Quirky Questions No.8 “Covering up (in) the Past” is about a simple and important aspect of goods services…  how were wagon sheets, and the ropes which secured those sheets to open wagons, managed within and between railway companies?  Modellers with a hankering for the Midland Railway are served well by an excellent article in issue no.3 of the Midland Record journal (Wild Swan).  Other railways are not so well served as the Midland Rlwy. hence the request for information within Quirky Query No.8.

An initial response has been posted to the GWR E-list (a Yahoo Group) which reminds us that a GWR Sheet Store was at Worcester – clearly something to be pursued.  Thanks to John Greenough who is an ex-pat in the Antipodes.


Edit the first

An extract from the GWR WTT/STT section no.5, 1925, courtesy of Brian Bailey.

Now this is a conundrum…  how to ask a small and simple question about a subject which is so little considered and yet was of such importance to the carriage of goods in the late 19th century…  and a subject which was relevant to all railway companies since wagons from most (any?) of those companies could have been seen on the Extended Widened Lines.  OK, possibly wagons of the North London Railway might not have penetrated the gloom of those hallowed tracks..   maybe a reader can offer a plausible scenario for NLR wagons working over the EWL?

So to the subject of this post…  sheets ands ropes, required in their thousands for covering and protecting goods in transit when carried in open wagons.

Much has been written about how the railway companies managed the movement of loaded and empty wagons….  and about how the Railway Clearing House kept records of  foreign* wagon movements between railway companies….  little has been written about the management and return of the sheets and ropes which would have made similar journeys across railway boundaries.  A good explaination of how the Midland Railway (and its successors) managed wagon sheets and associated ropes is provided by Midland Record No.3 (Wild Swan)…  good enough to prompt investigation into how things were done on other railways.  Such a task seems necessary to the working of goods services through Basicilia Fields and yet such a task is onerous in the extreme.

How can readers of this journal assist?  Initially, by contributing to what is known and where such information is recorded relating to wagon sheets / ropes for those railway companies whose wagons are likely to form the bulk of the goods stock working over the Extended Widened Lines.  Please feel free to provide such details by comments to the Quirky Answers post for this subject.  Our initial thoughts are that such wagons are likely to come from the following companies:-

* Great Central Railway;
* Great Eastern Railway;
* Great Northern Railway;
* Great Western Railway;
* London and North Western Railway;
* Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway;
* Metropolitan Railway;
* Midland Railway (recorded in Midland Record No.3).

thank you, Graham

[BTW – information received on this subject is available in “Querky Answers – Sheets and Ropes“]

* foreign in this context means a wagon owned by railway company “A” working over the tracks of railway company “B”.

The world of Basilica Fields is more than a railway…  Basilica Fields includes and represents a part of the East End of London across a broad spectrum of geography, commerce, life…  a window into a world that is beyond memory.   Just the other day, probably sometime next week, a discussion took place about the interior of the late 19th century hovels which spread across the East End like jam on butter….  smeared onto the face of the world.  Neither of the authors could recall much knowledge of how the rooms were arranged or the approximate sizes of the buildings which were “home” (or “Des Res”) to thousands of those who spent most if not all of their lives in the dismal sprawl of this part of London.

So why were we discussing such a subject…. and how does that discussion relate to the Quirky corner of Basilica Fields?

The sketches of the The Rookery and of Angel Yard depict row upon row upon row of dreary houses, many of those houses are not much better than slums and soon to be swept away.  Those rows occupy a significant area of the proposed scenes and having dimensions of a representative, typical, building will be of great value when setting out the miniature real estate.

In best Quirky tradition this post offers an opportunity for readers to help with some questions and thoughts.  What might have been the size of a terraced house, for a labourer, in the East End?  How many rooms downstairs and upstairs?  What would be the size of the yard and how big might be the requisite out-house?

Photos, drawings, pointers…  what do you have that can help us in this quest?

regards, Graham

Or ‘cartage’ by another name.

Basilica Fields is set in the period 1890-1905 at which time options for the transport of goods were limited to canal, rail and road with movement on the road being mostly by ‘horse and cart’.  So in the late Victorian era goods traffic was moved between towns (or village, or city, or colliery or dock…) by the railways at a fine pace…and then delivery to customer’s premises would be dependent upon how fast the horse would go whilst pulling a loaded lorry. Whilst the GWR, in common with many other railway companies, used steam lorries for heavy loads, the use of petrol /diesel power for mechanisation of the collection and delivery of traffic was not viable in the Basilica Fields timescale.  We prefer to leave such advances to be hidden in the mists of time – or the depths of a London pea-souper.

Back to the topic… This journal has introduced previously the subject of Artillery Lane and the GWR Goods Depot at Gun Street, a small depot which acted as a satellite to the GWR depot which served Smithfield Market.  In truth the East End of London seemed to be awash with goods facilities for some of those railway companies which served London – try ‘Town And Country’ Vol. 1, (Irwell Press) for a map showing the coal, grain, potato and general merchandise depots and yards to be found within a few miles of Fenchurch Street station.  Artillery Lane is the first part of Basilica Fields to be described in detail so far; there are many more locations to be described in the journal and some of those locations include goods facilities such as coal drops, warehouses and docks…mostly served by the Great Eastern Railway.

Which means that the streets, yards and depots of Basilica Fields will feature a wide range of railway wagons (to carry the traffic to / from the sidings) and an equally wide range of horse-drawn lorries, vans and poles.  Each location in Basilica Fields will illustrate the handling of specific traffics and the horse-drawn vehicles will be those appropriate to the traffic and the railway company.  So, for example, the traffic which is handled at the Gun Street depot requires horse-drawn vehicles of the type(s) which the GWR developed for it.  In addition to the horses and the horse-drawn vehicles, the cartage services dictated that the railway company provided ‘bed and breakfast’ for the horses, and so Gun Street is provided with stables and a provender store – which is cue for two specialised traffics, being provender in and manure out.

As a description of the horse-drawn lorries and vans for Gun Street requires an understanding of the traffic through that depot, then the GWR Cartage Services for Gun Street Depot starts with details of goods received and dispatched.

This post is by way of a place holder for a subject which is proving difficult to crack…  that is:- how did the Metropolitan Railway arrange the switch and crossing work for their permanent way.  If the short and snappy title of the post leaves you a tad puzzled then the subject of this post is the way in which the Met. Rly. arranged the rails, chairs and timbers for the turnouts.  At this point, after more than six months of research into the topic, we have to say that we know very little about Met. Rly. turnouts in the period 1885-1905  and much of what we understand about the subject has been provided in anecdotal form – primary source material is noticable by its absence.

The recent comment by Kit Williams prompted me to look for a copy of the book which was mentioned in the first paragraph, “A History of the Metropolitan Railway – vol. 1”, (Bill Simpson, Lamplight Publications, 2003, isbn 1 899246 07 X).  First port of call when searching for railway titles is the “Railway Collection” of Hampshire County Council – a collection of circa 10,000 volumes which has its origins in the library of the Eastleigh Railway Institute.  The collection is housed in Winchester Library and the majority of the items are available for loan; Hampshire Libraries provides an on-line search facility which includes the railway collection, a couple of minutes work with the keyboard informed me that the required book was available “on-the-shelf”.

The photograph on page 28 is known to Adrian and I, we have a copy of the image from an unknown source.  Whilst the photograph is out of copyright we are not sure as to the situation regarding reproduction of this image and hence its absence from this journal.  Suffice to say that the photograph is one of only a handful of images of Met. Rly. turnouts in the pre-electrification era and hence is key to our modelling of that aspect of Met. Rly. permanent way.  For those who are interested in the subject, the London Transport Museum has an on-line photograph collection and one of those images shows the same junction from a different position.

So thank you to Kit for prompting a start on this subject….


Basilica Fields is a 7mm model of a railway set within the context of the East End of London…  a “what if” railway with a supporting history which is sometimes somewhat different to the expectations of academics and historians of all persuasions.  Within the world of Basilica Fields there are several, separate, “scenes” which represent different railway locations in the vicinity of Bishopsgate – Artillery Lane is the first scene to be brought before the public gaze.  The railway history of Basilica Fields is set in late Victorian / early Edwardian days and this brings a pleasing benefit in that the model shall present railway services from up to seven railway companies running on the tracks of just one or two, or maybe, three pre-grouping railways.

The permanent way for Basilica Fields is built to S7 standards – 7mm scale modelling with a track gauge of 33mm, (Scaleseven track and wheel standards).  There is no “S7 equivalent” to buying a box of “O-gauge track” over the shop counter so all of the permanent way for Basilica Fields is hand-built.  As the S7 standards for track are generally independent of company….  and track has to be constructed to represent the permanent way of at least three pre-grouping companies (Metropolitan Railway, Great Western Railway and Great Eastern Railway)….  then this post describes the construction of plain track in a generic way.  Where the 7mm track has a feature which is company-specific then that feature is covered within the descriptions of the prototype permanent way; so for example:- the use of a jig to provide sleeper spacing is described here whilst the details of the sleeper spacing are to be found in the respective descriptions of Permanent Way.

So where to start?  Perversely, with the end product so as to explain the philosophy behind preparation of parts.

I have been making S7 track for at least five years and what follows represents my approach to achieving a consistent result and where the initial colouring of the components has been achieved before assembly.   The appearance of the track panels at this stage is “clean”…. colouring of components before and weathering after assembly is easier than assembly/laying/painting in place.  All of the weathering is to be done after the track has been laid and the techniques are to be covered in a separate post.

The sleepers are made from Lime and are of scale 9′ x 10″ x 5” dimensions.  The sleepers for Basilica Fields are supplied ready-cut from Perfect Miniatures.  The colouring process uses shoe dyes with IPA to let down the intensity of the dye and as a medium when the sleepers are immersed in the dye.  Much of the track of Basilica Fields is set in brick-lined cuttings where the sun shines on the track for just a few hours of the day, so the initial staining of the sleepers represents timber which has retained something of its original colour and yet appears to be damp and dirty.  The initial stain is a 10% by volume solution of the brown dye….  with several “dips” to build up the colour.  After the sleepers have attained a deep brown colour the damp and dirty colouration is applied by immersion in a solution of 10% brown and 10% black by volume.

In the beginning - dyeing materials

The stain solution is made up in a plastic tub, the sleepers dropped in and the tub agitated (gently!) to ensure that the sleepers are covered and wetted all over.  After five minutes in the solution the sleepers are drained using a metal kitchen sieve (retained for the sole use in staining) and then left to dry on newspaper…  with the drying sleepers being “tumbled” occasionally to promote the drying process and to avoid a blotchy appearance.

Sleepers - before and after

Now on to the chairs…  in this case the chairs are from the C&L Finescale range as being similar to those used by the GWR circa 1895, (see the drawing in GWR PW for Gun Street).  Enamel paints (Humbrol) are used for painting the chairs with the “dirt and weathered rust” colour from a palette of black, brown and gunmetal (33, 133 and 53 respectively).  The oak keys are then painted using a mix of  “track dirt” and “rusty rails” (Precision Paints).  Keen-eyed readers will spot that the chair sprue has chairs with keys to the left and chairs with the keys to the right….  this difference between “LH” and “RH” chairs is important when fitting chairs to the rail.

Painted chairs - rusty (left) and dirty keys (centre and right)

Sleepers are loaded into a jig which enables sleeper spacing along the rail to be replicated for each new panel; in this case all of the sleepers are the same width (GWR – 10″), where a track panel has wider sleepers at the ends then that increased width is accomodated within the appropriate jig (Met. Rly. – 12″).  Chairs are slid onto the rail, which is blackened chemically, with care taken to ensure that the keys are aligned correctly for the intended use of the track panel (and with the keys of the outermost chairs arranged so as to be “driven” towards the fishplates).  The rails are held at 33mm apart by S7 Group track gauges – available from the S7 Group stores and a benefit of group membership.

The chairs are fixed to the sleepers by Butanone which is applied by brush on eitherside of a chair where the chair touches the sleeper.  The chairs are moulded in ABS and that plastic is soluble in Butanone.  The solvent runs into the gap between the chair and sleeper, dissolves the base of the chair and the resulting ABS “gloop” gets drawn into the grain of the sleeper (by virtue of the solvent which has been absorbed by the timber).

The jig is a piece of 3/4″ chipboard upon which is fixed a distance piece cut from 4mm MDF – the MDF is 55mm wide and less than the length of the sleepers (63mm).  Thin, 1/16″, ply spacers are glued on top of the distance piece – the width of the spacers is such as to place the sleepers at the required centres. The sleepers extend beyond the distance piece so that an assembled track panel can be removed by raising all sleepers at the same time rather than sliding the panel sideways (if a sleeper sticks as a panel is slid sideways then that “sticky” sleeper can impart a twisting moment to the bond between chairs and sleepers).


track jig with sleepers and rail/chairs/gauges

“Here is one I prepared earlier”…  a representation of a GWR track panel with 32′ rails, 13 sleepers and appropriate chairs and fishplates (as in the GW PW post referenced earlier).

The final result - a representation of GWR track panel, 32'0" rails, 13 sleepers, circa 1895

One of the benefits of 7mm scale modelling is that parts are bigger and more detail can be included.  Exactoscale locking fishplates are fitted to the track here, these fishplates are moulded in ABS and hence provide insulation between rails.  Each moulding has bolt heads on one side, and nuts on the other side, of the moulding.  The light colour of the keys allows the placing of the keys to be seen with the outermost chair placed so that the key is “driven” towards the fishplate.

Completed track - fishplates and keys


Ref:- Quirky Query 2 – GWR PW in Victorian times

We left Quirky Query 2 with some photos of a GWR rail chair (in my care) and the question…  “is the chair an example of the type for the 86lbs rail of 1882 ?”.   None of the comments on that post have provided a definitive answer…  rather those comments have deepened the puzzle.  In the meantime, Adrian and I had concluded that the sidings in Gun Street depot were subject to frequent renewal and so the model shall portray the GW PW of the mid 1890s rather than of the early 1880s.  However, the comments to Quirky Query 2, combined with new photographs, suggested that there is more to the original post than was thought.  In taking this story forward, I am glad to acknowledge that the comments on QQ-2 awakened a recollection as to where I might find some contemporary material. A recent bright and sunny day provided the ideal opportunity to do some detective work and the results are presented here.

Our railway “heritage” sites provide railway historians with many opportunities to study artefacts from an earlier age and none more so than with bits and pieces from the railway infrastructure – in this case the simple rail chair.  At one particular heritage site an unknown person has “collected” examples of chairs from a range of pre-group companies….  and that collection includes a couple of chairs which are very similar to my example.  The photographs below show an example  of the type with raised rather than recessed lettering – just as predicted in a comment to QQ2.

The first photograph shows a side view of the chair – with the word “patent” visible in raised letters.

GWR Chair - 1

The second photograph shows an end view – with “GWR” and “A-D” in raised letters.  I hope that a reader can explain the significance of “A-D”.   In passing, note the grooves to the inner face of the far jaw…  a feature which is discussed later in this post.

GWR Chair - 2

The third photograph is another side view – and shows yet more raised lettering,”Mc K & H” which I feel is likely to be McKenzie & Holland (a signalling contractor).

GWR Chair - 3

The Malvern Industrial Archeology Circle website offers an outline of the history of Mckenzie & Holland where the origins of the signalling manufacturer is recorded as “Thomas Clunes”, iron and brass founder of the “Vulcan Iron Works” in Worcester.  McKenzie & Holland as a company name dates from the mid-1870s which means that the chair in the photograph is post circa-1875.   What aspect of the chair is the subject of the “patent” is not yet known to me.

Returning to the chair in the original QQ2 post, the similarities between that chair and the casting above are very strong, the only significant differences are the lettering and the manner in which the lettering is represented – comments to QQ2 noted that raised letters are easier than recessed letters for cast items…  and that the “pattern” for the chair casting was likely to have been made as a metal item (from a wooden master with double shrinkage allowances).  In the absence of any information about the nature of either the “patent” or the business relationship for supply of castings – the possibility exists that the GWR bought the patent-rights from McK & H and thereby gained a metal pattern for the cast-iron chair.  Removal of the raised lettering on the metal pattern would be fairly easy – building up new lettering would be difficult and hence one can suggest that the new lettering was “engraved” into the metal pattern hence the recessed lettering on my chair.

As for the vertical grooves in the jaw, Harvie (1898) records that the GWR had been experimenting with spring clips as an alternative to oak or teak keys.  The relevant text refers to a circular spring clip being inserted into the space between the jar and the rail with the ends of the clip bearing on the rail.  Whilst not conclusive the grooves on the face of the jaw may be related to the use of such clips.

Unfortunately none of the above furthers the case for the original question…  however, the similarity of my chair to the McK & H specimen puts the likely date of casting as contemporary with the introduction of the 86lbs rail in 1882.