The fencing on the Restaurant Car Platform is one of the biggest jobs attempted by the Friends in recent times. The cost is moderate and on-going so will not break the bank, but the man-hours which it consumes are enormous! At the AGM we said the job was 'beyond our means' but we had second thoughts!
The nice original speartop gates illustrated in the last magazine were to prove the inspiration for continuing matching fencing all along the back of the platform. This type of fencing is very much a G.W.R trade mark item. Most stations of any size on the Great Western system invariably had some and so it is fair to say that adding some of this characteristic fencing will do much to enhance the atmosphere.
When we began repairing the panels we noticed that there were two distinct designs. One has a rib that runs right to the tip of the spear, and the spear is quite large and thin. The other has a short rib that stops half way up the spear which is much thicker and slightly smaller and the raised initials G W R (but no manufacturer's name) appear at intervals along the top rail for this type. This could only have been done at the rolling mill and strongly suggests that the G.W.R made this type fencing itself – another string to their bow!
Because we have two designs we are using up all the first type to begin with, so that we don't end mixing them up along the length of the fence.
As I mentioned in the last newsletter we had a certain amount 'in stock' at Kidderminster. These have been increased by additional panels given to us by the Station Master from Highley, John Ash. These panels were surplus to their requirements but invaluable to us. Many thanks, John. Two Highley panels have already been restored and are in place, two more are ready to go in! Our thanks also go to Colin Astbury and Mr. Millington for organising delivery of most of these panels to Kidderminster.
When Bob and I went to Highley to inspect the spare panels we had a look at the brand new replica speartop fencing being put in there as part of the footbridge / public footpath / museum access project. (The reason for the footbridge is to prevent intending passengers being cut off by the train they were expecting to catch blocking their path on the way back from the museum.)
This important access route has justified spending a bit on replica speartop fencing and very nice it looks too! However, the Kidderminster fence has far less urgency, so repaired original panels are the way forward. I have to say that I am pleased. The replica fencing is very good, but re-using original stuff is best, particularly having heard from several sources that it came from Kidderminster in the first place!
Presumably it was removed by B.R when our new station was built and the station approach remodelled. Fencing originally ran from the station road entrance to the railway bridge alongside the pavement on Comberton Hill. When the remodelling took place all but a short length was torn down and the bank planted with bushes and shrubs
When we began installation, the first piece to go in was a 'make-up' piece to get from the height of the speartop gates at platform level up to the height of the fencing that will run along the back of the retaining wall. The piece that has gone in had to be made twice! In our rush to install as much as possible before the contractors started laying the diamond pattern blue paviors behind the retaining wall, we had to estimate the height of this surface and raise the fence level accordingly. Unfortunately no sooner had we constructed the make-up piece but the contractors moved in and laid the new path substantially higher than anticipated. An additional setback was the need to dig up the freshly laid paviors to 'plant' the fence and then cut the glass-hard bricks with notches and slots to go round the posts!
I have laughed at municipal workmen digging up freshly laid roads and paths to put in their pipes and wondered why the surface couldn't be laid afterwards. Lack of communication? In our case the new path is access for main line passengers who will be using our car park as overflow. It was a contract job and could not wait for our volunteer input. However, so far the path and the fence have produced plenty of favourable comment. At the time of writing have installed the first six of a total of thirty-two panels.
This work is extremely time-consuming and necessitates dismantling the old panels by grinding off the riveted bottom of the 'spears' in order to dismantle them. The spears and top rail are scraped of old paint, wire brushed and reassembled with new end uprights, stays and bottom rail. All new pieces need to be sawn to length and drilled. They go together with the welds out of sight so as to look as original as possible and once painted with primer, undercoat and gloss are ready for erection. I would estimate that each panel requires at least 16 man hours work from start to finish, much of it rather tiring manual labour wielding a Tungsten Carbide scraper or a hacksaw.
Mick Yarker. October 2009