right muddle. However, once this was put right all was well. At last we can see what we are doing - particularly when locking up on dark winter evenings. The total cost was less than £150.
Further to all the painting mentioned in the last Newsletter, we have again joined forces with the 'Wednesday Gang' and have externally painted the wooden Porters Hut on the Parcels Bay Platform. This was not a moment too soon as the paint was peeling in places and the ends of the planks were getting 'shakes' due to water ingress. Obviously once split, a plank is always split, and wood damaged in this way tends to open and close at the splits with variations in humidity no matter how many coats of paint are applied. There is an important lesson to learn here: never let timber get damaged by weather in the first place. Unfortunately there are too few volunteers on our station prepared to wield a paint brush, and so the structures do suffer.
However, all the buildings on the Parcels Bay Platform have been painted in the last twelve months and are now looking good. Lots and lots more to do yet, though.
Bob, Charles and I then moved on to the end screen behind Platform 2's buffers, the one nearest to the museum. Again the woodwork was suffering damage, so although the winter weather had arrived we took advantage of a few consecutive dry days to scrape loose paint and apply primer, undercoat and one coat of top coat before the rain started again. We could only tackle the areas where paint was peeling so the resulting patchwork will need a couple of coats of top coat as soon as the nice weather arrives to finish the job. Three or four of our new poster boards with replica G.W.R pictorial posters are due to be fitted to the pathway side of this screen to add a dash of colour. I'm looking forward to seeing this.
At long last the big board showing S.V.R stations served has gone up. The 'Wednesday Gang' planted the first post, but with the second in its hole ready for positioning and concreting they were stopped by a 'jobsworth' car park attendant who insisted they move the safety barriers to park a car in a space they were occupying.
It was no longer safe to proceed and caused weeks of delay until special permission could be arranged to occupy a space for the work to progress. If it hadn't been so pathetic it would have been amusing. Eric Sykes or Spike Milligan could have made a good sketch of it, with a suitable punch-line ending.
However, a few weeks later the second post went up and the board soon followed it. The end result is most impressive, but the sign is only destined to remain there for a year or two. I read in the local paper that the council has had a £2.5 million grant towards reconstructing the main line station, with a further £1.8 million being sought from Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP. The intention is to move the access road onto our forecourt and up towards the front of our station so that the existing access road can become bus parking. The pavement along the front of our station will then be extended in a straight line across the car park to a new station building at the bottom of the main line station footbridge. Sadly this will mean we will lose our nice forecourt with its gas lamps, and I also fear for the cobble stones which add so much to the atmosphere of the station entrance. Another disadvantage of the scheme is the loss of about forty car parking spaces! Such is progress. (Your editor's view is that it would be wonderful if money being allocated to what our councillors consider to be 'nice to have' projects could be diverted to really important projects such as upgrading the local hospital to help save lives.)
The Station Fund have kindly agreed to finance poster frames for the front of the W.H.Smith's Kiosk. It should have nine hinged frames with criss-cross wires to contain newspaper headline posters. These posters used to be sent out each day with the papers. Replicas with a heading panel of a long-defunct newspaper and suitable period headlines should make an interesting display - especially for the 'Forties' events.
The addition of the missing frames will do much to restore the appearance of the kiosk. The frames are made from hardwood and are being put together by R & B Joinery of Stourport who are able to make neat and strong mitre joints in the corners where we do not have the necessary skill. The easy bit, fitting criss-cross wires, hinges and applying some paint is a job for 'the Friends', of course.
A recent acquisition is an original G.W.R gas lamp, obtained for us by Pete Maddicks. It needs some TLC but will become a useful addition to the station at some point. Present thinking is to mounted it on a replica G.W.R lamp bracket to allow the removal of two nasty modern lamps on the end of the restaurant. It looks as if we have given ourselves a future project!
And finally, on the subject of future projects, Chris Bond has managed to acquire sixty-six (yes, sixty six!) G.W.R speartop fence panels from Trowbridge - see the article 'Bewdley Drive Security' below.