A long-outstanding job has been the restoration of a two - wheeled G.W.R hand cart. It was obtained many years ago By Malcolm Broadhurst and initially was on display at Bewdley where Malcolm was stationmaster at the time.
Its rubber tyres disintegrated with age and it became rotten in parts having spent time exposed to the elements at Kidderminster. Members of the 'Friends' restored the cart but hit an obstacle with the tyres. We contacted the Veteran-Cycle Club, hoping to purchase solid tyres intended for 'Ordinary' bicycles (Penny Farthings) but the cost, £400, proved prohibitive. In this country Ordinary tyres are made of solid rubber with a spring moulded in the middle. The tyre section is cut and joined to form a ring by screwing an exposed length of spring on one end into the cut off other end such that the springs mesh together and join the tyre to make a circle. This is then glued to the wheel with rubber solution.
Bob noticed on the internet that in the States they use a thick-walled tube with a loose wire inside. The circle is made by compressing the rubber to shorten it and joining the ends of the wire with silver solder. He decided to imitate this method but used strong single strand fencing wire with the ends bent over to from hooks. The rubber was compressed to shorten it and the wire ends hooked together. When the rubber was released it lengthened to complete the circular tyre which was then sprung onto the rim. A first class job at no cost!
I must admit that I had my doubts that this would be possible but Bob skilfully made tyres for both wheels and fitted them. As a result the hand cart is back on display and looks very good too, painted in 'Factory Brown' and lettered out.
Hot on the heels of the successful restoration of the G.W.R hand cart we have also completed a G.W.R sack truck, one which must be the largest type ever built. I spotted it many years ago broken and out of use at Worcester Shrub Hill Station. Again, Malcolm obtained it and about fifteen years ago it was repaired by Dave Redfern and put on display at Kidderminster. At that time the station had no cover whatever, and standing open to the elements this sack truck rotted quickly.
The wooden frame has now been completely replaced in oak, and the missing U shaped feet made and fitted. 'Factory Brown' paintwork and the appropriate lettering completes the restoration.
Both these barrows will be kept under the concourse and hopefully will have a long life this time round.
In the scheme of things, running the railway with all the work it involves normally leaves little time for restoring the small non revenue-earning items like these. But this is what we, the 'Friends', are all about and hopefully we are able to do more for our station than the volunteers on most other preserved railways can do on theirs.
At the front of the station there was a large board headed GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY. SEVERN VALLEY LINE and giving the names of the stations served. This was a wooden board with mostly original cast iron letters screwed on. It was rotten, so the 'Friends' have produced a new board in marine ply with a hardwood surround modelled on a board formerly at Buildwas. It was a chance to practice our woodworking skills with some fancy joints in the cross-ties.
We have obtained two suitable lengths of bullhead rail and hope to shortly replace the old board and its posts with new, working in conjunction with members of the Wednesday Gang. There is not much to see at present, except a big black-painted board but hopefully we will progress this job in the near future.
Other on-going jobs are to complete a set of fire buckets for the station, as mentioned in the last Newsletter. Fourteen are required in all and we should just have enough. Nigel Hanson has very kindly rescued two for us to complete the set. They were in use for carrying spanners and suchlike but are much better doing their intended job.
G.W.R fire buckets are most distinctive as they are considerably taller than your average galvanised bucket and needless to say they are no longer obtainable. If they are lost through neglect, misuse, frost damage or theft, then they cannot be replaced. Bob looked into getting some specially made for use at Kidderminster and elsewhere on the railway but has drawn a blank. Like so many other historic artefacts, once they are gone, they are gone - forever.
Two or three years ago Steve Millington began restoring a superb Great Western First Aid Cabinet, which had been in the care of Malcolm Broadhurst. He began by carefully stripping the various layers of paint and priming and undercoating it in red, but there the job remained until taken up recently by Andy, Bob and myself.
Andy and Bob dismantled the panelled door which had come adrift at all its joints, and re-glued it and held it together with sash clamps until glued firmly. The door was then primed and undercoated, and the whole cabinet carefully stoppered up with wood filler to get rid of the numerous knocks and gouges it had received over the years.
I gave the whole cabinet two coats of finishing in gloss red mixed to match the original colour and applied the lettering. My limited signwriting skills were certainly put to the test with this job. I took the door home to work on it there and the result is quite imposing even if I say so myself, although with close examination there are shaped letters and other faults. I hope Bob Timmins doesn't come over for a close look!
Also stretched to the limit were my locksmithing skills. The lock on the door had no key so I made one, filing the key one step at a time to operate the bolt and each of the four levers to get the lock to work. I hadn't made a key before and had to give the problem some thought. Being a four-lever lock (for security) there were five steps in the tiny key and it was precise work. However the even tinier lock on the stores door inside also had a four lever mechanism that was positively microscopic and this defeated me. I have no watchmaking skills and the levers were so thin and closely spaced that I could not make a key to work. I gave up and fitted an old three lever lock which I had in my collection of 'bits' and by luck was exactly the same outside dimensions and complete with a key!
I vividly remember seeing these cabinets on former G.W.R stations years ago. In B.R days they were painted a shade of grass green which is today the accepted colour of First Aid Boxes. As the cabinet will fulfil its original function I took the opportunity of painting a removable panel behind a glass window in the door with the legend 'First Aid Kit Inside' and a white cross, to conform to modern standards. I have no idea what this window and panel were for. Inside the box was an original list of contents, and a card giving treatment of minor injuries. These fitted in a pocket on the inside of the door. Inside it was divided into compartments with doors. The top compartment was for stores items for re-stocking the first aid box, the middle compartment contained dressings and medical instruments, the door dropping down horizontally to form a dispensing shelf. The bottom compartment was for blankets and a space below it for the metal first aid box itself. To the left of the compartments was a space for storing splints of various lengths.
When complete the cabinet will be screwed against the wall alongside the entrance to the concourse.
There has been no progress on the Thornycroft since the last Newsletter. All our attention has been directed towards the Scammell flatbed trailer in the former bus garage building.
The decking has been purchased and fitted. Originally it would have been made from Keruing, a red-coloured hardwood of a fibrous nature. Unfortunately it is only readily available in narrow half-lap boards (as were used on the Thornycroft). The next larger size is 8" x 2" and cutting this down to 6.3/4" x 1.1/8" which is required for the trailer is wasteful and obscenely expensive. We looked at Oak, but American Oak is not weatherproof. European Oak is, but is very expensive. It also attacks steel screws very vigorously. This left Sapele, which we have chosen. It is a red hardwood rather similar in appearance to Keruing but of a less fibrous structure. The planks are held down to the chassis by 5/16" coach bolts converted by myself from 8mm metric. We have used no metric fastenings whatever on the Scammell, but, where still available, imperial bolts now cost four times the price of metric!
The timber for the headboard has also been purchased and cut to size ready for fitting. All the clips for the removable drop-sides are made and will be fitted once the side rails have been painted. The brackets for the headboard are finished too. Originally they were tapered forgings and reproducing them proved to be an interesting exercise. In the end we heated and bent steel strips and laminated them together by welding to form the required shape. The result looks remarkably acceptable.
At present Charles, Bob and myself are engaged in filling and rubbing down the side rails ready for final painting and lettering. The wooden side strips (Ash) and headboard planks can then be fitted, as can the clips for the drop sides. Finally, once a few jobs below decks are completed the lettering will be applied. We have chosen plain brown with cream lettering, a style adopted around the start of World War Two. Previously the trailers had been fitted with pressed aluminium plates 'GREAT WESTERN RAILWAY' in three separate plates, one for each word. We do not have the means of pressing these plates, which seem to have been made similar to the old pressed registration number plates. Perhaps one day a set of originals will turn up!
On completion of the trailer, we intend to move the Mechanical Horse tractor unit into the former bus garage and couple it with the trailer, freeing up room in the storage shed to tackle the restoration of the container.