Monthly Archives: December 2009

Ellie the Dobermann

I’ve been asked a few times recently about Ellie’s progress, as I haven’t put any updates here recently.  My apologies to anyone who’s interested but I’ll catch up a bit now.

As you can see from the photo, she can get out a bit now – this is her first week.  The vet didn’t want her to put too much weight on the leg for a couple of months, and now that she is out, it’s only on the lead for short spells.  The first 3 days she was allowed 2 x 5 minute walks, the next 3 days it was 2 x 10 minute walks and now we are up to 15 minutes.  She was limping a bit more this morning after her walk so I only took her once – I don’t want to set her back through pushing her too hard.

She does still limp quite a lot as she has to learn to walk on her right leg with a plate fitted inside – it can’t be easy!  On the bright side, she is getting back to her old ways now – much noisier!!

Recently, I have been putting posts on about the museum collection and today I have added rail maps to the ‘Colliery Loco’ pages, now I shall have to try and catch up with any other news.

Luggage Labels

London & North Eastern Railway Luggage Labels

One of the most popular collectors’ items is the humble railway luggage label.  Many thousands of these still exist in private collections and they are generally cheap to buy.  They take up little space, are light, colourful and easily displayed, with a huge variety of shapes, sizes and typefaces.

Not much is known about the labels first used by the old companies, but as a general rule they seem to have been blank except for the destination station, without even the company’s name or initials.

From the 1870s onwards, the standard labels which are familiar to collectors today began to be printed in great numbers, and most of them remained unaltered right up to the end of the company’s existence.

The majority of labels were printed in black ink on white paper.  Some had gummed backs, but these often became damp and stuck together in bundles.  Others were pasted on, which took longer than using gummed labels, but they were easier to store.

An important variation was the use of the sending station’s name on the label.  Some companies always used it, others did not – and some changed their policies.  The most numerous labels to have survived are from the Great Western Railway, which began by printing the name of the sending station.  After 1884 the practicewas abandoned because print runs were so small for isolated country stations.  Consequently GWR from/to labels are much rarer.

Other companies which printed the name of the sending station included the Scottish lines (except the North British and Highland labels), the Taff Vale, broad gauge lines absorbed by the GWR and the London, Brighton & South Coast Railway.

Great Eastern Railway labels had space for station names which were printed by station staff using a rubber stamp.

Office Equipment

Part of our collection of office equipment.


Before the Biro type pen came into use in the 1940s, a clerk used either a pencil or a dip pen with a fixed or renewable nib.

Neither inkwells nor paperweights came in standard designs, even from the same company.  Any survivors come in a huge variety of shapes, sizes and materials.

Prior to the 1960s, vast armies of clerks and administrators in numerous offices all over the railway system also used wagonloads of paper.

GWR Jigsaw Puzzles

To the resourceful publicity department of the Great Western Railway  (GWR) jigsaws were yet another opportunity to put the letters GWR in front of the public.

From 1924 onwards passengers could pass the hours with a jigsaw purchased from the station bookstall.  As well as jigsaws depicting GWR locos and trains, the 44 produced also include places served by the company and historic scenes connected with the area.

The first puzzle, of GWR 4-6-0 No.4073 Caerphilly Castle, was produced in time for the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley in 1924 where the locomotive was on display.  Initially the 150 piece jigsaw was sold for 5 shillings (25p), but a month later the price was reduced to 2s 6d (half-a-crown or 12½p). The price only just covered the cost but publicity rather than profit was the object.

Most of the GWR jigsaws were sold at 2s 6d (12½p) with the exception of seven puzzles with 375 – 400 pieces, which cost more.

Two particular favourites with collectors are the double-sided puzzle of 1926 depicting Exeter Cathedral on one side and a map of the GWR system on the reverse, and a pair of puzzles in one box – one taken from a Frith painting, ‘The Railway Station‘ and the other a ‘View of Paddington Station‘.

There were also three large-piece puzzles designed for younger children: King George V, GWR Passenger Coach and Combined Engine and Coach.

All the puzzles were manufactured for the GWR by Chad Valley in Birmingham; they came in attractive boxes with a coloured print of the subject within.  The original puzzles were sold in boxes with lift-off lids, and in the 1930s in book boxes.


London & North Western Railway Armband

The later years of the 19th century saw increasing standardization on the railways, not least in the armbands worn by three types of railway worker – pilotmen, flagmen and lookout men.  The one worn by pilotmen was issued by the signal department and was made of red cloth with white stitched letters, and was secured by leather or elastic straps.

The armbands for flagmen and lookout men were made of enamelled steel plate, cut into an oval and shaped to fit the arm.  A pair of slots was cut into the plate, through which a pair of leather straps, with buckles, was attached.  Issued by the permanent way department, these enamel armbands were finished in white with red lettering.

A pilotman was a signal department employee whose job was to ride on the locomotive acting as a kind of human staff or token if the signalling on a single line failed, or if there was an accident or obstruction which closed one of the lines of a double track.  No train could proceed without him in such an emergency, so that the possibility of a head-on collision was avoided.

The lookout man was quite simply that.  His job was to keep a sharp lookout when a permanent way gang was working on the track, and to give a warning for it to stand clear as soon as he saw an approaching train.

The flagman was another permanent way ganger, who used green, yellow or red flags to communicate with signalmen or other permanent way staff who were out of audible range.All three posts were – and still are – crucial to the safety of both passengers and railway employees, and armbands were issued to emphasize this fact and to avoid misunderstandings.  A modern variety, coloured pale blue with white letters, was used on British Rail.

London, Midland & Scottish Railway Armband.

RSH Worksplate

Robert Stephenson & Hawthorns Worksplate

RSH 7695/1951

This Worksplate is from the Robert Stephenson & Hawthorns Ltd. Loco 7695/1951.  Ex works 20-12-1951.  0-6-0ST 18” x 24” outside cylinders.  4’ 0”  driving wheels.

Supplied new to Whitburn Colliery

To Boldon Colliery 7/58

To Whitburn Colliery 2/59

To Boldon Colliery 2/61

To Whitburn Colliery 5/62

To Boldon Colliery 11/62

To Whitburn Colliery 12/62

To Boldon Colliery 5/63

To Whitburn Colliery 4/65

Scrapped 3/70

Fitted with Westinghouse Air Brakes, saw use on South Shields, Marsden and Whitburn Colliery ‘Paddy Trains’.

Wagon Builders’ Plates

Cambrian Wagon Works Builder’s Plate

The cast-iron plates fixed to goods wagons can give a wealth of information and detail about the origins and use of a particular vehicle.

Wagons were either built in the workshops of the pre-Grouping railway companies or by outside carriage and wagon builders.  In either case, a plate would indicate the railway company and the wagon number.  A separate builder’s plate would be found only if built by an independent manufacturer.

Many wagons, especially in the days of privately owned fleets of coal trucks, were built not by the railway companies but by private wagon builders.  In some cases the builder’s plate would have a distinctive shape so that it could be recognized easily even if rendered illegible by grime.

R.Y. Pickering of Wishaw used a lozenge shape and the Standard Wagon Co. of Reddish and Heywood used a bell-shaped plate.  The Gloucester Railway Carriage & Wagon Co. used an elongated capita; G – which gave the plate a fish shape – and the Central Wagon Co. of Wigan had a downward pointing crescent.  These were unusual; most makers used oval plates, some with fancy lettering and scrollwork on and around the plate.  The company’s initial letter often formed a feature of the design.

The larger main line railways generally had their own wagon works which met most of their requirements, and not all of them affixed separate builder’s plates.  Among those which did were the GER at Stratford Works, and the NBR at Cowlairs.

The Big Four railways settled on a standard design based on the final Midland pattern, which was shaped like a letter D with the flat side at the top.  The LNER plate carried the most detail with the wagon number, capacity in tons, builder and date built.  British Railways continued with this style, using the LNER plate as the final design.Ince Waggon & Ironworks plate with the double G spelling.

Wagon Plates

Midland Railway Wagon  Plate

Railways first came into being not to carry passengers, but to convey freight, especially mineral traffic like coal.  In the early days, when few lines were interconnected, the variety of goods wagon did not matter, but as railways expanded and through trains became common, it was essential to have wagons whose buffers, brakes, couplings and so on all matched up.

The Railway Clearing House (RCH) the body which liaised between the railways, looked into the problem early on and issued standards to all railway companies, wagon builders and private wagon owners.

LMS Wagon  Plate

The wagon carrying this plate was registered by the North British Railway Company and allowed to run on main lines.

The main line railways adopted these standards fairly quickly, but the private owners, especially collieries and coal merchants, were reluctant to comply, and damage and derilaments became common due to their wagons either lacking proper buffers and brakes or being poorly maintained.

In the 1880s, however, it became a legal requirement for all privately owned wagons to be registered by the railway company to whose sidings their owners were connected, and only those that reached the Clearing House standard were allowed to run on main lines.

Each wagon so passed had two plates, one on either side of the main frame, advising its date of manufacture, its registration number and its carrying capacity.   In 1907, the RCH designed a new star-shaped plate for tank wagons.

Many of the ordinary registration plates come with their lugs broken off, but these can easily be repaired usingfibreglass filler.  The normal colour seems to have been black with white lettering, and red with white letters for tank wagons.

However, some privately owned wagons were painted in quite garish colours, and it seems likely that their plates were similarly treated.  Nearly all plates were made of cast-iron, but examples in brass or lead alloy are occasionally seen.London & North Western Railway Wagon Registration Plate

Bridge Numberplates

London & North Western Railway Company Bridge Numberplate

Bridge Numberplates

Most railway signs were meant for the public and carried a variety of warnings such as ‘Beware of the Trains’,  ‘Shut the gate’ and ‘Do not cross beyond this point’.

A sign with a different purpose was to be found on the majority of bridges throughout the railway system.  These bridge numberplates had nothing to do with the public, being purely for the railways’ own operational purposes.

They have become very popular with enthusiasts, often being put to use as house numbers.  Almost every company used them, a major exception being the Great Western Railway.  Most plates were made of cast iron, though in the case of the South East and Chatham Railway, they were made of stamped, pressed steel.  The plates were located on the left-hand side of bridge piers – one at each end – facing the trains.Manchester South Junction & Altrincham Railway Bridgeplate.

Some of the cast-iron plates from pre-grouping days are still in place, the largest number being found along the route once worked by the London & Birmingham Railway.

Plates are often oval, though within this broad category there are plenty of variations of size and shape.  The type used by the London & North Eastern railway, for example, is less elongated than its LMS equivalent.

Among the most attractive and sought-after plates are those of the Cockermouth, Keswick & Penrith Railway (CKPR) in Cumberland.  This small company had 135 bridges in its system, with just a single plate on each bridge.  The plates, which faced Cockermouth and were numbered from that end of the line, feature an attractive lettering-face reading ‘CK & P Railway’ round their border.

Only 20 or so of the CKPR’s plates are known to have survived.  But it is not just their good looks or scarcity value that have led them to be so sought after by collectors.  They are also the only plates to feature the word ‘Railway’ in full. Their popularity has made them expensive, and even if you were able to find one,  it would cost in the region of four figures.

Some railways produced bridge numberplates showing only the numbers.  In the case of the Great Eastern, the plates were a lozenge shape and came in two sizes – the more elongated one being for siting by the roadside.West Riding & Grimsby Railway Bridgeplate No.24

Hednesford Railways 3

The second part of my last post, Hednesford Railways 2, went missing – the photos were in the library and according to the library information, attached to Hednesford Railways 2 – but, nowhere to be seen.  Very frustrating! So here we go again!

I shall start with the first photo again.The line that we are interested in is behind the rake of coal wagons heading off to Cannock Wood.This photo shows where the line moves away from the Cannock Wood branch, and the next shows the trackbed a little further along.The line is now approaching the Rugeley Road, which was crossed by an over-bridge.Now that there are houses on the opposite side of the road, it is not easy to find the exact spot where it crossed, but it couldn’t have been far from this point.In this photo, the line came up from the Rugeley Road and passed in front of the chimneys, passed all the buildings, went under a footbridge and up the valley for a short distance.  This is the site of the footbridge.

The footbridge was erected for miners from Hazel Slade and Rawnsley to gain access to the colliery without crossing the railway (and was used as a short-cut to get to the shops in Hednesford!).

Up the valley the line ended and the train went over a set of points which enabled it to change track and come back down the valley to the sidings to the front of the photo.  The line also carried on through to rejoin the up-line below the buildings, and travel back to Hednesford.This is the present view of the old Corn Stores, now housing the Museum of Cannock Chase, the down-line would have followed the line of the tarmac road for a short distance before swinging over to join the up-line.

If anyone has a photo of the road bridge or the footbridge, I would be very grateful for a copy.  Thank you.