Oswestry Works

Locomotive works diorama in 4mm

Tag: oswestry

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.

The Workhorses of Oswestry Yard

The Cambrian system featured relatively few Panniers compared to other corners of the GWR, the exception being Oswestry.   57xx, 74xx and 54xx classes were represented over the years, but the most numerous were the 16xx class.  These little Hawksworth engines were not introduced until 1949 but were pure GWR design, specifically built for light branch work and shunting.  At Oswestry they were employed extensively shunting in the yards, as station pilots or on the branches around the Oswestry area.   Oswestry shed had 10 class members on its books at various times between 1949 and 1962.  Of these, 1602, 1603, 1604 and 1636 had long associations, 1604 spending its whole life of 11 years at Oswestry.  1604 and 1636 are two that I’d like to model in Oswestry Works.

Tom Wright's 16xx and a NuCast 16xx

A while back I picked up a built NuCast 16xx with a view to improving the detailing and adding it to the works roster.  Other than replace it’s incorrect 57xx chimney with a 3D printed one its not had any other attention since I bought it.  In the mean time, Tom Wright has produced a very nice 3D printed 16xx, including frames available via Shapeways.   The design and build of the 3D model is chronicled here on RMWeb.  Tom has kindly modified his original design to exclude some details which I’d prefer to add myself, such as sprung buffers, etched lamp irons and the like.    I ordered it from Shapeway’s on the 17th Feb and today it arrived.

Tom Wright's 16xx

Tom Wright's 16xx

The model includes a body shell, OO gauge spaced frames with nem pockets and a separate smoke box door and roof.  It has a nice solid feel, the lines are crisp and the body shape is captured perfectly – thanks to Tom’s design skills.  The wall thickness is good, the cab sides in particular look better than some RTR offerings.   The main benefit over the B9C is being able to print the loco in one piece, whereas on the B9C due to the restrictions on the build volume at 30 microns, I’d have to print the loco in parts.  However, when it comes to the surface finish the grainy/frosted look needs attention.  The whole body is going to need sanding down, fine for the cab and tank sides but a challenge for anywhere else.  Finer details such as the boiler fittings and smoke box door will be easier to remove and replace with prints from the B9C.

The key point though is that the design itself is great and it will be another nice detailing project to get stuck into.  It’s the material that’s the problem (for me at least!) unfortunately, though I’m confident with some sanding and fine detailed parts it will really lift the model.  It will get the same treatment at 5726 – handrails, boiler fittings, buffer beam detail, pipework, scratch built pull rods and lamp irons etc and will be out shopped as 89A’s No.1604.

It will have to wait a little while though as I’m currently converting our garage into a workshop, I’ve had too many days in there with the temperature hovering just over freezing whilst I’ve been working on the printer!  With the garage/workshop finished in a few weeks time I’ll be ready to get the new 3D business going in earnest.  I’ve still been working my notice so I’ve not as yet been able to devote a lot time into getting things off the ground, but come the end of March 3D design, scanning and printing will become my day job! It’s a bit daunting/exciting/terrifying, but so far so good.  There should also be a surge in progress on the actual building of Oswestry Works in a few weeks, finally…

Being back in Wales now its been great to have Oswestry only an hour away. A couple of weeks ago I had my first experience volunteering with the Cambrian Heritage Railway, the days task being clearing out the cattle pens near the Coney Green.  About 12 of us spent the day tackling the undergrowth as well as clearing old sleepers from the mainline.  Back breaking work but great fun and a nice change to be working on the real thing!

Oswestry Cattle Pens