More than three years ago, I wrote about some experiments I did to add to the debate about GWR red wagon livery. I showed photos of wagons at Cinderford Iron Works, taken around 1890, which had marked differences in (monochrome) image tone.
I thought, at the time, that I was doing some ‘original’ research but recently I have been looking through back issues of the 'Broad Gauge Society' magazine ‘Broadsheet’. There I found that this ‘well known’ photograph was discussed at length, as part of a series of articles on wagon liveries, as long ago as 2001 (Broadsheet No.45).
Brian Arman wrote “This photograph is the one frequently claimed [my italics] to be an example of red and grey wagons intermixed. I presume that the wagons supposed to be grey appear to be a darker shade, as in the fourth wagon from the left on the near siding, and the second and fourth vehicles in the back siding. However, following John’s photographic searches we may confidently surmise [my italics] that these vehicles are in all probability simply newly painted as opposed to ‘re-liveried’. The positioning of the lettering varies from wagon to wagon, and adds an element of further interest to the photograph. In fact the whole scene is full of historical interest ...”
His conclusions are exactly the opposite of mine, since I thought the darker shade was caused because the photographic emulsions of the time were colour-blind to red!
We are still left with the conundrum that the different styles of lettering appear on wagons of both shades, on the Cinderford photograph, which seems to mitigate against the idea that the dark shade is simply the result of more recent painting. Surely, lettering styles changed at specific dates – or did they replace the lettering in the ‘old’ positions when re-painting (or relivery-ing)?
So, although I had discovered nothing new, the photograph still presents a puzzle and may indeed show both red and grey wagons – but which is which?