The Apprentices

Researching Oswestry Works has taken me down all sorts of interesting avenues of investigation, from 15ft long Cambrian plans in the National Archives to well thumbed notebooks recording repairs and works undertaken.  A few months back a former Boilersmiths Apprentice John Dyke got in touch with me via RMWeb, he was researching his own and his family’s history and whilst looking for information on his time in the works and came across my project.   John had also been in touch with another former Oswestry man, John Morris, a Fitters Apprentice, and he arranged for the three of us to meet up a couple of weeks ago.

John Morris and myself taken by John Dyke

John Morris and myself taken by John Dyke

Being able to talk about the works with these enthusiastic gents was fantastic.  I could barely keep up with their stories and recollections so after an hour they agreed to me recording the meet up on my phone.  I’ve listened back many times already and it was a lovely experience to talk first hand about day to day life.  I took my collection of photographs and plans to help clarify some areas I wasn’t sure about – how were locos moved around the works? where were spares kept? how many people were needed to operate the traverser?  The list is endless and they were only too keen to help answer as many as I could remember.

Albert Jones (L) and John Morris (R) working on the cylinders of a 14xx in Oswestry Works

Albert Jones (L) and John Morris (R) working on the cylinders of a 14xx in Oswestry Works

What originally set me on this path of 3D scanning was seeing a collection of photographs taken by Geoff Charles in the early 1950’s.  The collection is kept at the National Library of Wales and they have very kindly given me permission to share some of the photographs here.  What is different about his photos is that they are of the workmen of the works, forming a small part of a vast body of Geoff’s collection capturing every day life in Wales during and immediately after the Second World War.  These photos brought the works to life and inspired the idea behind 3D scanning people for highly realistic, naturally posed figures.  Better still – scanning the actual people who worked there…!

Left to Right: Arthur Kynaston (Boilersmith), Don 'Wacker' Rees  (Boilersmith apprentice), Tommy Pritchard (Boilersmith Chargeman), Jack  'Kinnerly', Jack Whitby (loco fitter)

Left to Right: Arthur Kynaston (Boilersmith), Don ‘Wacker’ Rees (Boilersmith apprentice), Tommy Pritchard (Boilersmith Chargeman), Jack ‘Kinnerly’, Jack Whitby (loco fitter)

Talking with John Dyke and John Morris has answered a lot of questions I had about the works and how to represent it as a model. It’s also given me much more to think on – small details like where the fitters used to keep their coats, warming them on the heating pipes during the winters; where the erecting shop and boiler shop fitters respectively used to have their snap; the flow of work from the erecting shop and boiler shop to the machine shop and back; how components were taken to the bosh for cleaning; how some works were carried out in the back yard if the weather was nice! And much more. The most resounding feedback from both John’s however was that I must model the Machine shop, it was integral to the works and the model wouldn’t be complete without it!  Thankfully Geoff Charles photographed many of the men who worked in the Machine shop and there is a well detailed plan of equipment in Steam Workshops of the Great Western Railway by Ken Gibbs.

Thomas Marshall (boilershop labourer) cleaning out piston rigngs and Dai 'Swingboat' Wynne (fitters mate) scraping carbon deposits from a front valve chest cover

Walter Ancell (fitters mate) cleaning out piston rigngs and Dai ‘Swingboat’ Wynne (fitters mate) scraping carbon deposits from a front valve chest cover, taken in the traverser shed.  Note the primitive sinks behind!

For the time being however there won’t be much progression on the works model, other than the completion of a few locomotive detailing projects (9000, 9005, 9018 and 7819).  Most of my time now is taken with developing Modelu and its potential, including planning the first stage for a range of highly realistic figures.  It’s likely I’ll start out with loco crews and shed staff as they have quite a wide appeal.  In addition to 3D scanning I’ve had a steady stream of some interesting commissions, from terraced house chimneys to point rodding stools!   More to come on that front soon.

The men of Oswestry Locomotive Works Approx 1954

All photos reproduced with the kind permission of The National Library of Wales.  All loco works names provided by John Morris.