Although altered in many ways as part of the renovation, many of the key features of the works have been preserved. The support columns for the two overhead cranes still exist in an inner courtyard, the entrance to the Machine Shop though now blocked up still retains its archway. The Machine Shop is now an antiques warehouse and has the original roof, so the design of the trusses, supports and joists can easily been seen. All traces of the traverser and other equipment is long gone, as are all of the yard buildings. It’s out of use currently but the iconic works bridge is preserved, no longer crossing the Whitchurch-Oswestry Mainline but a car park. The Gobowen branch is being relaid however as the Cambrian Heritage Railways group having been making big progress towards reconnecting to the main line.
The works had two overhead cranes, a steam and later electric powered rope pull crane made by Craven Bros. Manchester in the Erecting Shop, plus a double hoist crane in the Tender/Boiler shop with manual mechanism. There are two examples of the Craven Crane that I’ve found, one in an Erecting shop in New South Wales, the other a little closer to home thankfully in Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry.
The crane is driven by a continuously circulating hemp rope which runs the length of the workshop building. The rope engages three large pulleys on the side of the crane carriage, each of which is connected to a motion of the crane via a pair of leather belts, one straight, one twisted. A system of levers moves either the straight or the twisted belt from a free pulley to an engaged pulley depending on the direction of motion required: the three motions are travel along the building, crabbing of the winch across the building and winch operation. The winch has two hoists, each with two speeds, and changes between the hoists and between speeds are made by engaging and disengaging dog clutches. I’ll be 3D printing a rudimentary version of both cranes for the diorama.
For modelling the interior of the works I’ve visited the workshops of a few preserved lines around the country, Llangollen, Tyseley, Loughborough and Didcot being some of the great locations to get reference shots.
I always get a bit of a buzz from seeing a locomotive that was serviced in Oswestry Works, the Bluebell Railway’s 9017 and the Welshpool and Llanfair pair 822 and 823 being favourites. They spent the latter part of their lives in store within the works before being sent onwards to their new homes in preservation. Some locomotives have had slight modifications in preservation, but you still can’t beat seeing the real thing, getting up close, especially for looking at cab fittings and inside motion, not areas you’d usually see in photographs. Finer details can be ascertained which are missing from many RTR locomotives, such as sandbox linkages, whistle fittings and pipe work.