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Thornycroft Nippy


There has been quite a bit of visible progress on the Nippy since the last Newsletter was published. At the front of the cab the offside front panel has now been fitted, as have the windscreen frames. Although the glass has not been obtained yet, the front view looks complete in outline and gives a good idea of how the lorry will look once finished. It certainly has a beefy workmanlike appearance, even though its lack of curves makes it look rather archaic by today's standards. It is sixty-five years old after all!


Steve has been working away on the cab doors to get them into presentable condition and has fitted glass to the nearside door. New frames for the quarter-lights have also been made by us, glazed and fitted to the cab. The folded steel frames of the quarter-lights had rusted away during the lorry's sojourn in the scrap yard so had to be replicated. It proved impossible to bend the metal up to the required section without purpose-made tooling so the decision was made to fold the section in two pieces and 'tin' and then soft solder the two parts together where the original section doubled over on itself. The finished cross section is a sort of 'h' shape. The end result was indistinguishable from some sample frame that we had, so we felt the job was a success. We had some pieces of glass for these windows, rescued from the scrap yard. They proved to be the wrong shape so were possibly from a Thornycroft Sturdy which was also in the yard and that may have had a slightly different cab. In any case they weren't safety glass - so not suitable by today's standards. The total cost of these two windows was £12 and a few man-hours. A bargain!


By contrast the biggest new addition (in cost as well as size) is the framework for the drop-side bed. The framework is from 2" x 8" and 1 3/4" x 2" section Ash. This type of timber was used originally as it is a very resilient and knot-free wood and not too expensive compared with many other hardwoods. 'Not too expensive' is perhaps somewhat misleading. All timber is diabolically expensive, bringing me to the conclusion that it doesn' grow on trees. This little lot set us back £1500 and as such represents a major investment in the lorry. There is no alternative, though, as the lorry obviously requires a bed and the drop-side bed we are fitting is the cheapest option, and the only one we can replicate without resorting to any blind guesswork.


The cost of the timber caused us to decide to get it planed and cut to shape by a professional. We did not have the necessary equipment (or confidence) to cut out all the fancy curves; a hand-held jigsaw is not the ideal tool for this! The timber was beautifully prepared for us, and well worth the extra cost.


At present the frame is being painted ready for final assembly onto the chassis with special (imperial) U bolts and studs we have made for the job. Exciting progress! The lorry is beginning to take shape and is now much more complete than in its scrap yard days. Unfortunately the bed is much wider than the chassis so the lorry now takes up a lot more room in our storage shed.


Thinking back, the Shrewsbury scrap yard certainly had some interesting vehicles, all but one ex-railway, and nearly all Great Western. I think there were two 3 Ton Mechanical Horses (with G.W.R built cabs), two or three Thornycroft Nippy's (all with backs removed), a Thornycroft Sturdy with flatbed back. Also, I think there were three or four BR Scammell Scarabs cut off at the back so that the trailer coupling and axle assembly could be sold and made into an adapter for farmers to use Scammell trailers behind their tractors.


Other interesting vehicles were a large Fordson 'farm' tractor fitted with road wheels and a wooden cab, used for towing trailers. Several big vans, probably Commers from early BR days, and the only vehicle that was probably non-railway was a Morris Series E. It had rusted to such an extent that the body had largely disintegrated but the rubber moulded mudguards remained leading me to suppose it was an ex-GPO van. There were others lorries too but I do not remember after all this time.


So our little Nippy was in good company. Many of the lorries had been extensively robbed of parts (including ours, which had a tree growing through the cab by way of a bonus), but we decided it was by far the best choice for restoration. The lorry was originally purchased by Paul Fathers, Mick Osborne and Mick Yarker who collected plenty of useful spares - from complete engines and axles to small items such as door handles.


This scrap yard is long gone. The yard was cleared when we took the Nippy out in the late 1970s.



Footpath Lighting Project


We have just taken delivery of three brand new replica G.W.R No. 1 lamp posts from Steelway Rail, together with four brand new replica tops. The tops were made to our special requirements to allow our design of internal electric lighting to be installed. Our lighting assemblies are designed so as to look as much like traditional gas interiors as possible, and consist of three small lamps mounted in a cluster on a manifold which stands on a central copper tube. The wiring runs up the tube (which looks very much like the gas supply tube) to the imitation gas manifold and then to the lamp holders which fit partly hidden inside the manifold. When illuminated we hope that the assembly will look similar to lit gas mantles (although the bulbs are a fair bit larger) and when turned off will be sufficiently unobtrusive to escape immediate notice. All too often a nasty big tungsten bulb or a low energy lamp is fitted inside a gas lamp top and stands out a mile away. Let's hope our efforts will look more subtle!


Incidentally, the lamp tops are fitted with a chimney and a balanced flue arrangement so could very easily be converted to real gas operation if the need ever arose, by the simple expedient of removing our electric assembly and fitting a Sugg Lighting gas unit straight in!


We already have two original No. 1 lamp posts and an original top which will give us a total of five sets, spaced the same as on the platforms. This group will replace most of the nasty modern 'Dalek' illuminated bollards and so improve our passenger's first glimpse of the station. This is a good example of the need to do the job right first time. The 'Dalek' lamps were installed about five or six years ago (with no thought whatever about heritage). It would also have been less wasteful to spend a little extra time and effort to start with, rather than re-do the job.


During installation we will take the opportunity of removing the 'temporary' armoured cable which is strung along the top of the fencing, jumping over the entrance on a wooden pole in an untidy and amateur fashion! It is also intended to re-hang or replace the speartop entrance gate using two replica cast iron gate posts already in our possession and remove a redundant fence panel to tidy up the entrance area. At present the layout doesn't make any sense as it has isolated sections of fencing; the cut back remnants of the long fence which originally ran to the far end of the coal yard.


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