As I mentioned in the Editorial, Steve Millington has explained that due to personal circumstances he has had to give up his active role within the Friends. This is a blow to our small volunteer group, as he has been an outstanding member of the team, working to a very high standard and, as well as being our Chairman, he has spear-headed the restoration of the Thornycroft beside working on the many projects we have undertaken over the years. His input will be very much missed.
However, we press on. The Thornycroft has made little progress since last time, unfortunately. We have been given two catches for the drop sides and tailboard. They are just right so I have decided to junk the ones that I made which do not look correct and use these 'new' (old stock) catches. However, we need four; so I have laboriously carved two replicas out of chunks of steel (the originals are neat little forgings) and it is hard to see the difference between new and old. I am pleased with that!
In the last magazine I mentioned the Voltage Regulator and how it seemed difficult if not impossible to find the correct replacement. Well, persistence with Ebay was rewarded and we have managed to get hold of one for a mere £27. It is positioned very visibly in front of the driver and substituting a relatively tiny 'modern' regulator would look out of place on the big control panel bracket. I had already asked Steve McCabe to have a look at the wiring diagram to see how it could be altered to accept a more modern regulator and he pointed out a rather mysterious detail. The proper regulator has only one solenoid. The cut-out (which prevents the battery trying to drive the dynamo like a motor) is supposed to be part of the dynamo assembly - but isn't on ours. This raises the question is our dynamo the correct type? All this is something of a mystery at the moment...
Also, on Ebay, I have just found a rear view mirror. It is an exact match to a mirror bought some while ago for the Thornycroft, and a close approximation to the missing Great Western originals. This means that we now have a set of suitable vintage mirrors for the lorry. Another 'must have' crossed off the wanted list.
It is surprising how these once-common items are getting really hard to find. A visit to an autojumble is usually fruitless these days. Stuff for 1980's 'vintage' lorries is available but go back another forty years and you are wasting your time!
We are still stuck for an 8" headlight, and a genuine G.W.R Pyrene extinguisher would be very nice. (We have a BR one which will do). Otherwise we have all we need to finish the job.
G.W.R Station Master's Bicycle
The longer-term members will probably remember that we acquired a G.W.R Knocker-Upper's Bicycle. This was restored many years ago and is a rare, possible unique survival. But on the railway at Kidderminster, there is another Great Western bicycle. It is a 1930's Station Master's cycle and is particularly interesting in that the frame is fitted with a metal plate advertising the parcels service (on one side) and household removals (on the other.)
The cycle was originally obtained by Malcolm Broadhurst and was at Bewdley station for many years. Malcolm was aware of my interest in vintage bicycles and he asked me to help restore the bike way back in about 1980.
The original advertising plate from the frame was in poor condition, so I put it to one side (it is now in Kidderminster Railway Museum and made a new replica. It's serious 'patina of age' made it unsuitable for use on a totally restored bike and the last thing I wanted to do was repaint the original.
Subsequently the cycle was used on several vintage cycle runs from Kidderminster, featuring in the local paper and generating quite a bit of interest. But the passing years had not treated this wonderful cycle well, nor had the station staff, who used it as a 'knock about' bike. The original 'beaded edge' tyres (which had the magic letters G.W.R moulded into them) Were cast away and modern ones fitted. One of the original pedals was broken then lost or discarded and the carbide lamps (which fortunately were not G.W.R originals) 'disappeared'. The bike gradually deteriorated to scrapheap condition.
I was not at all happy about this. In my opinion (and I am RIGHT), this sort of artefact should be treasured and conserved.
(I once had an argument with the curator of the folk museum in Worcester who had an immaculate 'Ordinary' or Penny Farthing cycle out on display in all weathers. I said that though it is worth £5000 it not the money that is important. It is dead easy to come by £5000. Just ask a bank manager. But try to get another bike of this quality... It's irreplaceable. He didn't see my point. It was left to rot where it stood.)
So action was required with the G.W.R cycle. Geoff gave me permission to take it home and restore it for a second time. This has now been done, and the cycle is back in good condition. Sadly, original parts have been lost or destroyed and I can't magic them back, but most of the bike is original, and we intend to keep it safely. I will not be around in another 30 years to restore it again.
Incidentally, a replica of this bike, created by Nigel Hanson and myself is on display at the Engine House, Highley.