Restaurant Car Platform
By far the biggest improvement to the Station at Kidderminster in the last twelve months has been the completion of the new Restaurant Car Platform.
Gone are the weeds, rubble fill and exposed orange plastic drain pipes, all replaced by a very tidy surface of paving slabs backed by a handsome low retaining wall and sprouting three G.W.R lamp posts to add atmosphere (and eventually gas illumination).
The path leading from the front of the museum to the concourse area is now an evenly sloping ramp of diamond blue paviors which are now laid in a staggered stretcher bond pattern rather than side by side which looked ugly. Alongside the ramp and closing off the new platform stand a pair of original Great Western speartop gates. One is hinged from the screen end post, the other hinged from a replica G.W.R gate post. We completed the fitting of the gates in mid-May. The retaining wall which was constructed as a volunteer effort by Martin Wilkins has been altered just a bit at the end to bring it around the corner to meet up with the gate post.
The end result, part professional (by Laws of Kidderminster) and part volunteer (by numerous people), is absolutely first class. It tidies up the final corner of the station area which is visible by passengers.
Of course this doesn't mean that the Friends have completed all there is to do at Kidderminster, far from it, but it does mean that our station has now acquired a 'finished' look for the first time. Sir Winston would have called it "the end of the beginning".
We have finally decided to begin a major new Friends' project to fit speartop fencing along the back of the retaining wall mentioned above. For one thing the retaining wall is fairly low so there is no difficulty in stepping over it onto the platform below. Children will no doubt be doing this. But a much greater problem is if a member of the public were to step backwards and trip over the top of the wall and tumble backwards onto the platform below – potentially nasty accident. To prevent this the SVR has some temporary fencing that really needs replacing.
We will install eight panels of speartop to get as far as the miniature railway fence. This would overcome the initial problem, but there is still a trip hazard on the wall along the miniature railway platforms and logic suggests that the fence should run all the way along the new bay platform, about 200 feet in length. We have nowhere near enough fencing 'in stock' for this, and it will probably be difficult to get. nother problem is that original fencing is, maybe, well over 100 years old and so the bottom rail has generally rusted to holes, as have the uprights where panels are bolted end-to-end and the painter cannot get (but rain water can). This calls for time consuming and costly repair work.
The Parcel Bay platform has less fencing, but the fence took 18 months to repair and install, so volunteer helpers would be very welcome!
At last the restoration of the Scammell unit is nearing completion. As I mentioned before the amount of work undertaken has exceeded that originally planned. It is only to be expected, I suppose, but as we had a closer look at each job we were faced with the choice of a quick bodge and cover-up or doing it properly. Once we began along the road of doing it properly there was little point of wasting all the effort by bodging the rest.
As soon as the construction of the new cab was complete, Bob, Charley and I turned our attention to the chassis. The original paint was many layers thick and had protected it from rust, but was now brittle and chipped back to bare metal easily. It was looking a mess so the best plan seemed to be to scrape the whole lot down and start again. We scraped the chassis, back axle, hubs, coupling gear gearbox and bell housing. All this was primed, undercoated and finished with a couple of coats of gloss black.
The wheel centres are in bright red and the wheels are topped off with new steel mudguards which are still available in the correct size - manufactured by Featherwing. Some of the railway Mechanical Horses were fitted with rubber mudguards which were better suited to the rough treatment the units had, but these are no longer available.
Now, at the time of writing, the 'chocolate and cream' paint job on the cab is complete and the signwriting is underway. The seats in the cab once had been re-covered in canvas but the tatty remains of the old Rexine covers were still underneath and will act as a pattern for the upholsterer. I managed to get some samples of leathercloth as it is made today. It is quite a bit thinner than the old Rexine and the upholsterer was not at all impressed. He didn't think it would have enough strength particularly along the stitching. I was inclined to agree but was not at all keen on using vinyl. Vinyl looks so obviously what it is, that it really is not suitable for a vintage vehicle. Then he showed me some stuff called faux leather. This is a vinyl-type product but looks very much like Rexine, so I decided to go for that option.
First we have to repair the original seat frames. The bases are 7-ply wood and were worse for wear so Bob and I replicated new ones, and all the metal clips and brackets were grit blasted and painted before fitting. The backs are from pressed thin sheet metal, which has split where under stress. To overcome this weakness, formed reinforcing pieces will be welded over the broken area to produce a strong, neat job, and the backs will be powder coated which will give hardwearing and durable protection against abrasion from the new covers with horsehair and wadding filling. Once the seat frames have been finish painted and assembled using imperial coach bolts, of course, they will be checked for fit in the vehicle prior to a visit to the upholsterer.
While the seats are away we will get a chance to complete the wiring. All the necessary colour-coded wiring has been bought. It is PVC insulated, but is cotton-covered and looks identical to the original rubber and cotton-covered stuff, which was removed way back in 1974 as being beyond further use. A temporary job using plain PVC insulated wiring had been done at that time but didn't look the part at all. Also, this time all the extras like lights and the windscreen wiper will be connected up and made to work. We even have a 6 volt black rubber car battery ready to fit!
To finish work inside the cab, Charley is busy removing all the old paint and rust from the engine covers ready for a repaint.
This will conclude the cosmetic work. New engine mounting rubbers need fitting, the carburettor and magneto are 'suspect' and may need the attention of experts, then with fresh oil in the engine, water in the rad and a couple of gallons of four star in the tank we will be away!
As regards the trailer, a fair bit of work will need to be done to renovate it! There have been several books on railway road vehicles published over the years. These provide excellent reference material. I have identified two nice photos of a flat trailer like ours, but with a headboard. There is sufficient detail in the pictures to be able to replicate the missing headboard on ours to produce a splendid trailer to go with our unit... eventually.
Additional Storage for the Mechanical Horse
The Friends have been given permission to erect a small storage shed near to our existing main storage shed. It is the old G.W.R bus garage from Bridgnorth, dismantled many years ago to make way for Ray Tranter's caravan! It is an important S.V.R heritage item and deserves to be reinstated.
When it was dismantled it was in rather poor condition, with a fair bit of corrosion in the steelwork at ground level, so our first job will be to repair or replace the framework where necessary, and paint it all prior to erection. As you may have guessed, the Great Western used their famous corrugated iron to clad the building, and this will probably have to be totally replaced. We will be obtaining this in an extra thick gauge, as usual, in line with the original.
The garage is 10ft wide by 30ft long, and being storage for a bus is 12ft 6in to the top of the doors, plenty of headroom for our purpose. It has a curved roof and a window in the back. The original window has been 'lost' but we have a very nice iron framed window from a G.W.R building at Droitwich which will fit the bill.
Besides the obvious need to bring this building back to life its reconstruction will further tidy the site, and will allow us to store the Scammell trailer inside for the first time.
It goes without saying that now the Scammell tractor unit is nearly ready we need a restored trailer to attach to it but we have seen that the trailer deteriorates quickly if left outside all the time. The proposed building is large enough to house the unit and trailer coupled together, but as the doors are only 9ft wide, reversing in the 6ft 6in wide trailer should be something of a challenge!
It is intended to work on this job alongside the speartop fencing project, although the fencing will be regarded as the priority. Restoring beaten-up old speartop is a thankless task so having a break now and then to prepare the building for erection will bring a bit of light relief!