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Railway Industries & Works

One railway operated industry was the railway sleeper depot, requiring timber, creosote, rail chairs and bolts to be delivered and trains of sleepers to be dispatched. Smaller companies would buy their sleepers from outside suppliers and most larger companies would only have a single sleeper depot to serve their system.

Most of the activity went on in large buildings but there were some characteristic elements which identify the purpose of the establishment.

Timber was delivered to the depot on bolster wagons and in open wagons. Bryant & May 'Long Matches' are probably the best option to represent the incoming timber. It was cut to size and stacked outside in tall piles. The only way I can think of to produce enough is to neatly glue lots of matches close together to a piece of plastic card with PVA glue, then sand this sheet of matches using sand paper wrapped round a block of wood to reduce the overall height by about a third. Soak the sheet in water to release the matches from the card and stack them (the glue should re-set holding the piles together).

The cut timbers were drilled for the bolts to hold the chairs and cut down to a standard thickness with special grooves to engage ribs on the base of the rail chairs. To protect against wood rot the sleepers were then impregnated with creosote or similar preservative. The yellowish to dark green creosote oil was delivered from gas works and specialised coal tar distillers in tanker wagons. The impregnation was done by stacking the timber on metal cradles which were carried on simple rail-mounted trolleys. These were passed over a wagon turn-table to line them up with the pressurised creosote cylinders, black iron tubes about six foot in diameter by forty foot to ninety foot long. These cylinders were commonly enclosed in a building however at some works they were in the open and offer a stroge visual key to the nature of the works. The cradle was pulled from the trolley into the cylinder by a steam engine and a long chain or cable passing over a pulley inside at the far end. The door of the cylinder was then bolted closed and the chamber was pressurised at up to 200 pounds per square inch with the fluid which was pre-heated to about 150 degrees Fahrenheit. After treatment the sleeper cradles are stood over a pit to allow any remaining creosote to drip off and then passed to the workshops where the chairs are fitted.

As noted the chair has a serrated base which engages with grooves in the sleeper, this prevents the chair moving 'out of gauge'. The bolts are inserted into countersunk holes on the underside of the sleeper and the chair laid in place, after the 1920's all of this was normally done by machine with a further machine to tighten the bolts.

Sleeper depots tended to be large establishments, but again the majority of the 'works' could be off-stage with only the delivery and loading sidings actually modelled. The sleepers were sent out with the chairs bolted in place and the larger companies built special stock for this traffic. The chairs and bolts would be delivered in open wagons, the former resting in straw or bracken and covered with a tarpaulin.

Fig ___ Sleeper Depot

Most railways operated extensive works producing rolling stock and engines, there are generally too large to include on a layout, although they could be suggested on the backscene with a set of exchange sidings in view and hidden sidings to accept incoming wagons and vans. At the part of the works dealing with carriages there were also 'fumigation chambers', basically a very large cylinder set into the ground so rails could run inside. The coach was moved inside the cylinder and heavy steel doors were closed, the cylinder was then pressurised with the fumigating agent (a gas I believe) and remained under pressure for some time.

For those interested in railway freight stock perhaps the most attractive, and least modelled, railway connected industry is the wagon works. Most of the well known wagon firms had extensive works, however there were smaller establishments which could be included on a layout. Many firms also operated small local repair points at or near to goods marshalling yards to carry out emergency repairs on stock, generally on behalf of private owners, and few of these survived the 1950's.

About the minimum for a small wagon works would entail a siding from the main line feeding, via a couple of wagon turn-tables, the 'works' itself would be a long (probably wooden) building, slightly taller than most rail-side structures. In practice the wagon works was not usually suited to model railway operating practices, most movements were single wagons or vans being shifted by men or horses. In several cases there were some reception and dispatch sidings feeding the works itself via a very short head shunt, however the designs shown are based (loosely) on prototypical layouts and should serve.

Fig ___ Small wagon works
Sketch showing typical small wagon works

There would be a stock of wagon wheels and other items such as axle-box covers. The wheels are something of a problem in N but the 2mm Scale Association produces relatively fine section wheels which might serve, the axle box covers can be carved off redundant RTR chassis. The offices would be small, some form of wood store would be required and a small blacksmiths workshop would be likely. On any advertising sign there might well be something on the lines of 'Repairs to' or 'Builders of the 1923 Wagon', a reference to the RCH standard design. Primary inwards traffic, other than dilapidated wagons, would be wood for the chassis and planks for the vehicle bodies and roofs with occasional van loads of paint and metal fittings. Modern wagon works are generally all under cover with some storage sidings in the open, the drawing below is taken from a photograph of a small wagon repair works in the Midlands

Fig ___ Modern wagon works building

Locomotive builders and the railway companies themselves had quite large industrial premises, the larger railway works were amongst the biggest industrial complexes in the country. Some companies built rolling stock and locomotives at a single works, others divided these jobs between differing locations. The major works are somewhat large for a model but if your layout is a light railway or an industrial line serving a factory or mine complex you could add its own workshops for servicing and repairing locomotives and rolling stock as discussed in Volume 1, under Freight Operations.

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