Jump to content

Secrets of the Drawing Office (1)

001.jpg.1b626e78bb4dc48e76a9c2501ccd52a9.jpg

 
Greetings everyone – Pickle S. Finkerbury here, railway historian and time traveller. As previously explained, I have a knack for being in the right place at the right time, which has provided me with unique insights into certain unknown aspects of GWR matters. Here is another extract from my files: 

 

 

002.JPG.1110f75c6759b1d8e82bb56af0dab740.JPG


Farthing, early 1900s. It is well known that the GWR treated the workers at Swindon to an annual excursion by rail. What is less known is that the top management at Swindon Works also undertook an annual excursion, although that was of a much more exclusive nature. This year, the distinguished group are visiting the ever expanding Farthing station.

 

 

 

003.JPG.a07d3724c9874f170f78b830b60fbe44.JPG


Their special train has been propelled into the sidings of the Old Yard, and the members of the prominent party are investigating the facilities. The First class coaches show early experiments with the garter crest livery, soon to become standard. The roofs won't stay white for long.

 

 

 

004.jpg.ef18d1e315a3eaa92a9355f5b0ec6101.jpg


The official purpose of the excursion is to obtain a first hand experience of practical engineering matters. But - as the local staff are quick to note - the participants seem more interested in socialising.

 

 

 

005.JPG.b0a073843c3bc0c5c76ad225278f9458.JPG

 
This includes L.R. Thomas, manager of the Carriage & Wagon Department at Swindon Works. He has brought along the young and rather lovely Miss Estella Havisham, whom he has been courting since they met at a ball in Swindon a few weeks ago. 

 

 

 

006.JPG.10cb0883170573a34bd8e9accd4fa599.JPG


Being of a somewhat awkward and old fashioned disposition, Mr Thomas is struggling to keep the conversation going - until he spots a couple of wagons in the sidings. Sensing an opportunity to impress the young lady, Thomas decides to discuss the evolution of the GWR wagon brake. 

 

 

 

007.JPG.dcd5f7d99a9481c28860ac0b952c84d6.JPG


Since he is talking to a woman, Thomas keeps it very simple: 'You see, Miss Havisham, this wagon uses our old brake design. You will note the large lever.'

 

 

 

008.JPG.ed0b0d37941b1050e59670ba4697be05.JPG

 

Thomas continues: 'We have been using this brake design for a long time, but it can only be operated from one side, and is really a rather primitive arrangement.'

 

 

 

009.JPG.0eb9fc00f380ddbd1330679613dea8d5.JPG

 
Moving on to the next wagon, Thomas becomes visibly excited:  'Now this wagon, by contrast, uses a much more modern and ingenious brake design!'

 


 

010.JPG.986d55270627b96a28940eaacf3547eb.JPG


'In fact this brake is my own design, which I patented a few years ago. It is known, I might add, as the Thomas Brake'. 

 

 

 

011.JPG.6fd4a06744cd891d08df789d447e8e72.JPG

 
'As you can see, Miss Havisham, my design has handles on both sides, rather than a single lever. By winding the handle the brakes are applied. Do you understand?'
 

 

 

012.jpg.2c20c63d99cb334ed7f5c34c4ebc0208.jpg


Miss Havisham does seem to understand. 'Oh Mr Thomas, what an ingenious mechanism!', she exclaims, 'And such an interesting topic. I must confess that all this talk of handles and levers excites me somewhat!'. 

 

 

013.JPG.b861016c4461ac405beff01a7e9c3e23.JPG


Now rapidly warming to the topic, Mr Thomas is about to go into further detail – but then Miss Havisham interrupts him:

 

 

014.JPG.8d7e225b6ca44d7965f685a602a75947.JPG


'But I wonder, Mr Thomas, if a more convenient single-action arrangement could be developed? One might perhaps exchange the handle for a side lever with the end set downwards and connected via an adjustable link to a toothed quadrant which could be loosely mounted on a transverse shaft. Short hand levers could be fitted at either end of the shaft, with which the rack could be actuated via a projecting arm, thus engaging with a lug on the quadrant. A pawl could be used to retain the toothed rack when the hand lever is pressed down. When on, the side lever would lift and reverse the brakeblock shafts on the rocking shaft at the V-hanger. Would that work, do you think, Mr Thomas?'

 


015.JPG


Speechless and bewildered, Thomas just stands there.  What Miss Havisham has just described is not only highly ingenious, it is also a design very similar to one currently being developed by William Dean himself, with much input from Churchward. How on earth would a layman - and a woman at that! – be able to come up with something so advanced?

 

 

  016.JPG.6ffb19922e79e050cb54a413245f8672.JPG

 

Just as Thomas is about to regain composure, an elegantly dressed man approaches them. Thomas’ heart sinks further. He knows exactly what is going to happen. What had seemed such a promising day is rapidly becoming a nightmare.

Who is the elegant man in the grey suit? Why does Miss Havisham know so much about wagon brakes? And what will it all mean for Thomas’ efforts to court her?  Find out in Part 2, which is here.

  • Like 36
  • Thanks 1
  • Craftsmanship/clever 10
  • Funny 4
  • Friendly/supportive 1


42 Comments


Recommended Comments



Wonderful tales as ever Mikkel and delightfully photographed. 

 

Er, as a wee favour could you pm me  Miss Havisham's address, just in case she fancies a wee trip up here to sort out that silly McIntosh patent brake........... 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Like 1
  • Agree 1
  • Thanks 1

Share this comment


Link to comment

Miss Havisham strikes me as “no better than she should be” and a rather flighty piece. Where will it all end, they’ll be wanting the bloody vote next!

 

Disgruntled of Sherton Abbas

  • Funny 6

Share this comment


Link to comment

Brilliant Mikkel, love the dialogue and your modelling is pretty special too.

 

Rgds.....Mike

  • Agree 2
  • Thanks 1

Share this comment


Link to comment
Mikkel

Posted (edited)

5 hours ago, Dave John said:

Wonderful tales as ever Mikkel and delightfully photographed. 

 

Er, as a wee favour could you pm me  Miss Havisham's address, just in case she fancies a wee trip up here to sort out that silly McIntosh patent brake........... 

 

Ha ha, thanks Dave. That made me curious about the McIntosh brake, and I found a thread here. It looks like it was an attempt to solve the same problem, i.e. easy two-sided operation. Thomas' brake was patended in 1897. Atkins et al write in GWR Goods Wagons:

 

Quote

Great controversy reigned at the end of the 19th century concerning the desirability of brakes being so arranged that they could be operated from either side of the wagon. Accidents frequently occurred to shunters running across wagons to get to the brakes on the 'other' side of the vehicle when fly shunting [...] The inspecting officers of the Board of Trade drew attention to the fact that the ordinary wagon brake was a 'primitive and unsatisfactory appliance' and following rulings about it, and by its sucessor after World war 1, the Ministry of Transport, many designs for 'either sided' brakes appeared.

 

What is not clear to me is why it was a "great controversy". Was it an engineering controversy, or a political controversy between worker's safety versus company cost? And if the latter, how did the shunters/staff manage to win the case (genuine questions, not fiction :)).

Edited by Mikkel
  • Like 2

Share this comment


Link to comment
Mikkel

Posted (edited)

5 hours ago, wenlock said:

Miss Havisham strikes me as “no better than she should be” and a rather flighty piece. Where will it all end, they’ll be wanting the bloody vote next!

 

Disgruntled of Sherton Abbas

 

Yes, totally unacceptable. I hear the suffragettes have recently launched the motto "deeds, not words". What an absurd approach to politics.

 

Fretful of Farthing

 

 

2 hours ago, ikks said:

Brilliant Mikkel, love the dialogue and your modelling is pretty special too.

 

Rgds.....Mike

 

Thanks Mike. Positioning the figures used to be a bit of a pain (they kept falling over), but several of these have a bit of wire fitted. The groundcover (extra light polyfilla) and foamboard on this layout makes it easy to place and remove the figures, leaving very little trace.

 

The groundcover doesn't come out well in photos though. It is not as yellow/pale as it looks! But definitely too smooth, lesson learnt.

 

Edited by Mikkel
  • Like 2

Share this comment


Link to comment

"Sensing an opportunity to impress the young lady, Thomas decides to discuss the evolution of the GWR wagon brake."

 

This sentence has "DON'T GO THERE!" in flashing neon parenthesis. Brilliant!

  • Thanks 1
  • Funny 3

Share this comment


Link to comment
Harlequin

Posted (edited)

Brilliant! And educational!

 

Somewhat tangentially I am reminded of Trumpton and Miss Lovelace in particular:

MissLovelace.JPG

 

Have you thought about animation? Netflix might come a-knocking... :wink_mini:

 

Edited by Harlequin
  • Like 2
  • Agree 2
  • Craftsmanship/clever 1
  • Funny 2

Share this comment


Link to comment
46 minutes ago, Edwardian said:

"Sensing an opportunity to impress the young lady, Thomas decides to discuss the evolution of the GWR wagon brake."

 

This sentence has "DON'T GO THERE!" in flashing neon parenthesis. Brilliant!

 

Thanks James, and I do agree -  wagon brakes doesn't strike me as an obvious  pickup line either. Not that I've ever tried it. Maybe that's where I went wrong during all those desperate attempts! :D

 

32 minutes ago, Harlequin said:

Brilliant! And educational!

 

Somewhat tangentially I am reminded of Trumpton and Miss Lovelace in particular:

 

Have you thought about animation? Netflix might come a-knocking... :wink_mini:

 

 

Thanks Harlequin. I googled 'Miss Lovelace' and got a slightly different result!  :D Adding Trumpton to the search helps though. Looks like the inspiration for Postman Pat? Anyway, I had better not start animating. Already this foolishness is adding a cartoonish look to the layouts that I'm a bit ambivalent about :)

  • Like 2
  • Funny 3

Share this comment


Link to comment
Northroader

Posted (edited)

I don’t think Miss Havisham was in the drawing office, relationships between draughtsman and the tracers were very commonplace, and it’s doubtful she’d get on the Paddington outing.

ABE2C9BB-8CFF-4842-AA0F-4BAC73843CB4.jpeg.730edbda3f2fdbcbc5bda5d9579e8f21.jpeg

 

is it possible she worked in the telephone exchange? They regarded themselves as superior creatures, as being able to wig in on high level conversations, and so capable of getting in on a higher level of social contact.

5D440EFF-8F7C-4953-8AEA-3983776547EE.jpeg.e60cc6c770280b7fd129b4dcd88faec5.jpeg

 

wherever she came from, I do hope she’s more sucessful than her Dickensian namesake.

Edited by Northroader
  • Like 3

Share this comment


Link to comment

I'm looking forward to Part III, where the BoT man turns up and explains the multifarious ways in which Mr Thomas' and Messers Dean and Churchward's inventions meet with official disapproval. I'll be interested in his justification for disapprobation of (a) the brake lever being at the left hand end of a wagon and (b) brakes which could be released from the opposite side to that from which they were applied. 

 

In Part IV, that suave Lancastrian, Morton, will overpower Estella's sensibilities with a minute description of his reversing cam. What young lady could resist?

Edited by Compound2632
  • Funny 3

Share this comment


Link to comment
Mikkel

Posted (edited)

 

3 hours ago, Northroader said:

I don’t think Miss Havisham was in the drawing office, relationships between draughtsman and the tracers were very commonplace, and it’s doubtful she’d get on the Paddington outing.

 

is it possible she worked in the telephone exchange? They regarded themselves as superior creatures, as being able to wig in on high level conversations, and so capable of getting in on a higher level of social contact.

 

wherever she came from, I do hope she’s more sucessful than her Dickensian namesake.

 

Pure speculation, I have no idea what you are talking about! :) 

 

Those are lovely photos though, I hadn't seen the one from the telephone exchange. Is that the actual Swindon one? I must confess to using the term "Drawing Office" in the fairly broad sense here - i.e. as a place where designs are made.

 

 

2 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

I'm looking forward to Part III, where the BoT man turns up and explains the multifarious ways in which Mr Thomas' and Messers Dean and Churchward's inventions meet with official disapproval. I'll be interested in his justification for disapprobation of (a) the brake lever being at the left hand end of a wagon and (b) brakes which could be released from the opposite side to that from which they were applied. 

 

In Part IV, that suave Lancastrian, Morton, will overpower Estella's sensibilities with a minute description of his reversing cam. What young lady could resist?

 

Hmm, maybe there's scope for having yourself included in the story, good Sir. :)

 

I was waiting for you to discretely point out that the end numbers on the 3-planker are probably wrong, given the left hand "GWR". Other issues include the lack of couplings on the U4 coach nearest the loco, a last minute substitute for a 6-wheel saloon (which is third class, and so wouldn't have been appropriate).

 

I haven't found much information on L.R. Thomas, and so I am not sure how long he remained as manager of the Carriage & Wagon Dept at Swindon. It seems to have been his title in 1897 when he registered his patent, but after that I don't know.

Edited by Mikkel
  • Like 3

Share this comment


Link to comment

I'm sure it was from you, Mikkel, or possibly gwr.org.uk, that I learned about the presence or absence of numbers on wagon ends... 

 

Mr Morton seems to be even more elusive than Mr Thomas, though I gather he was a L&YR employee, with patents for his both-side brake lever arrangement dating from 1885 and 1898, though the final double cam arrangement is from 1902 [P. Tatlow, LNER Wagons, Vol. 1 and also Basilica Fields].

  • Like 2

Share this comment


Link to comment
3 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

I'm sure it was from you, Mikkel, or possibly gwr.org.uk, that I learned about the presence or absence of numbers on wagon ends... 

 

Ah. I have just noticed that while I have indicated when numbers on the ends of general purpose vehicles began to cease (c 1929), I have said nothing about when they began, which I think originates from late-ish broad gauge days. 1880 ??

 

  • Like 1

Share this comment


Link to comment
21 minutes ago, Miss Prism said:

 

Ah. I have just noticed that while I have indicated when numbers on the ends of general purpose vehicles began to cease (c 1929), I have said nothing about when they began, which I think originates from late-ish broad gauge days. 1880 ??

 

 

I've gone back to my post of 5 Nov 2017 when I was building my batch of Great Western 4-plank opens - also on my wagon-building thread (somewhere). My reference photos were Atkins (3rd edition), plates 350 and 351, respectively Nos. 44600, photographed in 1902 with wide-spaced G W R at the LH end and no number on the end; and 64493, photographed in 1901 with close-spaced G.W.R at the RH end and number on the end. So I leaped to the conclusion that numbers on the end came in with the move to RH G.W.R, c. 1893 according to gwr.org.uk. Mikkel then complimented me on this observation, so I claim credit after all! Of course this is based on just the one photograph...

Share this comment


Link to comment

Brilliant!

I'm still overcome by the erotic smell of railway drawing offices... 

How the hierarchy would always find the excuse to cluster around the board of the occasional young lady tracer and act out their macho technical arm wrestling.

dh

  • Like 3

Share this comment


Link to comment
Mikkel

Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Compound2632 said:

 

I've gone back to my post of 5 Nov 2017 when I was building my batch of Great Western 4-plank opens - also on my wagon-building thread (somewhere). My reference photos were Atkins (3rd edition), plates 350 and 351, respectively Nos. 44600, photographed in 1902 with wide-spaced G W R at the LH end and no number on the end; and 64493, photographed in 1901 with close-spaced G.W.R at the RH end and number on the end. So I leaped to the conclusion that numbers on the end came in with the move to RH G.W.R, c. 1893 according to gwr.org.uk. Mikkel then complimented me on this observation, so I claim credit after all! Of course this is based on just the one photograph...

 

Yes, and since then I haven't seen  a wagon with left side GWR and end numbers. Apart from those references, here's another, this is Bodmin 1890 (heavily cropped).

 

3plank2.JPG.36851c35b98983e62d60407e50898c0c.JPG

Edited by Mikkel
  • Like 1

Share this comment


Link to comment

That's a very ancient wagon - self-contained buffers suggesting a conversion from dumb buffers, or from broad gauge? 

Share this comment


Link to comment
Mikkel

Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, runs as required said:

Brilliant!

I'm still overcome by the erotic smell of railway drawing offices... 

How the hierarchy would always find the excuse to cluster around the board of the occasional young lady tracer and act out their macho technical arm wrestling.

dh

 

Thanks dh. Sounds like you have some very interesting personal experience! 

 

There are some interesting interviews with former staff of the drawing office at Fielding & Platt here. Dennis Norman in particular talks about tracing and tracers:

 

https://www.fieldingandplatthistory.org.uk/content/category/works/the-drawing-office

 

Edited by Mikkel
  • Thanks 1

Share this comment


Link to comment
21 minutes ago, Compound2632 said:

That's a very ancient wagon - self-contained buffers suggesting a conversion from dumb buffers, or from broad gauge? 

 

Not sure, could be hired maybe. Can't make out the number. Plate 399 in Atkins et al shows something similar, a hired china clay wagon. 

Share this comment


Link to comment
2 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

So I leaped to the conclusion that numbers on the end came in with the move to RH G.W.R, c. 1893

 

Ok. That sounds reasonable.

 

  • Agree 1

Share this comment


Link to comment

It isn’t just the buffers, there’s the end stanchions, and a brake lever which might overexcite our Miss Havisham. Then what’s a standard guage wagon doing at Bodmin in 1890? It could only get there courtesy of LSWR?

  • Like 2

Share this comment


Link to comment

It's clearly lettered G.W.R and there's quite a lot of iron in it which is a bit of a Great Western thing. 

 

Compare this ancient thing:

 

1914874267_HPFactorysidingswithtraverserc1900GWwagoncrop.jpg.8e6860b041f1936456f4620f028cb9e6.jpg

 

[Crop for research purposes from a photo in the Huntley & Palmers collection; full photo here.]

 

Livery is the post-1893 style. If the number is 28637, then it's in a number block subsequently taken in part by O2 7-plank wagons of 1905-7 - but not I think this number. If it's 25637, then it's in a block taken by O4 5-plank wagons of Lot 459, but not necessarily this particular number. The point is, the strange construction. There seems to be an iron solebar - possibly angle iron? - with the axleguards bolted on behind. It's not clear how the spring shoes are supported. Headstocks appear not to extend beyond the solebar, so it's not clear either how the self-contained buffers are supported. 

 

Just to show that the Great Western could throw up some truly antique oddities.

  • Like 2
  • Informative/Useful 1

Share this comment


Link to comment
Mikkel

Posted (edited)

9 hours ago, Northroader said:

It isn’t just the buffers, there’s the end stanchions, and a brake lever which might overexcite our Miss Havisham. Then what’s a standard guage wagon doing at Bodmin in 1890? It could only get there courtesy of LSWR?

 

The caption says it's Bodmin General, so I think it would have come in via the GWR line from Bodmin Rd?

 

Edited by Mikkel

Share this comment


Link to comment

Just digging out my history book and checking facts, which I should have done earlier. The Bodmin branch was opened as a standard gauge line by the GWR in 1887, and linked into the  Bodmin and Wadebridge bit of the LSWR, but the LSWR proper hadn’t got further than Launceston. It didn’t join up with the B&W until 1895. The Bodmin line joined the Broad guage Cornwall Railway at Bodmin Road, this amalgamated with the GWR in 1889, and gauge conversion came in 1892. So a GWR standard gauge wagon on the Bodmin line in 1890 would have been specially shipped in, and very isolated.

  • Informative/Useful 2

Share this comment


Link to comment
28 minutes ago, Northroader said:

So a GWR standard gauge wagon on the Bodmin line in 1890 would have been specially shipped in, and very isolated.

 

In fact on the same footing as the LSWR stock on the Bodmin & Wadebridge. 

  • Agree 1
  • Informative/Useful 2

Share this comment


Link to comment

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.