Oswestry Works

Locomotive works diorama in 4mm

Category: Research

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.

Dukedog variations part I – No.9018


With 5726 waiting on some final bits (smokebox number and shed plate) I thought I’d make a start on the trio of Dukedog’s that will feature in the works.  At this stage its detailing I’m concentrating on, converting them to P4 will be a challenge for later when I’ve developed some better skills…! There is a well documented process to convert a Dukedog to EM on Alan Gibson’s website, hopefully this could be a good starting point.

The 3 Dukedog’s will give some opportunity to model some of the slight variations between the class members as detailed by Russ Elliott on the GWR Modelling website.  Another great source is Railway Bylines Vol 16 issues 2 and 3 (Jan & Feb).  Both have 14 page or so articles on the life of the Dukedogs and some great photos. For the works I’ve selected first in class No.9000, No.9004 and No.9018, all 89C:

9000 (great reference photos at Dovey JunctionAberystwyth and Machynlleth)

  • Sandboxes above the footplate (determined by the particular donating Bulldog frame)
  • Top feed
  • No whistle shield
  • Small Dean/Churchward tender
  • Fluted rods
  • Lamp iron on smokebox door
  • Black background number

9004 (On shed at Portmadoc, in store at Wellington)

  • Top Feed
  • Short whistle shield
  • Fluted rods
  • Lamp iron on smokebox door
  • Red background number

9018 (On freight at Aberdovey, not long till the end, Oswestry)

  • Parallel buffers
  • Tall whistle shield
  • Red background number
  • Fish belly rods
  • Faded GWR shirtbutton motif on tender

Other options in the future might be 9005, 9014, 9017… can you tell I like Dukedogs… 🙂  Looking at the works registers for the period I’ll be modelling, there are plenty to chose from.

Works Entries - 9000 Class

9018 spent it’s last days in store out on ‘the batter’ siding at Oswestry.   Along with 9017 and 9004, these were the last of the Dukedog’s to see service in 1960.  I’d picked up a cheap Bachmann GWR Dukedog from Ebay with various parts broken or missing – the perfecting starting point for 9018 as most of the stuff which was missing I was planning to replace anyway!

First up are the buffers, I’ve used Alan Gibson parallel Collett versions.  I can’t say how easy or hard it was to get the original ones off – they weren’t on there in the first place! The remains of the old buffers are part of the chassis casting, so these were filed down slightly before fitting the replacements.


Next was the electrical conduit for the ATC equipment – a small pipe routed through the cab front, down through and then along the running plate to the ATC kit under the front buffer beam.  This was a pretty straightforward task with some 0.4mm hand rail wire and some holes drilled in the cab front and the running plate.  Photos from a trip to the Bluebell to see 9017 in store helped with this.


Next step, though probably a little early considering what else there is to do, was to fit the fine whistle and mounting bracket.  I’d printed this a few days ago after a couple of days of fine tuning the B9 Creator settings.  This is the finest detail I’ve got so far, though amazingly there is still some room for improvement looking at what others are achieving!   It’s fitted to a Comet Model’s long shield, part of the LS74 GWR detailing etch.

P1180130 P1180131

That’s it for 9018 now until a few orders come in next week – I’m waiting on cabside numbers from 247 Developments and smokebox numbers from Pacific models. For 9000 and 9004 I’ve final samples of the 3D printed top feed and sandbox prints currently curing in the UV oven.  Both these designs needed some revisions as the first round of prints weren’t quite right.  The top feed was a pig to design, not having an diagrams to work from just photos, but I think I’ve got it somewhere near now.  Sandboxes are quite straight forward, there are 2 types, the more common type with the pull rods running along the top, and a less common variation with pull rods running along side the sandbox.


57xx/8750 Research and Reference Photos

Whilst the NuCast 74xx build has taken up space on the workbench, I’ve still got the disassembled remains of 5726 which I began detailing back in March to finish.  Much of what I’ve done to 5726 needs doing to 7410 and more so I thought it would be a good time to share some photographs of preserved Pannier’s which helped with 5726.  Tom Foster is about to start out detailing on his blog here, hopefully some of these pictures will be of use Tom 🙂

As you’d expect many panniers passed through the books at Oswestry works, but there were also some classes very foreign to the Cambrian – 15xx’s from Old Oak Common, 94xx’s from Tyseley and even a 97xx Condensing tank. The mainstay however were the small 16xx class, auto fitted 54xx, 74xx and 57xx and the later model 8750’s.   Its the panniers from the Cambrian sheds I’m mainly interested in as they visited the most often, in particular I short listed 4 panniers to feature, 5700 (without a top feed), 5726, 3638 from Brecon 89B and 3789 from Oswestry 89A:

Oswestry Works - 5700 Class visits

Oswestry Works – 5700 Class visits

Oswestry Works - 8750 Class visits

Oswestry Works – 8750 Class visits

It was at a trip to Didcot back in May that I was able to get a proper look at some of the trickier components to see in photographs, such as the sanding apparatus and inside motion.  The small diagram which comes with the RT models sandbox linkage etch I had a little trouble deciphering until I’d seen the real thing.

The sandbox pull rods appear to operate via a single rod from the cab, which connects to another rod which passes under the boiler, then pivoting a right and left pull rod:

Other details of interest for weathering and detailing:

One day I might actually see a Pannier on a platform where I can get some photos of the tank top, though this area is very well covered in the volumes of the Pannier Papers.  5726 is currently minus all its handrails after I planned to replace them with finer 0.45mm brass wire and Alan Gibson handrail knobs.  The new hand rail is bent to shape ready for fitting, but something tells me it will find its way onto 7410 before then…!