Over the years a considerable quantity of Railway ephemera has been collected at different sites on the Severn Valley Railway by assorted individuals with the intention of preserving them for use or display or just in case.
These items can be preserved in a number of ways. They can be lovingly restored and placed in a museum or storage facility under cover or "preserved" by putting them to one side in an available space for attention later.
There are different categories of preservation which apply to the latter.
1. Light exterior preservation. The item is covered by perhaps a waterproof sheet thus hiding it from view until some over zealous tidier up uncovers it, doesn't know what it is and throws it away.
2. Medium exterior preservation. Mainly applies to items made of metal which deteriorate much more slowly but become very difficult to restore after long periods of disuse.
3. Extreme preservation. (sometimes referred to as Replication) Usually applies to wooden items which have deteriorated to the extent that only the ironwork which held it together remains.
We have several items rescued from 1 and items in both other categories in the compound by our shed. An item from category two caught my eye.
This was an unusual type of trailer in that it had an angle iron frame, a very long wooden neck at the end of which was a towing eye. There was also a similar towing eye on the back of the trailer thus allowing several of these to be towed coupled together.
However the main attraction was that this trailer has wooden centre wheels but with thick spokes originally painted red with cast iron? rims, solid rubber tyres and is very solidly constructed and is ex Swindon Works. 'To carry one ton' it said. A worthwhile restoration project I thought.
On examination the springs were found to have been forced apart due to rust between the leaves, the wooden spacers for the spring hangers had rotted badly and the bolts were seized solid and had to be cut off with the jolly gas axe. However with a little applied heat and large spanners all of the other original bolts came undone and even the bolts through the ends of the springs were salvaged. The springs were dismantled and the leaves de-rusted but I don't think they will carry one ton in future.
To cut a long story short the trailer has been de-rusted, painted black, new wooden spacers for the spring and axle mountings have been cut by hand, springs and axle painted, woodwork treated with preservative and wheels painted red and the whole thing reassembled and very nice it looks too. We've now got to find somewhere to display it under cover...
Benches and barrows are the two most vulnerable platform 'accessories'. Unless rigorously cared for or kept permanently in the dry they are lucky to last ten years before rotting out. I keep pestering the station staff to put the G.P.O barrows (which are regularly used) in the dry overnight for this very reason. Fortunately the G.W.R barrows are of heavier construction and not so handy for daily use. They generally stay safe under the concourse roof with a load of suitcases for display, and here they will be capable of lasting many, many years.
Not so lucky were two G.W.R single-wheel barrows and a very heavy 4-wheel trolley. They were restored about fifteen years ago but spent time outside.
The trolley contained an air raid siren for display at 40's events but fell apart when some children tried to play with it! Malcolm wanted to replace it with one in store in our shed, but it had a spare Thornycroft engine on it so we decided that restoring the broken one was an easier option and would avoid scrapping a rare trolley.
In the case of the single-wheel barrow, the parts of the two rotten ones were combined with new timber to make a good barrow (seen above during assembly). The handles, one leg and the 'chair back' had to be replaced, the spindles for the 'chair back' were kindly turned for us by Mr. Millington, Steve's dad.
The trolley will have a new frame and deck made, and some new tie bolts to bring it back from the brink as well. The original tie bolts were made from wrought iron which would suggest the trolley is in excess of 100 years old.
Many people would wonder at all this effort to save a couple of trolleys. We have tended to treat them as a consumable item, and I very much doubt that any survive on the big railway. So when they are gone they are gone. This sort of restoration work seems to be outside the scope of many heritage lines, so these items will become very rare as time goes by. A bit of effort on our part now will ensure that this once-familiar station equipment remains on show at Kidderminster for a while longer.