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Modellers aren't doing china clay justice... and that's a shame.

Stoker

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One thing I see quite frequently when browsing layouts on forums like this one, is that if it's china clay themed it's all too often been shoehorned into a micro layout, or the clay works is relegated to occupy the smallest possible corner of the larger layout. The thinking I've quite frequently encountered is the question of "how little clay works can I get away with modelling?", as if it would be an intolerable burden to include more than the absolute minimum. To give you an example, for one modeller here on RMweb I produced a 3D model of a traditional coal fired dry as a scale reference for his new layout - the subject in question was in actual fact the shortest (in length) single clay dry serviced by rail in Cornwall (a shorter one existed at Burngullow West sidings, however this was more of a supplementary dry that was an addition to a larger complex of drys).

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The model in 00 scale would've come out at about 1 metre long and 64cm deep.  Well it turned out, even this was too big! I was asked if I could design something smaller.

Knowing that no smaller dry existed, what I offered our comrade was something that I thought was a pretty good compromise that would suit the desire to work with both limited trackside space AND the desire to build small coal fired drys: Instead of a trackside dry in his desired spot, I recommended a trackside loading wharf, with nearby small drys on the hillsides in the corners of the layout, connected by road to the wharf, with lorries taking the clay the short journey from the drys to the wharf. This is something for which there were several prototypes in Cornwall, at Bugle, Ruddlemoor, Gunheath, Carbean, Meledor, Nanpean, just to name a few. Sadly, the idea was dismissed immediately, "I want a dry by the tracks". Why though? Why build something when you cannot do it justice? If you really "want" it why are you so willing to diminish it to the point of pure fantasy? I walked away utterly convinced that I would be unable to help this person, and that they'd be best left to their own devices.


 

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"...if people can find the passion to model passenger stations to prototypical standards, why is this enthusiasm lacking among those who are attracted to the clay?"


Of course, I understand that modelling the smaller works is more practical than the larger, given just how huge some of the prototypes are, but I feel this issue goes further than that. People just seem to genuinely dislike the idea of building large structures and sacrificing precious layout space to the works. This attitude really puzzles me, because I'm quite the opposite; when I think about designing a new china clay layout, my first thought is "how much clay works can I fit in the available space?". In my view, a large part of the appeal and the atmosphere of the china clay branches comes from the buildings in the works, with towering roofscapes, almost like hillsides made out of corrugated asbestos. The buildings dwarf the trains, framing them with tall loading wharves and covered loading areas. Their size and length is also a matter of practicality, clay trains often being 4 or more large bogie wagons long, or rakes of ten or twenty 4-wheel wagons.

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Who doesn't love Vaughan-esque scenes like this?

This phenomenon almost completely disappears when it comes to passenger trains, with modellers often wanting to include the absolute maximum amount of platform length they absolutely can. This complete 180 in attitudes is quite puzzling to me, because in an instant it demolishes all excuses applied to the china clay prototype. With the construction of stations, you often hear of concern surrounding running trains of prototypical length (albeit at the lower end), having platforms of prototype length (again at the lower end) to accommodate them, and dedicating adequate width on the baseboard to the station structures. This begs the question, if people can find the passion to model passenger stations to prototypical standards, why is this enthusiasm lacking among those who are attracted to the clay? For some reason, the desire to construct grandiose train sheds of large city terminii also seems irresistible, often with stunning results, yet I can count on one hand the number of layouts I've seen that have attempted the larger clay works, despite their being equally as impressive in presence.

It's not just in the size either, it's also the fidelity. People seem to use diminishing language to describe clay dryers. I shudder every time I read the word "sheds" when what the modeller really means is linhay. This may just be a case of ignorance of the subject, to wit there is something of an information vacuum on the internet regarding the finer details of the subject, and I've made plenty of my own efforts on this forum to remedy this. But there also seems to be just a general contempt of the silly little industry in silly little ice-cream-and-beaches Cornwall, putting their silly little white stuff in their silly little oversized garden sheds! How quaint, right? This low-fidelity approach belies a much more characterful, textured, nuanced structure. A great opportunity is missed when one merely decides to plonk unaltered sheets of slater's finest corrugated plasticard over a balsawood frame, as even the roofs are an interesting mix of lapped sheets, clear skylights, vent hoods, ridge and edge trim, and the occasional mismatched replaced panel.

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Just look at how varied this one structure is... so much for a "shed"!

"Quaint" is another word oft applied to Cornish clay that makes me shudder, because like "shed" it also denies or ignores a much richer reality. Clay country is not so quaint to me. I grew up there, and quaint isn't even on the list of adjectives I would've used to describe it. Clay works as I remember them were rough and ready, set in rugged landscapes, poor (but happy) villages, the works staffed by hard (but friendly) Cornish men, managed and coordinated by efficient intellectuals, chemists, and engineers, working in futuristic mid-century offices and laboratories of ECC's unique mid-century-modern architecture. The upper echelons of the company had a bright vision for the future, and the proletariat shared in their optimism. Clay work was once hard work, many men spent 6 hours a day just shoveling clay off a hot pan, or shoveling coal into a furnace. The built environment is imbued with this vibrant human history, because it was built by the minds of the men who lived in the reality of this place.

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From the labs...

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... to the drys.

To build a model clay works as just a "shed by the tracks" is to do a great disservice to the subject, and also to yourself. By doing so, you are short-changing yourself of the opportunity to indulge in the colourful living history that is the Cornish clay industry. So my plea to those of you who are at the drawing board, ask yourself: What would the men in these photos have built?

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Just a 100 foot long shed with a chimney and a pile of coal?

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A quaint trackside oddity in sunny Cornwall?

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Or maybe something more befitting of a company that once boasted a headquarters like this?

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I know not every layout room will have the space for the grandest of works. But sometimes it's just a matter of changing your focus. Because even a very large works...

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...can seem much smaller if the photographer picks a different angle.

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I'd say that writing a book to impart your knowledge would be a good idea - it means that your knowledge will outlive you.

 

I think the problem is that none of us know everything and there is probably a human tendency to assume that what we do know is more important than what we don't know.  Some individuals naturally have a greater desire to learn and expand their knowledge than others.  Some will just learn information that is easy to acquire.  There are hundreds of books with photographs that show train formations and therefore it is easy to know what a real train looked like at a particular point in time, whether that is a passenger train or a working from a China Clay site.  It's therefore easy to try and get that right.  Similarly, most of us have visited dozens of railway stations, so they are places that we are familiar with, but few have access to industrial sites.  Our knowledge of the operation of such facilities has to be acquired second hand from those who work at such sites or from knowledgeable individuals who have written reference books on the subject for those who are interested.  If the knowledge isn't easy to acquire, then it is probably assumed by many to be less important.

 

I'd also say that 'ignorance is bliss' and what we don't know doesn't really bother us.  As an example, I was at a model railway exhibition a few years back and looking at an exhibit with a fellow club member during a break from operating our club layout.  To me, the little harbour scene at one end of the layout was a nice scenic area.  However, to my fellow club member, there was loads of things that were wrong.  The mooring ropes were the wrong way round and there weren't enough of them for the size of the boat that was tied up.  He is a retired seaman, so knows all about boats from his time in the merchant navy.  Since I have no knowledge of the subject, I never noticed the mistakes.

 

Another club member shakes his head at the signalling on some layouts, which seem to have signals randomly placed for scenic effect.  Missing trap points, incorrect signals and incorrectly placed signals all spoil the illusion for him, because he is a retired BR Signal Engineer.  For me, it's unrealistic civil engineering details, since that's what I studied at university.  Embankments slopes that are overly steep, roads that are too narrow and junctions that are way too tight to accommodate the 44 tonne articulated vehicles that are placed as though they serve a yard that would be almost impossible for them to enter, let alone manoeuvre in.  I recall one reasonably nice layout where the access to the fiddle yard is hidden by a bridge over the railway that was being demolished.  The problem being that what was left of the bridge would have fallen down under the weight of the plant sitting on top and Network Rail would never have approved the Method Statement for the demolition sequence being portrayed - especially not over a live railway.

 

However, to those working in other occupations, such issues probably wouldn't be picked up on.  To many the representations of China Clay facilities on the layout are simply there as a 'label' to say 'these are the sidings that I shunt my China Clay wagons into'.  'I have no idea what actually goes on there, but I shunt the wagons into this siding and then take them out again'.

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I agree and I think this is why most of the best model railways are (with the exception of some prodigious individuals) usually collaborative efforts. For instance, those at clubs, where the expertise of many individuals can come together to build something much more life-like. Your example of the bridge reminds me of a layout I saw quite recently which had a scene where a JCB was digging a hole in the road to install pipes... the only problem was it was on a bridge!

I think you're right that in some cases ignorance is bliss, and for those people I tend to just leave them alone. If people ask for information I give it to them, but otherwise I just try to make the information available to those who are looking. This is why in the opening statements of my post I mentioned the chap on here who wanted a smaller dry than in existed in reality. Rather than tell him all the reasons why this would be wrong, I just let him get on with it. If he's happy to make that compromise then so be it.

However I will say that forums, books, and the internet are just another way that a layout can be a collaborative effort rather than a solo project. "Standing on the shoulders of giants" and all that. Without RMweb I doubt I could build a layout at all... my knowledge of trackwork, signalling, and accurate railway operational practice is woefully lacking. For instance not too long ago I had to ask some really basic questions about couplings! But the great thing is that RMwebbers are always more than happy to help out, and I am eternally grateful for their assistance, even if at times we don't always see eye to eye.
 

31 minutes ago, Dungrange said:

However, to those working in other occupations, such issues probably wouldn't be picked up on.  To many the representations of China Clay facilities on the layout are simply there as a 'label' to say 'these are the sidings that I shunt my China Clay wagons into'.  'I have no idea what actually goes on there, but I shunt the wagons into this siding and then take them out again'. 


And that's fine, people build stations in the same manner, and if you're happy with it then fine. The only problem I have with this, and the motivation for the post, is that to me it's just a crying shame of a missed opportunity if this is the only thing anyone ever does with china clay on a layout.

But there needs to be more than me just saying that, I think I need to actually show people what can be done by building my own layout, and that's just what I intend to do. I've pretty well resolved to write a book now - I had planned to do so years ago, however at the time I was thinking to use archive photos and simply couldn't afford the licenses to publish them. But upon rethinking, I don't think archive photography are really what's needed, I think an example layout is what's needed, and then lots of drawings, diagrams, and written information will be more helpful.

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Hi - I’m Dick, I’m new here, but finally joined rmweb because of this thread! I’ve been planning a Cornish branch/industrial layout for over a year without finally settling on exactly what industry. I’ve been thinking quarrying, tin or copper mining, or clay, and clay seems to be winning. But there is a lack of information about what the clay industry actually involved in, say, the mid to late 1930’s. I’m looking for something that could feasibly require a 009 feeder line with a transfer to standard gauge, and it would seem a clay dry might be the perfect solution. And I may have enough room for a near-full size dry! Have you made any progress with your book? 

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You are probably better off answer wise,  if you re-post this in one of the main forums? 

Prototypes Queries maybe.......

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We had a fairly active yahoo group that fell afoul of the many changes of ownership of yahoo and the devastation of the online forums (the new owners were worse than ole Smaug.).  There was considerable information in the files of that group that described not only the railway transport of china clay but the whole process. Coline33 of this parish was the owner of the yahoo group and I have just offered to help reconstruct it on the groups.io platform where most of the active yahoo forums have migrated, Hopefully we will be able to move the files that we have saved from yahoo there too. 

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Among the files I downloaded for personal use only was a pdf of a presentation in the Journal of the Trevithick Society on the Durford Clay Works.  Nothing on clay wagons but everything about mining china clay and settling the clay out from slurry to be dried and shipped in the wonderful little clay wagons we own so many of (sic grammar.) It includes how to build settling ponds in the 19th century.  Most of these lasted into the mid 20th century if their clay source held up.

 

If you would like this document, you can google to find it under the  Journal of the Trevithick Society and download for your personal use too. 

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Just now, Dick Clark said:

Hi - I’m Dick, I’m new here, but finally joined rmweb because of this thread! I’ve been planning a Cornish branch/industrial layout for over a year without finally settling on exactly what industry. I’ve been thinking quarrying, tin or copper mining, or clay, and clay seems to be winning. But there is a lack of information about what the clay industry actually involved in, say, the mid to late 1930’s. I’m looking for something that could feasibly require a 009 feeder line with a transfer to standard gauge, and it would seem a clay dry might be the perfect solution. And I may have enough room for a near-full size dry! Have you made any progress with your book? 


Hi Dick,

You're in luck, there were actually two narrow gauge feeder lines in the 1930s connecting clay drys with standard gauge. These were the Gothers Mineral Tramway and the Hendra Light Railway. Both are covered in detail in Maurice Dart's excellent book Cornwall Narrow Gauge, a recommended read. The former ran from the Gothers complex, westward across the Goss moor, to a loading wharf alongside the St Dennis branch north of Parkandillack. The latter ran from a dry at the southern end of New Hendra pit, southward toward Nanpean, to a loading wharf on Quarry Close siding, also on the St Dennis branch west of Drinnick Mill/Nanpean wharf siding and east of Treviscoe.

One smaller and lesser documented line existed in the Luxulyan valley near Ponts Mill, with a much shorter run between a dry and a wharf on the Ponts Mill siding. This was steam worked although sadly no photos are known to exist.

The industry in the 1930s was in the beginning stages of modernization, but not much really visually changed since the previous decade. The power plant at Drinnick was built in I believe 1936, and this saw an increase in the use of electricity (lights, conveyor belts, etc). Drys were all still coal fired, although with electricity now readily available some were equipped with mechanical stokers, a feature that became more common through the 40s and 50s. Some electric pumps were in use, but many Cornish steam pumping engines and waterwheels still worked the pits into the 40s. The first "mechanical shovel" front end loaders could be found in some drys, and the industry was making greater use of lorries. Drys that bagged clay were also being fitted with mechanical bagging equipment, loaded by front end loader and conveyor belt. Many drys at this time also had their settling tanks converted to work with filter presses, which mechanically dewatered the clay pumped from the settling tanks, rather than waiting for it to settle out and be trammed out of the tanks. These filter presses produced "cakes" somewhat like giant flat sticks of butter, which were broken up and spread over the heated "pan" floor of the dry. These dried to a much lower moisture content much more quickly than the thick blocks of the old "muck wagon" method, thus requiring less fuel and increasing the output of the dry.

Another recommended book that goes into more detail is Charles Thurlow's China Clay: Traditional Mining Methods in Cornwall, which can be found on Amazon for the price of a cup of coffee.

As for my own book, I am still working on illustrations, captions, and written sections for it. It may be a few years before it sees print. If you have any more specific questions, you can always reach out an ask. I'd be happy to answer as best as I can.

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Where is the location of the last photo in the original post?

Thanks

Chris

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Hi Stoker, thanks for your reply.

 

I have Maurice Dart's book 'Images of Industrial & Narrow Gauge Railways - Cornwall' - is that the one you mean? I wish such books included plans or maps, but I guess that's something I can research myself.

 

My line will be fictitious, but I like to base things on prototypical practice as far as possible, whilst still giving me plenty of scenic and operational interest. I'm using two sides of a 9'x9' room, with a fiddle yard down the back of one side, a small terminus serving both industry and limited goods/passengers a la Moorswater along the other and the narrow gauge at a higher level along the back of both sides. The terminus will include sidings and a headhunt to serve the clay dry, with the dry itself in front of the fiddle yard. It occurs to me that the large, sloping roof over the dries as in your drawings could conveniently cover the fiddle yard, and be constructed to hinge upwards and forwards to give access to the fiddle yard. I am currently drawing up a detailed plan which I would be delighted to share when done.

 

What I really need to learn more about is how the dries actually operated. Clearly there's a lot more to it than just a shed! I can arrange to have a dry at least a scale 100' long, which I accept is still small, but at least it should do the real thing some justice. Do I understand correctly that the settling tanks were usually behind the dries, and resemble salt-drying pans? More information about the actual process would be very much appreciated.

 

Happy New Year!

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I have found a small Dry on the Wentfordbridge branch that looks like it pre dates the ones at Wentford. They are opposite Spital  Woods. It appears on the 1908 map but I have never seen anything written about them or any photos. Does any one know anything?

 

Marc  

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19 hours ago, Gilbert said:

Where is the location of the last photo in the original post?

Thanks

Chris


That was taken at the west end of Burngullow sidings, at the old slurry loading area. This was abandoned in 1990 when it was replaced with the new slurry plant, which consisted of a covered slurry loading shed and a covered tank wagon washing shed.
 

12 hours ago, Dick Clark said:

Hi Stoker, thanks for your reply.

 

I have Maurice Dart's book 'Images of Industrial & Narrow Gauge Railways - Cornwall' - is that the one you mean? I wish such books included plans or maps, but I guess that's something I can research myself.

 

My line will be fictitious, but I like to base things on prototypical practice as far as possible, whilst still giving me plenty of scenic and operational interest. I'm using two sides of a 9'x9' room, with a fiddle yard down the back of one side, a small terminus serving both industry and limited goods/passengers a la Moorswater along the other and the narrow gauge at a higher level along the back of both sides. The terminus will include sidings and a headhunt to serve the clay dry, with the dry itself in front of the fiddle yard. It occurs to me that the large, sloping roof over the dries as in your drawings could conveniently cover the fiddle yard, and be constructed to hinge upwards and forwards to give access to the fiddle yard. I am currently drawing up a detailed plan which I would be delighted to share when done.

 

What I really need to learn more about is how the dries actually operated. Clearly there's a lot more to it than just a shed! I can arrange to have a dry at least a scale 100' long, which I accept is still small, but at least it should do the real thing some justice. Do I understand correctly that the settling tanks were usually behind the dries, and resemble salt-drying pans? More information about the actual process would be very much appreciated.

 

Happy New Year!


'Images of Industrial & Narrow Gauge Railways - Cornwall' is a different book. Maurice produced another book titled Cornwall Narrow Gauge through the middleton press. You might be able to find a copy through amazon or ebay.

With regards to how the dries operated, I have attached a photo of a scale drawing of a cross-section through a typical dry as a visual aid.

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As you can see, the dry was built into a hillside, with the settling tanks at a higher level on the right, and the tracks at a lower level on the left. This was not the absolute rule as some were built differently, and there were variations in the difference of height, but this is generally the way it was done. The area with the piled clay was known as the "linhay", pronounced linney, and the raised section beside it was known as the pan. The total section width of the building would typically be in the region of 35' to 55', with a total length (for standard gauge rail served kilns) of 210' to 350', however non rail served and narrow gauge served kilns were typically smaller, sometimes only 100' to 150' in length. The settling tanks "behind" the dry would be approx 7' deep, circa 40' wide, and as much as 100' in length, their length being perpendicular to the long axis of the dry. Note that "dry" and "kiln" can be used interchangeably, with their official name being "pan kiln".

A "hypocaust" style heated floor ran the length of the dry, made up of brick flues on 18" centres spanned by special porous pan tiles - this was the "pan" and it would usually be some 9' to 18' in width, 18" to 24" in depth, and usually approx 12' shorter in length than the building. A furnace house at the "fire end" would consist of one grate per 4 flues, and this was usually housed in either a lean-to or gabled structure, it's floor often being level with the linhay floor, but sometimes slightly higher depending on the steepness of the hillside the dry was built on.


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At the opposite end was the chimney, generally 10 feet in width at the bottom, tapering to 5 feet at the top, and around 75' in total height, with  two thirds of it's structure being of stone, one third brick. Between the chimney and the pan flues would be a damper, simply a large steel sheet operated by a lever or counterbalanced rope. The damper would be used to strike a balance between keeping heat in the pan and drawing draft for the fires. Too much damper and the fire burns weak, too little damper and you end up with entrained ash dropping out of suspension in the flues. A periodic maintenance task with dries was to lift up the pan tiles to shovel out ash, not a pleasant task.

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Clay slurry would be piped to the feed end of the settling tanks, which was the end furthest from the dry, and allowed to settle. The doorways between the settling tanks and the dry would be boarded with so called button boards, which possessed holes for placing corks. The cork holes would remain unplugged as the tank filled, allowing clarified water to flow out into the drain gutter inside the dry. As the tank filled, the cork 'buttons' would be placed in the holes, and so the next board up would allow the clear water to discharge, thus the tank would build with settled clay. Once this process finished, tracks in the settling tank allowed settled clay to be trammed into the dry from the settling tanks in the small wagon pictured in the diagram, which would be positioned on the travelling bridge and moved to the appropriate spot along the pan. Here it would be dumped out and allowed to dry.

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Moisture would typically be drawn through the pan tile, such that both steam and smoke emerged from the chimney. Once dry, the pan would be shovelled off into the linhay below, where it would sit in piles to await loading for onward transit. The drop-off between the linhay and the rails was usually known as the loading edge or wharf, and it's depth generally depended on the type of wagon or type of packaging being used. For instance with casks or bags, it was usually preferable to have a loading edge height of 4' above the railhead, as this put the linhay floor level with the wagon floor. But in the case of lump clay, a loading edge height of 6' to 7'6" was preferable, as this put the linhay floor level with the top of the wagon.

By the 1930s many of these pan kilns had been adapted to work with filter presses. The process of shoveling wet clay into wagons and then tramming them into the dry was known as a "muck wagon kiln", but when a press was used they were known as "press kilns" or "press house kilns". These presses, usually a pair contained within a structure called the "press house" generally located centrally among the settling tanks and against the back wall of the dry, consisted of circa 100 approx 4' square cast iron recessed plates hung on an I-beam girder suspended between two cast iron bulkheads.

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The plates, dressed with filter cloths, would be mechanically or hydraulically pressed together to form a watertight seal. Clay slurry would then be pumped in to the press plates by electric centrifugal pumps from the settling tanks at pressure. Each plate had a hole in the centre through which the slurry could move from plate to plate until the entire press was full. Clay would then build up in the space between the two cloths as pressure increased, with filtered water on the other side of the cloth leaving the plate through drain holes at their bottom corners. Once pressure reached a certain point indicating that the press was full, the pump would be stopped and the feed valve closed. A drain valve would then be opened, allowing the unfiltered slurry in the centre of the press to escape and return to the settling tanks. Once this cycle had been completed, the press would be opened, and the "filter cakes" would be dropped down onto wagons waiting beneath the press. These wagons would be run inside the dry onto the traversing bridge and dumped onto the pan, with the cakes to be broken up into smaller lumps. The former doorways leading into each settling tank would be bricked up, and pipes would run from them inside the dry to bring settled clay to the press house. The clarified water would be skimmed from the tank using a contraption known as a "banjo", this consisted of a pipe in a T shape, with the head of the T having a slot through which water could enter. The banjo was fitted on a pivot so that it could be raised and lowered using a rope on a spool, and the operator would watch for the colour of the water exiting into the gutter to make sure he hadn't lowered it too far. Since the clay tended to settle uniformly across the floor of the settling tank, men would be tasked with "shyvering" or "poling" the tanks - this task involved using a long pole with a flat blade at the end to "push" the settled clay toward the drain. This was an arduous task which had to be conducted in all weathers. This settled clay was usually pumped to a smaller tank immediately next to the press house, and it was from this tank that the presses would draw their feed.

Within the linhay, by the 1950s sometimes small front end loaders were employed. Usually this would be a Muir Hill LH1. Some dries had a conveyor belt bringing dried clay up to a bagging machine, which was a big hopper with a screw conveyor beneath it - a bag could be slid over the end of the screw conveyor, which could be run until the bag was full, greatly reducing the amount of time it took to shovel clay into a bag. This stuff is possibly a bit ahead of your intended era.

I would strongly recommend looking into the Gothers Tramway (pictured below) and the Hendra Tramway, the details for which can be found in Maurice's books. The dry in the picture is 250' x 45', but a much smaller one existed at the Gothers complex a mere 150' x 38'.

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5 hours ago, Furness Wagon said:

I have found a small Dry on the Wentfordbridge branch that looks like it pre dates the ones at Wentford. They are opposite Spital  Woods. It appears on the 1908 map but I have never seen anything written about them or any photos. Does any one know anything?

 

Marc  


There were several rail served dries in the Bodmin area apart from just Wenford. You are correct that they are not well documented, but I do believe Maurice Dart mentions them in his East Cornwall Mineral Railways book.

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An excellent synopsis, Stoker.  Although not on my modelling agenda, I find it very interesting to learn how this industry worked.

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It's probably the only book I've not got. I had a quick look for a copy this morning only one available was in the US.

Marc

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Wow! Thanks for such a detailed and comprehensive reply! I ordered a copy of Charles Thurlow's book yesterday, plus another one on the clay railways around Cornwall - I can't remember the title, I'll let you know when it arrives.

 

I've obviously been under a complete misapprehension in thinking that the clay arrived at the dries in a semi-solid state, so my idea of it being delivered by narrow-gauge railway is way off the mark! I must have misunderstood the photos I've been looking at. I thought the 'raw material', for want of a better expression, was transported in V-type tipper wagons. Is it more likely that dried clay would be shipped from the dry to a store, as I understand was the case between Hendra kiln and Nanpean, on the Hendra Light Railway (I am attempting to join the dots in Industrial & Narrow Gauge Railways!)? 

 

This shows the importance of research - I could have made a very silly layout, like my last 009 effort, Upper Gumtry. But that was meant to be silly, albeit still with serious modelling.

 

My research has touched on something else which I thought would confuse me even more, but which I am beginning to suspect might make more sense. Ball clay - what's that, then?

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Initially the clay slurry is piped to the Dries (and it can be quite a long distance pipe).

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6 hours ago, Dick Clark said:

Wow! Thanks for such a detailed and comprehensive reply! I ordered a copy of Charles Thurlow's book yesterday, plus another one on the clay railways around Cornwall - I can't remember the title, I'll let you know when it arrives.

 

I've obviously been under a complete misapprehension in thinking that the clay arrived at the dries in a semi-solid state, so my idea of it being delivered by narrow-gauge railway is way off the mark! I must have misunderstood the photos I've been looking at. I thought the 'raw material', for want of a better expression, was transported in V-type tipper wagons. Is it more likely that dried clay would be shipped from the dry to a store, as I understand was the case between Hendra kiln and Nanpean, on the Hendra Light Railway (I am attempting to join the dots in Industrial & Narrow Gauge Railways!)? 

 

This shows the importance of research - I could have made a very silly layout, like my last 009 effort, Upper Gumtry. But that was meant to be silly, albeit still with serious modelling.

 

My research has touched on something else which I thought would confuse me even more, but which I am beginning to suspect might make more sense. Ball clay - what's that, then?


In both the case of Hendra Light Railway and the Gothers Tramway, and indeed all other cases of the use of tramways, clay was brought directly to waiting standard gauge wagons. There was no intermediate store. The only railway that used such a store was the Pentewan Railway, but that's because the clay was brought to the railhead in St Austell by horse and cart, and it took some time before there was enough stockpiled to ship to the harbour. Also like much of the early industry all of these lines were "weather working", in other words they didn't cover the wagons so they could only run when it wasn't raining.

There was one and only one case in the Cornish clay industry where material was brought from the quarry to the works as a dry lump, which is with a lesser known material called China Stone. This is partially decomposed granite, not quite all the way to china clay, but a good source of feldspar useful in pottery with some added whitening properties from the partial kaolinisation. This material was produced in three distinct areas; the Luxulyan Valley, the area immediately around Nanpean, and the Tregargus valley stretching down from near Goonamarris to the village of St Stephens. The process involved bringing the china stone from the quarry, in the case of Tregargus via narrow gauge tramways, to a water mill, which would grind the stone down to a dust while adding water. The resulting slurry was then channeled to small settling tanks behind a diminutive pan kiln. Locomotives were never used in this process, the works being in a valley meant that the quarry floor could be accessed directly, and the mills were built downslope of the quarry so that gravity could be used to bring material to them, and horses to bring the wagons back to the quarry. In the early 20th century however, the industry began to modernize somewhat, building more modern crushers, trommels and screens, although the drying method remained the same. It's entirely likely that if output were to have increased at all, locomotives would've been brought into use. It's also likely that the industry would've looked at laying a tramway from their drys to the GWR. So that would give you pretty much the scenario you imagined, with a mill small inbetween.

An especially large example of the older style water mill - this mill is still extant today:

tregargus2.jpg.aa49412231cf4146559d6b846f6d9599.jpg
IMG_1452.JPG.fb3e4bef69e76a1615c50e50545c8e7d.JPG

The newer 20th century crushers:

tregargus1.jpg.957b9022aa89d183261175f41da1e97a.jpg

One other industry associated with the clay industry is mica. Mica is a by-product of the clay industry, which for the longest time was discharged as waste into local rivers. Mica did in fact have industrial applications, so enterprising Cornishmen set up lagoons to divert, capture and settle the mica from the rivers, which was then dried in a traditional pan kiln. The Pentewan Railway served two such mica works just south of St Austell, and others existed dotted around the clay country, with the practice fizzling out by the second world war. Environmental regulations eventually required that these "tailings" be impounded in lagoons, permanently putting paid to the mica works.

With regards to Ball Clay, this is a material that can be found in Devon. It is essentially kaolinised granite that has undergone a special weathering process. This is a secondary deposit - that is to say, it is not found in it's host rock, instead it was washed millions of years ago from the kaolinitic granite on Dartmoor down into the Devonshire valleys where it was deposited as a sediment. It is mostly dry mined, and in many cases can simply be taken directly out of the ground with no further processing required. The bulk of these works can be found around Newton Abbot and Bovey Tracey - a formation in the area known as the Bovey Formation is thought to be a sedimentary deposit in excess of 1000 feet deep.

Of course, another thing to keep in mind is that many tramways also had a return flow of coal, timber, and equipment from the GWR. Some lines were also somewhat a common carrier, bringing multiple freights over their metals. The Pentewan Railway for instance carried coal for a gas works and coal yard, mica, clay, china stone, barrel staves, and timber.

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Again, thanks for such a detailed answer, and thanks for being so patient with me! I do realise I'm going about this the wrong way round in many ways - trying to find an industrial scenario to fit the sort of model railway I want to build and run, rather than building the model to depict the genuine industry. I also admit to free application of artistic licence and a large dose of what-iffery. I am willing to suppose that the industry developed in my own idiosyncratic style in my private fictitious corner of Cornwall! All the same, I'd like my model to have some basis in reality.

 

The passage I was referring to in Maurice Dart's 'Industrial & Narrow Gauge etc' book is on page 25, under the heading 'Hendra Light Railway', he states "This 2ft gauge line at Nanpean transferred clay from the coal fired drying kiln three quarters of a mile to a storage building alongside the West of England China Clay Co's siding near Drinnick Mill. A loaded train is leaving the kiln c1922 with clay bound for the store.' I certainly don't want to dispute your far superior knowledge (compared to mine) but there does seem on the face of it to be some discrepancy. The trains in the photos are made up of tipper wagons, but the images are not clear enough to make out what those wagons contain. One would imagine bagged clay, but that seems unlikely to be carried in tippers, unless they were just using whatever they happened to have available.

 

I am aware that there would be a return flow of materials as you describe, and I could always assume there might be another type of business using the system. I have MJT Lewis's book 'The Pentewan Tramway' in which he also refers to supplies to and from lime kilns at Pentewan and St. Austell. I know this was also an industry served by the Looe & Liskeard line. Indeed, I had thought this might offer an alternative primary industry for my layout, but I am finding the clay industry more fascinating the more I look into it. I might end up compromising and modelling an exchange yard (wharf, if that's the correct Cornish term?) between the GWR and a narrow-gauge line serving several local industries. From an operational perspective this might prove both more interesting and more practical, given the space I have available.

 

The other book I ordered, which I couldn't remember the title of yesterday, is 'From Lostwithiel to the China Clay Rails' by Bernard Mills. That arrived this morning and looks to have a lot of useful photographic reference material. I'll have a good read of it as soon as I've finished the one I'm reading at the moment about the 251st Tunnelling Company in World War One! I might be a relative newcomer to the county, but I'm immersing myself in local history!

 

Once again, thanks for all your help.

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On 01/01/2020 at 02:03, Stoker said:

Another recommended book that goes into more detail is Charles Thurlow's China Clay: Traditional Mining Methods in Cornwall, which can be found on Amazon for the price of a cup of coffee.
 

Thanks also from me for your comprehensive replies; I have ordered the above book via Amazon for a couple of quid, and noticed another relevant book by the same author so ordered that as well:-

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/China-Cornwall-Devon-Charles-THURLOW/dp/B00AGE54ZG/ref=sr_1_4?keywords=charles+thurlow&qid=1578081846&sr=8-4

 

Turns out the seller of the above book lives literally 100 yards down the road from me, so I had my copy hand delivered this morning, small world!

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I suppose it's entirely possible that there was some kind of store at Quarry Close - it's just that if there was, I don't recall seeing any photo of it, or have any memory of Maurice talking about that.

The railway carried bulk dry lump clay in their hudson skips - everything they had was ww1 WDLR surplus including the simplex and possibly even the tracks. The tracks ran inside the dry rather than beside it, so if they also had a store as well presumably they just did runs in gaps between rain. A rather charming little operation.

Based on what you've been saying it sounds like you want a little more operational interest than just narrow gauge bringing clay between a dry and a siding. For this my recommendation would be a china stone works, with narrow gauge bringing china stone from the quarry to the mill, and another narrow gauge line bringing dried processed china stone from the dry to the standard gauge siding.
 

Quote

(wharf, if that's the correct Cornish term?)


A wharf is specifically a platform, but slightly taller. Most platforms are about 3'6" above the railhead, putting the platform about 6 inches below the carriage floor to allow clearance for doors to open. A wharf on the other hand is usually 4' or more and intended only for the loading of freight.

Wharves were once a common feature on Cornish branch lines, with clay being brought by horse and cart (later lorries) from nearby drys that were not rail connected, and sometimes not even large enough to justify a siding of their own. Here's a photo of the wharves at Meledor Mill - these were originally open to the public for the shipping and receiving of general goods, and as such it was known as a "public goods station".

7659712_orig.jpg.56fc3514283b76542438cef9b775043a.jpg


 

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I think most people may like to run various goodies on their layout and while china clay is very interesting ,and indeed you have made it even more interesting , an average plank  dedicated to a single industry is going to get boring very quickly  for some people .A small station and goods shed plus  a small milk depot  or maltings say ,allows an interesting mix .I can certainly see a larger china clay  structure becoming a great addition  to a larger lay out though in fact I can visualize it in my head... but my wife cant .Accuracy is a severe master .

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19 minutes ago, MikeOxon said:

Looking through my photo collection, I came across this photo of 'Canopus' on the Pentewan Railway with what, judging by the colour, seems to be a china clay wagon.  I'm not sure about the background but, if it is white washing on a line, I can imagine the owners weren't too pleased about the engine passing at that moment!

 

Pentewan-Railway.jpg.36df0f6b93528f9d5f91b5797b8e58e3.jpg

 

 

 

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Just now, friscopete said:

I think most people may like to run various goodies on their layout and while china clay is very interesting ,and indeed you have made it even more interesting , an average plank  dedicated to a single industry is going to get boring very quickly  for some people .A small station and goods shed plus  a small milk depot  or maltings say ,allows an interesting mix .I can certainly see a larger china clay  structure becoming a great addition  to a larger lay out though in fact I can visualize it in my head... but my wife cant .Accuracy is a severe master .


Boring or interesting really depends on the individual. Personally I find passenger operations to be unbelievably boring, but they seem to be incredibly popular and I'd guess that's because most people in Britain have experienced a passenger train at one time or another and have nostalgic memories. For myself, I have many fond memories of standing trackside watching clay being loaded, particularly at Burngullow Dryer, or as rail buffs know it, Crugwallins. Watching the little Sentinel bring a few wagons at a time into the headshunt, and then propel them into the loop, then bring the next three into the covered loading area... that had a charm to it. So for me the idea of modelling this has more appeal than it might for some.

PICT0025.JPG.2ced4cc9e700c6c0024f17c79c4bb2f8.JPG

That said, there are ways to create more operational interest in a china clay layout. Clay comes in both bulk and bagged form, and those two were usually loaded in different parts of the works, so there's a bit of operation there in splitting up a train and placing the appropriate wagons in the appopriate spots. There might also be sidings where empty and loaded wagons are staged. Then there's non-clay traffic that was brought in to wharves such as Nanpean - this saw calcified seaweed loaded and pipes and valves from Stanton Ironworks unloaded for ECC's Drinnick Engineering Stores. In other locations, coal was brought for drys, power plants, and coal merchants. There's also some potential for "what if" traffic - Sulphuric Acid tanks on the Wheal Rose branch were once considered for receiving the liquid by rail. Oil depots have also been proposed but never came to be.

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Sadly there are always limitations to our modelling.  Passengers never get onto or leave trains and remain immobile on platforms, day after day.  Similarly, goods stay inert in their wagons although, if loading and unloading takes place in a hidden area or off-scene, there is always the possibility of some clever substitution of full wagons by empty ones (or v.v.).

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China Clay really is a fascinating subject.

 

From what I have herd on the grapevine, there may be something to make China Clay even more popular on Monday!  If a bit of joined up thinking occurred and a new Clay Hood was a proposal as well, then I think it would be game, set and match!  Plus millions of cheap blue boxed ones on e-bay. 

 

Personally, on top I would like a Sentinel decorated as Denise, as seen at Bodmin in October whilst on holiday!

 

Regards,

 

C.

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I have a question regarding the transport of China Clay and the wagons used.

 

From what I have managed to find out the China Clay was moved around Cornwall in wgaons designated as UCV, but these wagons never really left Cornwall. There was a train called the Clayliner that ran from Cornwall to Stoke-on-Trent and because of the type of Bearings used on the UCV's the Clay was transferred to wagons designated as OWV.

 

Now in N Gauge there are not so many choices for China Clay wagons, but Kernow Models commissioned a special via Farish of the UCV's on a proper 9' chassis & Peco have produced a wagon designated as an OOV, NR-51 https://peco-uk.com/products/china-clay-hood-wagon now my question is; Is the Peco variant sufficiently close to an OWV that can be used in the Clayliner Train??

 

Regards

 

Neal.

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