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Scratchbuilt GWR horsedrawn float


Mikkel

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These past weeks I have had some pleasant early morning modelling sessions, building a GWR covered float for my early 1900s setting. 

 

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The model was built using  two drawings in Great Western Horse Power by Janet Russel (figs 180 and 182) and a photo in Great Western Way p.163 (original edition). I was a bit slow to discover that there are variations between the drawings and the photo. The prototype is not in the GWR diagram book for horse-drawn carriages, but is arguably a variant of  the E5 diagram (see GWR Goods Cartage Vol 1 by Tony Atkins).


 

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I say 'scratchbuilt', but the wheels are from an Arch Laser kit for another wagon (see discussion here). They conveniently represent the correct 4'6" diameter 14 spoke pattern used by the GWR in earlier days.

 

 

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Although just a lowly float, the prototype had a certain Victorian elegance in the design. Like all floats, they had cranked axels to allow for a low floor and thereby easier loading of goods.

 

 

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The hoop sticks for the tilt were formed over a jig, stuck on with duct tape and dunked in boiling water.

 

 

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The drawings show the tilt with vertical sides and a curved top. The wagon in the reference photo suggests a rounder shape. I initially concluded that this was an optical illusion. In retrospect I am not so sure.

 

 

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The shafts were also nicked from the Arch Laser kit. They are flat as they come, but on my prototype they have a curve so I rolled them with a round scalpel, and modifed them to allow proper fixing to the body.

 

 

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The shafts had extended mounting plates/irons along the side of the wagon. Mine are a bit over scale.

 

 

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The springs were cut on my Silhouette. A rough outline was enough as the wheels obscure the details. 

 

 

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The brake design seems to have varied on these vehicles. The reference photo shows a somewhat crude external design, operated by a lever from the front, so I imitated this.

 

 

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For the painting, I followed Tony Atkins who in GWR Goods Cartage Vol 1 states: "According to the Railway Magazine, at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries GW horse lorries for delivering goods had red wheels, shafts and framing, while horse-drawn  vans used for collecting and delivering passenger train parcels were painted chocolate all over [...] In 1909 horse vans were also given the same red shafts and wheels as lorries."  Although floats sometimes doubled as parcels vans at rural stations, they were first and foremost intended for goods cartage, so I opted for red wheels, springs and shafts for my early 1900s period. As an aside, I'm never entirely confident about livery references in the Railway Magazine of the 1900s, but that is another story.

 

 

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Then along came Charlie, new to the GWR stables. Young and hopeful, he dreamt of a career in tap dancing and an endless supply of Cheese & Cucumber sandwiches.

 

 

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We quickly put an end to that! Here he is being modified with extra harness.

 

 

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I modelled the harness so that it loosely indicates the method used to pull fixed-shaft wagons, while also allowing the wagon to rest on the back of the now disillusioned Charlie. This solved the problem of balancing a one-axle vehicle. 

 

 

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The tilt was made from plain paper, with the lettering copied from the reference photo. Period photos show that tilts of this type were very taut, with the impression of the hoop sticks sometimes showing through. To indicate this I wetted the paper and formed it around the hoop sticks.

 

 

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The tarp was then varnished several times, and holes punched in the sides to emulate how it was fixed in place. I wish I had used the number of a wagon that hadn't been photographed, as that would have solved the problem of inconsistencies between the drawings and the reference photo!

 

 

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The reference photo shows two thin and rather unsightly boards along the sides of the tilt, presumably to pin it down further and stabilise it. I made them from masking tape.

 

 

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The lettering in the reference photo shows a style used during the 1890s (sometimes with, sometimes without the "Co."). I pieced it together from a couple of photos using this style.

 

 

 

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The tilt had separate protective tarps fitted on the inside of the hoops at the front and rear. Again, these were simply made from paper. Photos suggest that in daily practice the rear "flap" on horsedrawn vehicles was often secured in half-open or fully open position.

 

 

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Lastly the wheels hubs were fitted, made from a styrene tube and filled with putty.

 

 

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So that's it. I won’t be fitting reins at this point, as I have to set up my layouts every time I want to run trains, so reins are just not practical. In this view you can see that the wheels are Lasercut, but it's OK from normal viewing distance.

 

 

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There are photos of fixed-shaft vehicles resting like this in GWR yards. Smaller carts without a tilt were sometimes, er, tilted the other way.

 

 

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By and large, Charlie appears to have accepted his fate. Though sometimes, out of the corner of my eye, I can see him doing a secret little tap dance.

 

 

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Lastly a view of the horsedrawn GWR fleet at Farthing as it currently appears. So much for corporate identity! 

 

 

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What can one say, but "Superb!" and as always your back story garners a chuckle or two - poor Charlie! Make sure he keeps his dreams alive.....

 

Cheers,

 

Mark

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...superb, as alway,s and an completely convincing addition to the Farthing fleet.  Always good to be reminded that the GWR didn't just run trains!

KitPW

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As usual, your superb attention to detail and wonderful little side-stories make this entry very special.  I think the wooden wheels look good - I always like to see use of the 'correct' materials in a model.  The final photo of the various waggons, carts, van and float is especially inspiring :)

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Well observed and finely detailed modelling. The tilt has come out so realistically, it really does look like canvas. 

 

I do like the last picture of the collection, quite a fleet there. 

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  • RMweb Gold

Delightful Mikkel!  A splendid addition to the Farthing fleet and good to see that "Horse Drawn Weekly" is still in publication:)

 

BW

 

Dave

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Excellent craftsmanship as always Mikkel. I love the last photo of all your horse drawn fleet.

Regards Paul.

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Once again you've managed to produce a real period model / s all of which evoke an era long gone.

Really excellent modelling Mikkel.

 

G

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Very nice Mikkel.

 

There's a great (considering that it is from around 1880) photo of an LBSC one here; here (Have stopped it embedding because I'm not sure what the copyright status is).

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Mikkel,

As brilliant as ever.  How many horse drawn vehicles would a place the size of Farthing actually have?

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Many thanks everyone for the encouraging comments! Although a small project it helped me stay sane through a stressful time at work.

 

12 hours ago, dseagull said:

There's a great (considering that it is from around 1880) photo of an LBSC one here; here 

 

Interesting to see that LBSC wagon, dseagull. It looks similar to some of the large GWR lorries, though they didn't have protection for the driver (the parcels vehicles did).

 

11 hours ago, ChrisN said:

How many horse drawn vehicles would a place the size of Farthing actually have?

 

Good question Chris. The stable block at Farthing has 12 stalls, so still room for 5 more horses. Not sure whether there would be "extra" horses though, or whether they worked in shifts. Must check up on that!

 

Edited by Mikkel
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Thinking that I had seen a chapter on railway horses in an ancient (pre-grouping) edition of the Wonder Book of Railways, I looked it up. Unfortunately it didn't answer the question of whether they worked shifts, but it gave a great description of the GNR's horse hospital at Kings Cross. 

Did Farthing have any shunting horses? They could take up a stall or two.

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11 hours ago, phil_sutters said:

Did Farthing have any shunting horses? They could take up a stall or two.

 

Ah yes, I had forgotten about those. Here is one of them:

 

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On 21/12/2019 at 01:03, phil_sutters said:

whether they worked shifts

 

I have had a look in the books and found a bit of info on this. Rather than shifts, horses were "resting" - though what this exactly entails is still not clear to me.

 

According to Tony Atkins "GWR Goods Cartage Vol 1", a GWR report of 1869 found that the GWR had an average of 7½% of its horse stock "resting". This was critiqued as being lower than other companies  (a private cartage agency is quoted as having 29% resting at this time). 

 

In Janet Russel's "GWR Horsepower" these figures are given for selected London stables in 1877:

 

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And here again at a much later date when the GWR had started doing more cartage of its own, and greatly increased the number of horses. No date but from the wording of the text it sounds like the 1920s (edit: just found the same numbers quoted in Atkinson, he says the following is "just before WW1").

 

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There is a now a "sick" category, but the number of resting horses is quite low.

 

Returning to Chris' question about number of horsedrawn vehicles, I have oddly not been able so far to find any data on this for particular goods yards. However, as the years pass by Farthing is slowly growing in my mind, from a medium sized junction station to a fairly large one. So I hope there will be room for a few more horsedrawn vehicles. If not, I'll have to invent some sort of special industry as an excuse - such as the Witney blanket industry:

 

http://witneyblanketstory.org.uk/WBP.asp?navigationPage=Transport

 

https://www.steampicturelibrary.com/stations-halts/london-stations-paddington-station/paddington-goods-depot-6300310.html

 

Edited by Mikkel
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Hi Chris, yes - but I had trouble finding out how many days a resting period was. Found it now, on page 197 of Great Western Horsepower:

 

"Horses worked five days and then had one rest day before commencing another period of duty."

 

From descriptions it seems horses worked more or less continously throughout their work days if necessary, though not longer than 10 hours a day. In the big cities, they often returned to the yard during the day for loading, before going out again. 

 

Edited by Mikkel
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Never model a prototype for which a good photograph exists - it's asking for trouble.

 

Fascinating to see this developing into a discussion about horse working and resting, though I must say that number of 12% sick at Paddington is shocking - was there something going round?

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Mikkel,

The resting period is interesting, but it does not work with the percentage the GWR had resting unless the figures were fiddled so the GWR management was given a falsely good picture.  A 5% resting gives one day off in 20.  Did most get Sundays off and the rest day was an extra?

 

Sorry, it just intrigues me

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5 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

I must say that number of 12% sick at Paddington is shocking - was there something going round?

 

No idea, but dealing with a significant number of sick animals does seem to have been the order of the day. At Paddington the GWR had two horse hospitals, with 32 and 30 loose boxes respectively. At Westbourne Park were a further 30 boxes for improving animals and cases of lameness. At Castle Bar there was a further "convalescent centre" which could accomodate 24 horses in winter and 40 in summer.

 

2 hours ago, ChrisN said:

The resting period is interesting, but it does not work with the percentage the GWR had resting unless the figures were fiddled so the GWR management was given a falsely good picture.  A 5% resting gives one day off in 20.  Did most get Sundays off and the rest day was an extra?

 

Sorry, it just intrigues me

 

Hmm, yes I see what you mean, the numbers don't tally. Maybe the term "resting" in the tables above means something else then. Janet Russell writes:

 

"If  a stableman felt that a horse was sick or injured, he reported the details to the foreman who had to make a decision as to whether the horse should just be rested for the day or ought to be seen by the vet. In either case, a 'resting' horse would be selected to replace the sick animal if necessary to make up the working quota."

 

That doesn't help us much though, but I can't find further info on this matter.

Edited by Mikkel
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Can't add anything of use to the working lives of the horses discussion, but I will ask my neighbour  (a vetinary  nurse who until recently specialised in Horse injuries when she returns from  holiday.

..But the driver appears to have to stand within the cart body as there is no seat or foot-rest, although he would have some protection from the weather under the tarp.

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I think life for a working horse was quite hard, and littl3 to compare with today’s horses, which are, for 5he most part, hobby animals, in a far more caring society.

 

apart from the wagon loads of horse manure that was shipped out of big cities daily, (which has been a previous discussion in these hallowed halls) I rather suspect a fair number of beasts turned their toes (or hooves) skyward each day.  

 

Of course, the railways could afford convalescent horses.  Steptoe & son could not, and if the horse didn’t work, likely they didn’t eat.  And within living memory too.  I was born in 1958, so this is marginally before my time.  

 

“The horse was king, and almost everything grew around him: fodder, smithies, stables, paddocks, distances and the rhythm of our days. His eight miles an hour was the limit of our movements, as it had been since the days of the Romans. That eight miles an hour was life and death, the size of our world, our prison…Then, to the scream of the horse, the change began. The brass-lamped motor car came coughing up the road. Soon the village would break, dissolve and scatter, become no more than a place for pensioners.”
(Laurie Lee's description of village life before the motor car - Cider with Rosie, 1959)

 

 

There were about 3.5 million horses in the uk at the turn of the 1900’s. Assuming a twenty year life, that would suggest nigh on 500 dying each day.  That’s around 200 tons of dead horse to dispose of, daily!

 

atb

Simon

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I'd hazard a guess that resting horses were essentially spares, that inferred from Mikkel's quoting of Janet Russell. 

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