We are indebted to James Pearson, the stationmaster at Bewdley for the donation of a superb original G.W.R cast iron lamp bracket, the sort that sticks out of the corner of a wall of a station building. This bracket originated from Bewdley and I have to admit to being a little sad that it will not go back on the station where it really belongs, but that would be ungrateful and it will eventually enhance our station instead!
Pardon me while I go on a bit... This bracket had me thinking. Today a bracket would be made from a couple of bits of flimsy steel bar, drilled, bent and roughly welded together and stuck on the wall. If you were lucky it might even be straight! But in 1880 (probably when our bracket was made) that sort of thing would never do. A particularly artistic draughtsman would spend a day on his drawing board creating a beautiful and intricate design drawn in ink, most likely coloured in.
His design would be passed down to the pattern maker who would spend days carefully carving out the leaf patterns and scrollwork twice, once for each side of the pattern. The pattern would be made from several pieces of Mahogany put together in such a way as to prevent it warping over time. Then he would make three core boxes, one to make the V shaped part that goes round the corner of the building, one for the U shaped groove that runs along the top of the bracket for the gas pipe to sit in and finally one for a square hole where the fitting for the lamp support 'frog' fits.
Then the foundry-man had to do his bit. There are absolutely no flaws or bits of flash on this casting. It is a true work of art - and one made to last for ever. I suggest this work is a lost art and it would be difficult or impossible to achieve the same quality today.
For right or wrong that is the difference between 1880 and 2015. And that special difference is what our heritage is all about and what we can offer our visitors when they take a look around - a step back into a completely different world.
Wartime on the Railways by David Wragg
Publisher: Sutton Publishing
First published in 2006, this book looks at the role of Britain's railways from the lead-up to the First World War to the aftermath of the Second. It is written in an easily read style, avoiding unnecessary technical terms and with explanations where necessary, so is of interest to the hardened railway enthusiast as well as those interested in the history of Britain during this important period.
The book is by no means a list of facts and data, but is full of information none-the-less, leading the reader through the struggles with State control of the railways with control by the Railway Executive Committee during the First World War and later the financial restraints of the inter-war years when the shareholders received poor dividends as the 'Big Four' struggled to finance modernisation against the pressure of road haulage competition and finally how the railways, threatened with nationalisation were forced to accept pitifully low government payment when operated by the Railway Executive Committee in the Second World War.
Against these obstacles the author shows how hundreds of extra trains ran ferrying troops and munitions as well as coal and other heavy goods driven off the coastal services by German action, while dealing with bomb damage which was so serious that on one occasion all Southern stations in London were closed at the same time due to bombing.
This book is a very interesting read, looking at railway operation from an angle not usually seen. The author has done a great deal of research to produce this book. Strongly recommended.
W H Smith's Kiosk
The Smith's kiosk has for a long time looked a rather nondescript little building, only the name along the top giving away its identity. Reference to period photographs show that traditionally it would have important additional defining features such as frames with criss-cross wires displaying posters with newspaper headlines, racks of papers and magazines hanging from the corners and above the counter, and the roof supporting colourful advertising panels. The display on the counter would have been illuminated by fancy gas lamps with square white glass shades bearing the WHS logo.
Our kiosk had none of these and as such is nothing like the once-familiar station newsagent, so we decided to make amends.
The first job has been to fit nine frames with their criss-cross wires in their panels below the counter. This small thing has made the kiosk look much more like a newsagent straight away. We are indebted to the Station Fund who kindly financed the wooden frames.
These frames are to be fitted with newspaper headline posters for which I am preparing the artwork as a homework project. These are produced by marking out the lettering full size on paper and colouring in with paint. I found that modern fonts on the computer are subtly different to those of the thirties, so I had to do the job the hard (old fashioned) way. No doubt a reader will say, "Oh, I could do that on my computer, I have access to old fashioned fonts". If so please get in touch, your services will be most welcome! (This has now been resolved - Editor)
During my research for headlines of the 1930's period I could find very few 'happy' ones. The thirties seem to have been a dismal period in time. One thing I had to do was to try to find headlines that set the scene for this particular period in time. "Man Killed by Bus", would be no good - it could have been today.
Without wishing to give myself too much extra work, a set of 1940's newspaper headline posters would be good additional scene-setter for the 40's Weekends. Lots of potential there!
With trains running every day at the moment and the kiosk in use selling sweets we are restricted to working on posters, but I would love to see advertising panels with period ads along the roof. One such is a newspaper promotion for "Mabel Constanduros, Radio Critic", featuring a black and white portrait of the lady with thirties hairstyle and general look. Or perhaps an advertisement for the Electric Cinema in Stourport would be interesting, there are lots of possibilities.