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A pictorial record of horse manure


Mikkel

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I’ve added a selection of horse droppings to the road and yard on “The Stables”. 

 

Obviously, prototype research was needed first! Period photos from the 1890s-1930s often show droppings in the street, especially where horse-drawn carriages were regularly parked.

 

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"Bicycle couriers with copies of the Manchester Guardian, which are being delivered to Euston station in London for circulation, circa 1920." Getty Images, embedding permitted. 

 

Droppings can sometimes be seen strung out, as seen below. I assume that’s because the “action” happened while the horse was on the move. But just how many horses were involved here?!

 

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"A view along Holland Park Mews, London." Getty Images, embedding permitted.

 

 

After a while, the droppings would get trampled or washed apart. 

 

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"Looking down one of the streets in the village of Hatherop, Gloucestershire, c1860-c1922." Getty Images, embedding permitted.

 

 

In the busiest streets of large towns it could sometimes get quite messy, if I interpret the image below correctly. 

 

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"Newcastle ca. 1900. The entrance to Central Station and in the background, St Mary's church and spire." Getty Images, embedding permitted.  

 

 

It’s worth pointing out, though, that many 1900s photos of street scenes show just a few droppings or none at all.  The street sweepers must have worked hard in the big cities!

 

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"London. Holborn Viaduct, about 1900." Getty Images. Embedding permitted.

 

 

In villages with limited traffic, the manure would presumably have been rarer. And perhaps quickly snatched up for gardens?

 

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"Stratford-Upon-Avon, circa 1900." Getty Images. Embedding permitted.

 

 

Despite busy horse traffic, urban goods yards also appear relatively clean, although sometimes the presence of a photographer may have helped!

 

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"Paddington Goods Depot, 1923.  Horse drawn vehicles carrying Witney blankets"  Getty Images. Embedding permitted.


 

A study of contemporary photos and horsey websites showed that the colour and texture of droppings varies considerably. One factor is whether the dung is fresh or old. Another is the horse's diet. For example, I understand that low quality hay results in very brown droppings, while green grass will give you an olive tinge. Here's a selection, á la carte:

 

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Photos from Flickr Creative Commons. Credits clockwise from top left: Ben Schumin; Ben Schumin; David MW; Bernd Hutschenreuther; Jes; Jes.

 

 

True dung enthusiasts will therefore need to study the fodder composition of the companies they model, which incidentally also varied across time and place. For example, Tony Atkins writes in "GWR Goods Cartage", Vol. 1, p77:

 

Quote

The standard feed mixture made up at Didcot for country horses consisted of 22½ % oats, 10 % beans, 20 % maize, 41 % hay and 6 % oat-straw (chaff). For London horses, a slightly different mixture containing 2½ % more oats and 2½ % less hay was issued. The daily allowance of mixed provender varied between 27 lbs to 32 Ibs, depending on the individual horse. On Saturdays and Sundays bran and long hay were additionally fed to all GW horses. 

 

 

I didn't go that extent though. Basically, I just tried out some stuff. From earlier experiments I knew that, when tapped repeatedly, the little balls that form in pigment bottles will move to the front and can be gently shaken onto the ground. This is Vallejo Natural Sienna pigment (ref. 73.105).

 

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The balls were secured by floating a little Woodlands Scenic cement alongside, letting the balls soak it up through capillary action. This binds the pigments together and sticks the balls to the ground. Once dry, a brushing of matt varnish sealed them further.

 

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Breaking up some of the pigment balls adds a more scattered impression:

 

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A light dusting of Johnson's baby powder made for a drier, more discrete look.

 

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A lick of dry-brushed paint resulted in a darker and more compact appearance. An almost black shade would be quite common,  but that turned out to be rather distracting. Little black spots tend to catch the eye! So I went for lighter brownish shades. 

 

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Standard GWR stable blocks had channels that helped carry droppings and urine out of the stable block and into the sewer. So there I went for a glitzy Wet Dung look, using a bit of gloss varnish.

 

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I used additional pigments around the edges to indicate a dissolving dropping.

 

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Arguably, my droppings are on the large side (quiet at the back!). But I think a slightly stylized look can sometimes work OK, as it helps the viewer interpret what they are seeing. Also, have you ever stood next to a shire horse?

 

008.jpg.09cda0c469fc2a74bd957de581c97f3a.jpg

 

 

Not quite a shire horse. House-trained though. Let's see the Midland beat that!

 

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Although I like an uncluttered look, it's probably all still a bit too clean.

 

010.jpg.bde28641456630a7209655c2ee9a4f78.jpg

 

 

I'm currently working on that. These are pigments brushed into the setts, after first adding a tiny drop of Woodlands Scenic Cement and letting it almost dry. The idea is to represent residue from past droppings. Must add some bits of straw too, as recently suggested by Matt.

 

11b.JPG.97e9eed035bee28749115e5f8da388f2.JPG

 

 

Meanwhile, Stableman John Rokesmith has had enough of it all. Not what he had in mind when he joined the railways. '"Romance of the footplate", my arse!'

 

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Edited by Mikkel

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Penn State must be wondering why they suddenly have huge interest from UK (and Denmark) in their agricultural sciences... hacking* perhaps?

Kit PW

 

*pleasure riding for light exercise

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3 hours ago, Mikkel said:

There are quite centrally located tanneries in Fez, Morocco - or at least there was in the 1980s. I remember wondering at the time why it had originally been placed so centrally.

 

Surely there's no beer drinking in Fez?

 

3 hours ago, Mikkel said:

Comparing that to the Penn State University data, it looks like it would take 12 horses 8.9 days to fill an O5 4-planker to the top of the wagon (or 1 horse 106.7 days!). We know that wagons were often loaded well above their height, so 1-3 days more would not be unlikely. And I assume the volume of the manure would decrease somewhat during storage in the manure pit. So a wagon every fortnight then, more or less - but again this is a large 12-stall stable, most GWR stable blocks only had a few stalls.

 

I do think you have to allow for the volume of straw mixed in - which would be old bedding. How much straw would a 12-stall stable get through? That might come in by rail.

 

3 hours ago, Mikkel said:

Edit: The intention of all this escapism is to calculate how often I could run a wagon loaded with manure out of Farthing. That is based on a scenario that a 12-stall stable would merit such outgoing traffic. I am not at all certain that this would have been the case in reality. It does not seem to be a well documented theme.

 

1 hour ago, Simond said:

Well, once the stationmaster, signalman and head porter had sorted out their roses, allotment and the station flowerbeds, I reckon there would still be enough for a wagon or two every so often.  Presumably they had a pit or midden, and emptied it every month or two?

 

I'm not convinced that sending the stuff out by rail would be common - except maybe at Paddington or other large city depots - I'd have thought there would be enough of a local market for it at most stations. Are there any surviving station legers that might record sales?

 

The Midland Railway Study Centre has two items. I only have the catalogue descriptions:

 

Item Number: 27542

Date: 1 January 1879
Category: Goods Department Document

Letter from Derby to Mr Allcock, Station Master, Settle regarding the sale of stable manure. The rates are confirmed as 2s-6d per month per horse and 1s-8d per month for yard sweepings.

 

Item Number: 21127

Date: 16 December 1909
Category: Goods Department Document

Duplicated circular letter from District Goods Manager Derby dated 16 December 1909 regarding correspondence and clerical work; wrong sending and diversion of traffic; monthly return of special facilities rendered; goods received unentered; washing of drays; frost studs (for horses); traffic for Manchester Ship Canal; caretakers in charge of heavy machinery; LNW, L&Y and Midland working agreement - continental traffic via Grimsby; G.C., G.E., & G.N. working agreement; road motor competition; manure sales; loading of wagons; sheets in empty wagons and wagons under load to be released promptly.

 

3 hours ago, Mikkel said:

Also, cubic feet do my head in.

 

There's nothing like modelling British railways for encouraging mental agility! 

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Isn’t it weird how the most prosaic posts can be the most useful? Thanks for the research and advice Mikkel. I need to make some droppings for the stables at Bricklayers Arms and generally add some dirt so this blog is very handy. 

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1 hour ago, Northroader said:

 

that - the best way to muck out stables is to encourage small girls with the promise of a chance to ride the beasts.

 

I'm told that horse muck is now classed as "hazardous waste", so stables are only too happy to have you take it away for your allotment relieving them of the problem of disposal.

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34 minutes ago, Michael Hodgson said:

that - the best way to muck out stables is to encourage small girls with the promise of a chance to ride the beasts.

 

I'm told that horse muck is now classed as "hazardous waste", so stables are only too happy to have you take it away for your allotment relieving them of the problem of disposal.

Oddly, a lot of places around us, in S E Kent, no longer have sacks of manure available at the roadside. It's been quite difficult to get any over the last couple of years.

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If you find a source, I could do with some too (near Folkestone!)

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Hazardous waste, not if it is used for fertiliser, so says HMG.  I can imagine though that leaving it at the roadside in bags is probably not allowed, but if you asked they may give/sell it to you.

 

As I type this there is an advert popping up at the bottom of the page asking if I have enough horseshoes.  

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1 minute ago, ChrisN said:

As I type this there is an advert popping up at the bottom of the page asking if I have enough horseshoes.  

 

Disturbing, isn't it? How many does one need?

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8 hours ago, Simond said:

Presumably they had a pit or midden, and emptied it every month or two?

 

Yes, on the standard designs they were attached to the stable block itself. Mine is still to be built, it will span the join to the next module (opposite side of this one).

 

image.png.d13bfbc31c296a5e9f82e1595f216419.png

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Mikkel

Posted (edited)

7 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

Surely there's no beer drinking in Fez?

 

No but tea. Lots of mint tea.

 

7 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

I do think you have to allow for the volume of straw mixed in - which would be old bedding. How much straw would a 12-stall stable get through? That might come in by rail.

 

The Penn State Uni "output" data include bedding, which is convenient. But good point about the incoming straw, must work out how much fodder and bedding came in.

 

7 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

I'm not convinced that sending the stuff out by rail would be common - except maybe at Paddington or other large city depots - I'd have thought there would be enough of a local market for it at most stations. Are there any surviving station legers that might record sales?

 

The Midland Railway Study Centre has two items. I only have the catalogue descriptions:

 

Item Number: 27542

Date: 1 January 1879
Category: Goods Department Document

Letter from Derby to Mr Allcock, Station Master, Settle regarding the sale of stable manure. The rates are confirmed as 2s-6d per month per horse and 1s-8d per month for yard sweepings.

 

Item Number: 21127

Date: 16 December 1909
Category: Goods Department Document

Duplicated circular letter from District Goods Manager Derby dated 16 December 1909 regarding correspondence and clerical work; wrong sending and diversion of traffic; monthly return of special facilities rendered; goods received unentered; washing of drays; frost studs (for horses); traffic for Manchester Ship Canal; caretakers in charge of heavy machinery; LNW, L&Y and Midland working agreement - continental traffic via Grimsby; G.C., G.E., & G.N. working agreement; road motor competition; manure sales; loading of wagons; sheets in empty wagons and wagons under load to be released promptly.

 

 

Ah, now that's pure gold. 

 

A quote from "London Railway Stations" by Chris Heather, on arrangements at Paddington:

 

image.png.66872d0e026e2116e7e6496614fe5036.png

 

And later there is this: 

 

https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/902c5134-9d92-444c-a270-d27c3886dc93

 

Edited by Mikkel
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On 16/05/2021 at 14:13, Fat Controller said:

I remember reading a book about market gardeners in Paris in the 19th and 20th centuries. Apparently, after delivering in Central Paris, they would backload horse manure to their gardens in the outskirts. Rather than simply composting the manure, they stacked it in 'hot beds', where the heat from decomposition enable them to get a head-start with the the more cold-sensitive crops. Apparently, this meant they could harvest up to seven times in a normal year. The rotted-down manure would be used to enrich the soil.

There was another use for horse manure; as a component of the moulds for casting. It would serve to bind the moulding sand together. More recently, molasses has been used.

most recent use AFAIK was (is?) in the casting of bronze Bells For Churches etc.

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14 hours ago, Mikkel said:

Also, cubic feet do my head in.

Why so? It’s just about the length of your foot, or possibly show, in x, y and z. Fairly easy to visualise that.

28.31l, though... ...now, that is a challenge!

 

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Compound2632

Posted (edited)

It is, also, about the right size of box to put your head in, so long as the cat hasn't got there first.

Edited by Compound2632
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Adam88

Posted (edited)

What a topic!

 

  1. I had a boss who emigrated for about ten years to Australia and during that period he needed to order some concrete for some foundations.  Now by this time Australia had started to slide down the metrication slope and his order for X cubic yards of ready-mix got translated into X cubic metres.  He had the deepest set of foundations in all Canberra by the time he'd finished.
  2. Seeing the whitemetal model horses made me think of the famous Silver, horse to the Lone Ranger, and that sent me down the YouTube rabbit-hole, reminding me that I am no intellectual when it comes to classical music.
  3. I was always cautioned that with horses you should always keep well clear of the moving parts.
Edited by Adam88
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Mikkel

Posted (edited)

20 hours ago, Northroader said:

 

 

Thanks, that's brilliant. 15 hands, one wheelbarrow full. Penn State University should put him on the board. 

 

Reminds me I must fashion a pitch fork. I have some from a certain manufacturer, but they are about knee-height :rolleyes:

 

 

9 hours ago, Regularity said:

Why so? It’s just about the length of your foot, or possibly show, in x, y and z. Fairly easy to visualise that.

28.31l, though... ...now, that is a challenge!

 

 

I was brought up to think metric. It makes you narrowminded and lazy - like all systems that claim superiority.

 

 

19 hours ago, 5&9Models said:

Isn’t it weird how the most prosaic posts can be the most useful? Thanks for the research and advice Mikkel. I need to make some droppings for the stables at Bricklayers Arms and generally add some dirt so this blog is very handy. 

 

I look forward to seeing that! And a Victorian crossing sweeper too, perhaps?

 

Edited by Mikkel
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Holy Crap, just imagine if the petrol engine hadn’t been invented - we’d all be up to our necks in it by now!  Given that we are all experts on this subject in Ireland, and believe me it’s everywhere over here, the color and consistency of your version is exactly right.  

Edited by PaternosterRow
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32 minutes ago, PaternosterRow said:

Given that we are all experts on this subject in Ireland, and believe me it’s everywhere over here, the color and consistency of your version is exactly right.  

 

Surely it's like wagon grey - there are infinite degrees of variation, so almost anything will be right for some horse, somewhere, sometime. The difficulty is ascertaining the right look for your horse in your location at your time period; this must depend on factors including the type and age of the horse, its feed, and the work it has been doing. As usually, we've both hands tied behind our backs due to having to rely on monochrome photographs.

 

I don't think we've yet touched on scale smell.

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2 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

 

Surely it's like wagon grey - there are infinite degrees of variation, so almost anything will be right for some horse, somewhere, sometime. The difficulty is ascertaining the right look for your horse in your location at your time period; this must depend on factors including the type and age of the horse, its feed, and the work it has been doing. As usually, we've both hands tied behind our backs due to having to rely on monochrome photographs.

 

I don't think we've yet touched on scale smell.

 

The usual advice still applies: It's best if you can try to find photographs from multiple angles (at the very least one from each side of the subject) taken on the same occasion in the time period you are modelling. Or Stephen's version - apply a documented number that there is no known good photograph of...

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Mikkel

Posted (edited)

I'm not sure if it's possible to dig up photos of the same dropping from multiple angles, especially 1900s ones! :)

 

Incidentally, it seems that the so-called "horse manure crisis of 1894" in London and New York is an urban legend. Apparently it originates in a 2004 article which made a number of unsubstantiated claims. Lots os websites mention the crisis, but if you look at the accompanying photos they do not in fact show horse manure, just muddy roads, trash and roadworks. I would link to an article in the The Times about the myth, but it's behind the paywall.

 

Edited by Mikkel
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5 minutes ago, Mikkel said:

I'm not sure if it's possible to dig up photos of the same dropping from multiple angles, especially 1900s ones! :)

 

Incidentally, it seems that the so-called "horse manure crisis of 1894" in London and New York is an urban legend. Apparently it originates in a 2004 article which makes a number of unsubstantiated claims. Lots os websites mention the crisis, but if you look at the accompanying photos they do not in fact show horse manure, just muddy roads, trash and roadworks.

 

 

It does appear to have been a topic of debate in the first Urban Planning Conference in 1898.  I thought the conference was in 1895, but it must have been postponed.  :)

 

The other issue was how to feed that number of horses.  I thought the debate was about that too, as there were so many horses it was thought that there was not enough farming land to feed both the horses and the people.

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2 hours ago, ChrisN said:

it was thought that there was not enough farming land to feed both the horses and the people.

 

"meat" pies.

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