Work goes on, on several fronts as usual. The arrival of our new volunteer, Graham, has meant that the project to repair eleven speartop panels for the terrace to be built alongside the new restaurant at Bridgnorth has moved forward quickly as he has helped with welding. The fencing was cut down at Trowbridge leaving the end posts in the ground. We have made new end posts and stays, and are currently welding on extension pieces to the top and bottom rails to replace material lost when they were cut down. A gate will also need to be made, using original 'spears' and a new frame. In all this project will save about £8,000 against the cost of all-new replica fencing – a decent contribution to the Bridgnorth project!
I couldn't resist making an offer to produce three replica brackets for the 'Gentleman' and other signs for above the doors on the Bridgnorth restaurant building. These lovely ornate brackets are an alternative to the 'vee' shaped signs placed above doorways and have a totally unnecessary degree of ornamentation. Beside the normal wrought iron scrolls there are stylised acanthus leaves and flower petals all probably produced in the blacksmith's forge. As we have no forge the challenge was to make exact replicas using steel bar and plate using a welding torch, grinder and file. This proved to be a most entertaining project! Again, a big saving has been made by manufacturing these in-house. The cost of the services of a skilled blacksmith to make these replicas would probably be in excess of £1000.
Although the 'speartop' fencing and signboard brackets are not destined for Kidderminster, we are on same railway, and in the past we have had assistance from the guys at Bridgnorth who kindly riveted the lattice brackets for the station canopy for us. It is gratifying to be able to make a contribution in return.
Meanwhile, at home, I am producing the last of the advertising signs for the roof of the W.H.Smith's Kiosk. This project, in memory of Chris Bowler, has begun to transform the look of the kiosk and I am glad to say attracted some favourable comment. Unfortunately I cannot work with anywhere near the speed or skill of a 'proper' signwriter, and devoting the odd few hours here and there, has meant that the project seems to have taken forever to get the results I was looking for.
Quick off the mark was Syd Andrews who has made a smart wooden frame to cover an ugly hole in the brickwork where the extractor fan for the King and Castle blows through the wall. This is a great improvement. I cannot imagine the G.W.R putting up with a rough unfinished hole in the wall in such a prominent area. Another nasty eyesore was loops of wire passing through a series of holes drilled through the wall above the gent's toilet door. Again this is not the standard of work that would be tolerated in G.W.R days, so Syd made some replica Great Western wooden trunking to cover the exposed wiring and keep it safe. Small details such as these do much to improve the overall professional appearance of the station.
John Davies requested we make pub signs for the King and Castle some time back. The sign for the concourse entrance was mentioned in the last Newsletter and now we have fitted the sign on the road side entrance.
The design is intended as a nod to the 1930's and the artwork and printing of the signboard itself was kindly provided by Alan Reade. These striking signs will hopefully attract more custom to K and C's as it was all too easy to pass by without noticing the bar was there at all.
Inside we have produced four period advertising prints for Guinness in Art Deco style frames. This project was also initiated by John Davies who had initially intended to use proprietary tin reproductions which appear in people's 'railway rooms' and suchlike. I suggested that we could do a project with some nice reproduction prints in frames which would be more appropriate as part of our heritage station. On completion John said was very pleased with the result, so we are happy with that.
It is sometimes a struggle to make sure no nasty inappropriate modern additions appear on the station to ruin the heritage appearance. One very near miss was when contractors installed a very conspicuous modern plastic burglar alarm bell and flashing light in the most prominent position they could think of – directly above the stationmaster's office door!
As luck would have it the work was only partly complete when I spotted it and I was able to get the alarm repositioned out of sight. If the contractors had completed the job and gone, I'm sure the cost of calling them back would have prevented this correction from being made and we would have had to live with the eyesore permanently.
I am constantly shocked at the ease with which nasty inappropriate 'modernisms' can creep onto the station, and how seriously they can damage the fragile heritage atmosphere. The staff, both paid and volunteer must keep and eagle eye on any additions or alterations as it is all too easy to spoil the heritage atmosphere on the station (and anywhere else on the railway for that matter). Our customers come to take a look back at the scene from days gone by and it is commercial suicide to ruin the very thing they come to see. 'They don't know any different', I have heard some say.
Don't you believe it!