Wrangaton Signal Box:
Update to 8th September 2008
The last report mentioned the floor we were putting in. That has now been completed after many trials and tribulations. Of course we ran out of wood. Most of this was due to the nature of some of the wood which was supplied, and we preferred to install wood of the top quality, without some of the hundred years or so's patina and blemishes which naturally came with it. It was frustrating as it was only the last two planks which we were short of, but then we had to wait for more machining and supply. It is then that you realise that pitch pine comes in various colours and grains, and a lot of the new wood which came was different in many respects. However, we managed to recover the best matches and put the planks in the least noticeable areas. This would not have mattered of course if we had planned to put lino on the floor, but as we are leaving the floor in its natural state, it did matter.
Whilst we were putting the floor in, we were very careful to either wear slippers or take all footwear off, as the wood marks very easily in its raw state. This led to many a splinter in the feet, and although it did not seem to be a good idea at the time with the pain of a slither of wood in the sole of one's foot, it all became worthwhile at the end when you could look at the completed floor. In order to protect the floor from marking, two coats of Bourne Seal were immediately applied. As there is still some work to be done on the interior - eg cladding, frame dismantling and painting, and so on - we laid a layer of hardboard on the new floor so that anything we did to complete the interior would not ruin the product of our labours. When we have finally finished the interior, then we will remove the hardboard and give the floor two more coats of Bourne Seal and then get ready for the opening ceremony.
Before then, though, there is so much left to do. There does seem to have been a disproportionate amount of time spent on the small fiddly bits which make it look like you are doing nothing on the box structure. If we count the hours we have spent on the windows and their associated trims, it is enormous. Each window opening has seven pieces of trim holding the window lights in place and also cutting down some of the draught. Each one is individually cut and shaped so it fits the window properly, and then lavishly painted on all four sides (many coats!) before fixing in position, filled and painted again. The window lights themselves have been difficult to get running properly and freely on their guides - but the good news is that all that has now been done.
We have nearly finished the internal cladding - a lot of the wood had to be replaced, so it was back to the pitch pine and machining again. The one great thing about working with hundred year old pitch pine is the smell. Each time you cut the timber, the smell of the resin is very strong, and sometimes the wood is so wet, even after those years, that the saw becomes clogged. But after a day of cutting and sanding and planing, the box takes on a smell that a perfume shop would be proud of.
Unfortunately, the recent weather has been against us for the final painting of the exterior. As soon as the weather improves (hopefully this year!), we have yet to put on the gutters and downpipes, finally put on the restored ventilator, varnish the front light stone and then............it's time to get rid of the scoffolding! So hopefully by the end of September-ish, weather-depending, we might see the box in all its glory. Watch this space.
Update to 19th April 2008
Since the last update, work on the windows and their slides has been completed, and we can now open and close the windows really smoothly. But perhaps the most important addition to the box has been the installation of the Romesse stove. This has enabled us to keep warm during the winter months. Even though it is nearly four months into the year, we are still using the Romesse to make working conditions inside the box acceptable. At the moment, there is only a temporary floor and no locking room door, so it is very draughty! The downside is that we have no passing trains at the top of the bank at Wrangaton to hurl a few lumps of coal out at us to keep the fires burning, and that traditional camaraderie between loco crews and signalmen has yet to be established by passing steam trains! However, we are not too badly off for kindling wood as the offcuts from all our carpentry work is put to good use.
The roof has now been slated with Welsh slate and it is such a relief to have the box waterproof. Unfortunately we have no gutters on as yet, but as soon as we do, then we will be able to remove the scaffolding. The one bit of the roof we still have to finish is the ridge ventilator. Wrangaton had one torpedo-type ventilator in the middle of the box. The one we recovered in our demolition job was not in very good condition, and we have been looking for ages for another to replace it. Along come Network Rail with their work to improve(?) the signalling on the Snow Hill to Leamington route and as part of this work, they demolished Bentley Heath signal box. This box had three ventilators which we learned about too late and which had already been acquired for another project. However, we did manage to salvage a few things from Bentley Heath such as the window handrails (missing from Wrangaton when we demolished it), some of the internal furniture and sundry items such as doors and door locks and flag holders - all essential to be able to create the correct scene in Wrangaton when finished. Thank you Network Rail. Then a stroke of luck - we learned where the three torpedos had gone, and we made contact with the new owners. They had a requirement for two of them and were planning to keep the third as a spare. However, very kindly, they offered the third to the Wrangaton project for which we are very grateful. It has cost us a GWR signal lamp in exchange!
Having received the ventilator, you realise that nothing is ever straightforward in restoration. Wrangaton has ridge tiles which have a roll along the top, and unfortunately one or two of them were cracked when we acquired them, and a long time was spent trying to get replacements. It was only then that we realised that rolled ridge tiles come in a vast number of shapes, angles and sizes, and to replace the one or two we needed took many visits and phone calls to reclamation yards. Eventually we found a supply of suitable tiles and bought far more than we needed, just so we had some spare in the eventuality of any more cracking.
Back to the ventilator - the skirt of the ventilator sits on the ridge tiles and wraps just under the edge of the tiles, thus making the ridge water tight. Guess what - the ridge at Bentley Heath was very definitely a different profile to that of Wrangaton. The GWR at Bentley Heath used much shallower angled ridge tiles than they did at Wrangaton. It was impossible to re-shape the zinc skirt without dismantling the torpedo, as to do so would have split the skirt and not provided the exact profile that is needed to keep the water out. So we applied a gentle heat and eventually the skirt and its two collars came apart from the vertical tube. That was the easy bit. We re-profiled the zinc to fit our ridge tiles, and then came the fun - re-soldering the assembly back together. Not an easy task as the zinc was by this time old and very dirty, even we cleaned it up to the best of our ability. Eventually we have managed to solder it all back together again, but it makes you wonder how so many of these were produced by the GWR - and why they made them so complicated. The original was a beautiful clean soldering job, ours is not quite so smooth, but we can blame the poorer quality of the zinc than the GWR craftsmen had to work with! The ventilator is now being painted and will soon be put up on the ridge to complete that part of the box.
We have also been very fortunate in acquiring a genuine signal box lock for the entrance door. It actually locks with the GWR standard signal box key which enabled you to enter the Company's premises from Birkenhead to Penzance. We have also acquired a suitable lock for the toilet door (essential for privacy!) and the genuine GWR cast handles.
The big project being undertaken at the moment is laying the operating room floor. The timber we brought back with us from Devon was not sufficient to floor the whole box as it stands at Kidderminster because of its condition and also the fact that we have a smaller frame in the box than originally and therefore need more wood. So we have acquired some genuine pitch pine, machined to the original specification and we are busy laying that. Like all good projects, the planning, talking and tea breaks seem to take an interminable time and prevent visible progress, but we have now got our datum plank down from which to lay the rest of the floor. It is so important to get the planks to lay in line with the frame itself, that we spent a lot of time planning it all, cutting to size, making indents for the nuts of the frame and so on. But hopefully we will get the floor laid in the next couple of weeks or so. Then we will seal it before laying a temporary surface on it on which to finish the interior works. Then the temporary floor can be removed and the floor given its final coats. We are intending to leave the floor in its natural state and not to introduce lino with which most boxes finished up.
So a lot is still going on at the pace we can afford in terms of money, time and labour. It may seem slow at times, but it now actually looks like a signal box and as if it has been there for a long time. Let us just hope that the weather improves very soon so that we can at least get some more paint on the woodwork, because at the moment, the roof is being well-tested.
Update to 9th October 2007
Only a brief update this time as it has taken us a lot of man hours to get the windows in. The steel strips on which the runners sit have now been fitted and all twelve windows have been persuaded in one form or another to fit into the holes provided. This has involved all sorts of precision persuasion and fine adjustments to make sure they roll from side to side feely and without leaving huge gaps top and bottom. It has been a case of trying it, taking the window out, adjusting it, packing the rollers, maybe a bit of judicial sanding, putting it back, taking it out and repeating the process until it is right.
Work has also progressed on the roof - the barge boards, gutter boards and finials have all had their top coats and varnish, so there is now no excuse for not getting the slates on - and not before time too as the weather has taken a turn for the worse. The windows have certainly changed the appearance of the box and it really does now look like a signal box instead of a building site. The slates will give the upper part of the box that finished look. The aim is to slate it in the next couple of weeks. Aims are not always achieved!
Work has also been progressing on the internal lobby, the door entrance and the toilet room. This will be continued through the winter months as it can be done in the dry. The main push is to get the box all really waterproof as soon as possible.
The outdoor gang have also been busy laying point rodding and getting the signals to work off the lever frame. The point rodding is the old round sort and looks the part as it stretches out into the distance to work either imaginary points or points which will be installed as and when we have manpower and materials.
A number of photographs have been taken over the last few months of work, and we will try and post some of them to this page over the next couple of weeks or so. Hopefully the next update will give the much-awaited news of the slates being in position. Now that the main running season has finished, there will hopefully be a bit more time that can be devoted to moving the Wrangaton project on a little faster.
Update to 31st August 2007
First of all, another question to the expert signal box builders. It is only by rebuilding a box that was first built so many years ago, that you realise you do not know the answers to some of the questions that are posed. In this case, it relates to the windows, and the steel strips on which the bottom of the window sits with its runners to give the signalman the opportunity to slide the window open and pour the dregs of his last cup of tea out onto the wires and rodding below (or an unsuspecting ganger!). Wrangaton is unusual in that out of the 12 windows, 11 are moving, only one is fixed. Certainly in a lot of boxes, there is always one fixed window in a pair, and this makes for an easier life as you only have the inner of the two sliding, and therefore there is only the need for one strip on which the rollers run. In the case of Wrangaton, we have had to put in two strips, let into the cill. This is no problem to do, but it raises a question.
The two strips run parallel to each other and stand about half an inch proud of the surface of the cill. It therefore creates a perfect receptacle for water when it rains horizontal as it does occasionally, to run off the inside window of the pair. There is seemingly no place for the rain to drain away, and the S&T would probably have to rely on evaporation to get rid of the water between the two strips - unless someone knows better! If you do, please let us know. What was the GWR practice in the late 1890s? Did they have drain holes in the strips, were the cills not level, allowing the water to drain to one of these holes? Our current thought is that there were no drain holes, and the cills were as you would expect them to be - level from end to end - and that in Wrangaton's case is thirty feet. We saw no evidence of anything other than rotten wood when we demolished the box, which would seem to suggest that evaporation in Dartmoor was not very good over the years, and time and lack of maintenance had taken its toll.
Update to 5th February 2007
I think that the sight of rafters as per the last update must have made us a little euphoric! The last few weeks have seen a myriad of little jobs done to enable the final push to be made to get the slates on. These included the building up of the brickwork between the rafters so that it now joins the roof boarding and encloses the back of the box. We have fitted the weatherboarding to the gable ends and what a transformation that has made - even more so when we fitted the barge boards and the finials. It starts to look like a signal box. And the fact they went up in their final paint colours as well just added to the overall impression. So what's left before the slates? - not a lot now. We have to fit the gutter boards and all the roof boards, nail on the slate battens, and that's it - slates on! Well that's the theory anyway.
The one problem is we do not have the slates at the moment, but we are hoping for a supply within the next week or so. This is because the majority of them were stolen some years ago. Also we are sourcing cast-iron guttering as the box did not have its original guttering on when we took it down. Indeed, it barely had anything you could call guttering attached to it at all.
So we persevere, and as we inch closer to completion, the enthusiasm to complete the box increases, as after all the years of back room work, progress on the ground is now so visible. However, even when there is a roof on, there is a huge amount of work to be done to complete the rest of the project. There is a floor to be put in, all the internal decoration and fitting out has to be done, including the block shelf, cupboards, entrance lobby and toilet room. In the background, several associated projects are being worked on - we are currently fitting out a wooden post home signal for erection and connection to the box. The site is being cleared for additional trackwork, with points to be worked off the box and telegraph poles are being prepared for erection to run wires to the box.
One question for our knowledgeable readers - please can you help with a point of detail. Wrangaton box has ventilators in the two gable ends. They had an internal sliding door which reveals the wooden slats. We also have a small pulley wheel attached to the ridge at the top of the sliding door which faces along the length of the ridge. How were these sliding doors operated by the signalman on the operating floor. He would certainly not have been issued with a ladder! Where did the cord attached to the sliding door run to. Bear in mind that at one end, the ventilator is directly above a window, above which was a shelf, and at the other end, the ventilator is above the entrance porch. It is a mystery to us and we would like to see some documentary evidence as to where the cords ran.
Update to 29th December 2006
Well it is quite exciting because Wrangaton which has for so long been a muddy site, a kit of parts, a concrete foundation, four brick walls and a bit of timber now actually starts to look like a signal box. It has taken so long to get there, but the roof shape is now clearly defined. We have just recently put on a new ridge and all 44 rafters together with the gable ends, complete with ventilators, and from the station platform it is unmistakenly a signal box. But to get there, we had to put in the corner posts, and the intermediate posts which sit on the cill. On top of those we craned on the front section which has the weatherboarding on the outside and tongued and grooved planking on the inside. We could then attach the similar short frames which tied the corner posts back to the brick wall, and at that level, we were then able to install the wall plate. The rafters had already been cut to the right angle for the ridge (or so we thought!) and painted with five coats of paint ending up with top coat of light stone. On the subject of painting, it has been our policy that all the timber work above floor height has been installed only after the individual pieces have been painted to top coat level. This is so much easier to do when they are individual components and you can lie them flat and load the paint on rather than painting for example a ceiling upside down once it has been nailed down. So although it has taken longer to get the roof on, it has been erected almost fully painted (only one top coat and a varnish to go) and will save us a lot of problems later on.
Putting the rafters on was no easy job. At times, the angle which we thought was the right one wasn't, and the birdsmouths (the joint where the rafter sits on the wall plate) varied a bit too, so each rafter had to be individually cut and fitted. And whoever thought (or designed??) a system where two of the rafters were sunk into the chimney breast. I would have thought that a signalman in the wilds of Devon who was marooned by the ravages of Dartmoor weather but who had an ample supply of Swindon coal might have cause the ends of the rafters to overheat a bit, and put the roof in danger of catching fire. However, we have no evidence that this did happen - only when we took the roof down all those years ago, those two rafters were really rotten at the point which they did sit in the chimney breast- more than likely caused by bad lead flashing around the chimney itself. So we have followed GWR practice and have promised ourselves not to have the fire too hot!
Incidentally, on the subject of fire, has anyone got a genuine GWR stove that they would be willing to part with, one which might have been found in a box such as Wrangaton in its early days? Failing us finding one, we will be putting a Romesse in the box instead, but it would be nice to find a proper old fire to use instead. Well, the position as of today is that over half the roof boarding is up to top coat and should be ready by the start of the New Year. New barge boards have been made, finials have been repaired, and gutter boards and soffits are currently being painted. The weatherboarding for all three sides has been cut and is being painted (the back wall is brick). All of these items will be on the box during January, and then it will be a case of nailing the slate battens down and slating. Unfortunately, there was a theft of some of the slates many years ago from the yard in which they were kept, so we are a few short - and also two ridge tiles which were broken. We are on the lookout for them.
We will try and put one or two pictures of the story so far on the site over the next few days. Watch this space!
Update to 20th August 2006
I am sure the GWR did not spend so much time getting it right - well at least not for a country box like Wrangaton - either that or they had a lot better materials with which to work. The upright posts which from the corners to the windows are now completed, but what a job! They are comprised of two large section timbers bolted together, but that assumes that the wood does not bow and that the two pieces sit together to form one large piece - when they do bow, as in the case of one of them, then a bit of judicious planing and letting in of a new section is necessary.
We are waiting for some scaffolding to be erected and hopefully in the next couple of weeks, we will be able to erect the next stage of the box, which will make such a big difference to the appearance. This will take us from the cill to the top of the windows and the wall plate. Once we are there, then it will be the turn of the gable ends, ridge and roof. We are hoping to get to this stage quickly now. We have had a summer when some of the days were just too hot to actually do any work on the box. Now we are getting a month where everything is getting wet again. We would like to work on the internals of the box during the winter period, so it is imperative that we get a roof on the building soon.
Whilst work has been going on repairing the timbers, the lead off bed has been constructed and some pulleys and cranks have started appearing, together with some round rodding from the levers. We do have a shopping list in this department, so if anyone has any spare round rodding, plus fittings, or cranks and pulleys, we would be very grateful if you would let us know.
This project has been a bit like repairing a steam engine - lots of work going on behind the scenes with little seeming progress, and then all of a sudden it all comes together. We would like to think that we are nearly at the stage when it all comes together.
Update to 10th June 2006
A long time has passed since the last update, but although the site looks very much like it did at the time of the last update, there has been some progress. Over the winter period, we brought the cill assembly indoors to work on. There had been a problem with one end of it cracking and twisting, and over a 26 feet length, it was to give us a mighty headache over the next few months. Repair work was done to glue it all back together, but the effect was to leave it with a slight bow - in itself that would not have been too much of a problem, but the channels for the bars on which the windows rollers run had been cut and resembled a banana. This would mean that the windows would not open and shut freely when installed, so a solution had to be found, other than getting a new piece of timber!
We decorated the cill with six coats of the best paint (the idea is that most of the woodwork will be erected with all but the last coat of paint already on as we can paint it indoors and not be subjected to the vagaries of the weather. Ironically it is too hot as I write this as opposed to too wet for most of the winter period!). We then picked our moment and installed the cill on the brick wall. We decided to give it a good foundation and bolted it down to the wall. In this way we were able to see where the stresses were of the timber having bowed. We bolted near those stress points and relieved the pressure by making saw cuts into the cill (the painting department were very stressed themselves after this!). The net result of all of this was that the cill now sits in a straight line on the brickwork, and the windows will therefore shut and open properly. The two side pieces to the cill assembly were then fitted, and all the holes and cuts filled and painted so now it is impossible to tell where the remedial work was done. This all took a long time unfortunately, and the weather did range from very wet to very hot as we were doing the job.
We have recently dealt with all the jointing of the vertical timbers which support the wall plates and thus the roof. These are tenoned into the cill, but could not really be jointed until the cill was in position, as we did not know whether the verticals would sit vertical until the cill was finally positioned. The vertical timbers are now being painted to the same specification as the cill and will emerge in dark stone within the next couple of weeks
Update to 25th November 2005
The operating floor joists were duly installed, an operation that went surprisingly easily considering the large section of the timber and the fact that one piece stretched the whole length of the box - nearly 26 feet, and not the sort of timber you get from your local DIY! There followed another session of bricklaying, and this time the bricks were taken up to cill level on the front and front half-sides, and the full height on the back and back half-sides. From the operating floor rises the chimney breast and once this reaches eaves height, it turns into a chimney. The chimney on the box is very tall. It was obviously extended fairly early on in its history, presumably because the signalman could not get his fire to draw and thus he remained cold in the damp bleak atmosphere of winter in Dartmoor. Just looking at signal boxes, it is surprising how many chimneys seem to have been extended at some stage in their existence. Anyway, we had an early topping out as we put the chimney pot on, the highest point of the structure. the view of passing steam trains from that height was also different - 100 tons of engine almost looked like a model.
The next job after the brickwork has been to recover as much timber as possible (not very much) and joint all the newly machined cills and upright posts. At the time of writing, this job is nearly completed. The cill along the front (a four man lift) is in position, and the return cills are jointed. We have jointed and shaped the vertical corner posts, and the three intermediate posts along the front wall. All these posts are jointed into the cill at the bottom, and into the weatherboard framework at the top, on which the wall plates sit. they are also shaped to sit on the cill, which of course slopes toward the outside to let the water run away. We just have one more post to joint, and then we can assemble all the bits up to eaves level. Then will follow a mass painting programme to protect the timber. The rafters, ridge and gable ends are ready to be put on top of the wall plates and once erected, we will then be able to get the building waterproof, by the traditional method of board and slate. the whole process is a bit like steam engine restoration. There are long periods when it seems that nothing is happening on the ground, but all of a sudden, the hard work that is being done behind the scenes comes to fruition. there has certainly been a lot of hard work involved with the timberwork. I don't think we realised until we started the job, just how intricate some of the joints are, how much timber there is in a standard GWR signal box, and how heavy and expensive the timber is. However, it is now possible to walk on a temporary operating floor, with the levers in front of you, a fireplace behind you - all that is needed is an armchair and a roof (not necessarily in that order!) To be continued......
More pictures of the job so far can be seen by clicking here.
Update to 1st May 2005
Of course all good plans take a lot longer to implement than thought - for various reasons! The brickwork has continued slowly but surely up to 16 courses above the plinth. This has incorporated the five cast-iron windows and cills, complete with brick arches above the windows, and the continuation of the doorways for the coal house and the locking room. We have now called a halt to the bricklaying because it is now frame installation time, and timber installation time.
Before putting all the levers in their position, we had the crane back at the site, lifting in the two major locking components for the frame. This required a little persuasion to make everything fit, but with the help of the crane driver it all went together as it came apart. All the levers have now been installed in the frame, and it looks most odd with these levers towering above the current state of brickwork, but it does give an idea of how high the operating floor actually is. The levers themselves need a lot of careful restoration, but this will be done when the roof has been put on, and we can work on them in situ. The moving parts have already been cleaned and greased. The frame uses stud locking, and it has been an interesting exercise to install the levers and attaching them to the locking. We have already had one or two people wanting to be passed out on the use of the frame!
The next step is to install the operating floor. The joist system was fairly rotten, particularly the large 9 x 4 central timber running the whole length of the box, and the ends of all the joists where they were built into the box external walls. Imagine the hostile Dartmoor weather, and think that the ends of these 7 x 4 timbers only had a 4.5inch brick skin protecting them from the wet. We have re-used the existing timber wherever practicable, but we have had to replace a lot of it due to its condition and the fact that we do not wish to replace it in our lifetimes. It is hoped to install the wall plates and joist system during the weekend of 7th/8th May, and we will put a temporary floor on it. This is so that the fine timber floor we recovered from Wrangaton will not be damaged by the continued building works. The slate hearth and polished floor boards will be the last things to be put into the box. After this timber installation, the brickwork will continue, and we have to get to row 52 before we can start thinking of roofs and windows. However, the brickwork is a little easier from now on, because there are no complicated openings, and all the setting out has been done. Come and see it progress if you can, or look at the latest photographs by clicking here.
Update to 22nd March 2005
The steel which supports the locking room floor was put in during February. Prior to that, several layers of paint were applied to protect it, because once the front part of the locking room floor, the part which supports the frame, is fixed, it will not be moved (hopefully) in our lifetimes! The only access will be by taking up the back part of the locking room floor which merely rests on the steelwork. We painted the steel in a nice deep red colour which matches the red painted on the timber truss on which the frame castings sit. This I believe was the true colour as we found traces of it underneath the drab grey which BR had obviously painted on.
Once the steel was positioned, it was time for the bricklayer to resume his work, and we built up to ground level fairly quickly. The biggest problem was the weather. First we had frost (not good for mortar freshly laid, especially with lime), and then we had rain - equally bad for the brickwork, especially as we are using blue engineering bricks which do not absorb moisture. We had a good week last week, and managed to get the bricks to a level about the plinth where the wall changes to 9 inches from 13.5 - about four courses up from ground level. Last Saturday, we had an exciting day as we hired a crane, and we lifted the frame castings onto the timber truss. This gives the level at which the operating floor will be constructed, and it looks very high up from the ground! The crane lift went better than hoped - the castings had all been prepared earlier, and they bolted together very easily.
So the situation as of today is that we are two courses above the plinth level. One more course and we start putting in the cast-iron locking room windows. There are three on the front wall and two on the back wall. The openings for both the locking room door and the coal house door are in place together with their cast-iron thresholds. I have taken lots of photographs of the building works, but they are currently being processed. Given a few days, I will post some more up-to-date photographs on this page. We are still aiming to finish the brickwork within the next three weeks, weather, Easter and bricklayers being willing.Then there will be the fun of the timberwork before putting the roof on. To be continued...............
26th December 2004
It is not quite as easy building the box as it was taking it down! The first major obstacle in our path was the fact that the site we had chosen for the erection of the box was made up of unstable ground. We found this out after we had excavated the pit in which the box sits, and when we then tried to dig deep enough for traditional footings. It was very sad to see the walls of the trenches starting to move, and the decision was immediately taken to fill them back in and consult the structural engineer!
There followed a great deal of drawing of steel details, so that we could cast a pad on which the box would sit. The end result was a mass of intertwined steelwork encased in a huge amount of concrete, and in the true tradition of all things railway, I am sure that it was over-engineered - in this case to such an extent that probably half of Kidderminster could be supported as well!
The pad was cast in July 2004 (there is a simple date inscription carved into the concrete to denote the fact so that future archaeologists can be helped a little) and since then we have been getting all the bits and pieces together to ensure that once the main contract goes ahead, there is no hold up for lack of materials. There have been two major achievements so far on the site - the first is that we have built a brick retaining wall behind the box, as Wrangaton had, and we have kept faithfully to the GWR practice of red stretchers and blue headers. We have finished it off with large 6 by 18 inch blue coping edges. The second achievement was a bit harder. We had to plot the actual box size, and then build the first two rows of bricks. This was a critical operation because on this will depend whether the box will go back together or not. When it was built in the 1890s, the brick base would have been built, and the upper wooden structure built on site to fit. We are doing it in reverse order. The locking room floor is existing, as is the upper floor and wooden structure. Thus we have to build the bricks to extremely tight tolerances or we have to modify all the timberwork when we come to fit it.
So we spent a long time setting the building out, allowing for the locking room, the coal house and the fireplace. We also had to calculate at what height the lead-off bed should be, which had a bearing on the cast-iron pedestals which hold the bridge rail which supports the front wall, and also the height of the locking room floor. The latter is also critical because it determines the height at which the timber supports for the lever frame are installed, which in turn affects the height of the operating floor, and so on and so on. However, it was with a bit of trepidation that we put the first two rows of bricks in, but it is wonderful to see the project starting to take shape - literally!
We have now stopped brick laying for a short time because on these two rows of bricks lay the steelwork to support the locking room floor, and the lever frame mechanism. We have acquired the steelwork, and we are currently giving that several paints of protective paint, because once the locking room floor is rested on it, we do not intend to lift the floor again - maybe some future interested person, but hopefully not in our time. Once the steel is finished and placed in its correct position, then the bricklayers will start again, and there now should be nothing stopping them finishing the external structure. Estimated bricklaying time is four weeks, depending on the weather in particular. Onto that we put a roof, and once that is done, then it is over to the S&T department of the museum who will install the frame, and all the interior fittings. It has taken a long time to get to this stage, and we still have a way to go before it becomes a superb museum exhibit which our visitors can enjoy, but we are hopeful that 2005 will see the completion of the project.
As with all projects, we have been careful not to extend
ourselves financially, and work has gone ahead on that basis. The
foundation work was a lot more expensive than we had planned for,
on account of the poor ground conditions. We are still actively
looking for funding of the project, so if you can spare a bob or
two to help us with this exciting hands-on exhibit, we would love
to hear from you.
If you want any more information, or you want to be involved in the project, then please get in touch with us.
Watch this space, or come and help (volunteers only!).
|Wrangaton signalbox in
|The site before any ground works were done. It is
just a heap
of soil, but a lot higher than the rail level in the bottom right
hand corner - hence the need for a retaining wall when the
site was dug out.
|Start of the excavation work with the JCB. The pit
needs to be
several feet below the rail level, so we end up with several
mountains of earth, some of which will be used again for infilling,
some to be used elsewhere on our site.
|The depth of the excavation. The seam of coal around
the left of
the picture would appear to be evidence of a coal yard which was
at a lower level than the existing made-up ground. The need for a
retaining wall is clear. A blinding of cement had been put into the
pit so that the reinforcement bars have somewhere stable to sit
whilst the concrete is poured.
|Starting the laborious job of tying all the necessary
bars. The hump in the middle is where the concrete raft does not
have to be so deep as it does not support the weight of the walls
of the box or its lever frame.
|The reinforcement eventually covered the whole site,
tied in to the vertical bars for the retaining wall.
|The concrete is poured at last!|
|34 cubic metres of concrete were used in the pad..||Tamping the finished pad|
More pictures of progress to date can be seen by clicking here
|Building the retaining wall. What will not be seen is
blockwork. What will be seen is done in red and blue engineering
face added to the blockwork, giving a 13 inch wall.
Ground Floor: We are currently undertaking major changes to the ground floor displays. Photographs and more details soon.
Can you help, please? If so, then please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|The museum donation box, courtesy of an ex-Great Western Railway pannier tank|
There is lots more to
see, lots more to do, and lots more to talk about, but if you
want to know more, then please contact us at:
Kidderminster Railway Museum,
Station Approach, Comberton Hill,
Kidderminster, Worcs, DY10 1QX.
Tel: (01562) 825316.