Saturday, July 24, 2010


Work on the wooden five-plank wagon is moving ahead.

Ollie, who's overseeing the project, has moved what's left of the wagon to the siding where he is dismantling it. There's not a lot left!

We are rescuing what we can of the original wagon, if it is at all original. I suspect it's like my grandfather's axe that's had two new hafts and three new heads but is the one my grandfather owned.

There is an ongoing debate, as there always is about renovating antique objects: How far should we take it back to its original state of being? That begs the question: Do we really know its original state of being? We can be pretty sure it was originally one of the wagons from the series D299 but we don't know its exact date of building.

It is tempting to try to revert it to the way it was when it was first built. That means knowing what it was like, for example, many wagons at about the time it was built, somewhere about 100 years ago, had brake mechanism on one side only. I happen to think this may have been one of those. My opinion is based on the fact that the details of the mechanism's components on each side are different. However it was pointed out to me that the wagon may have been built with brakes on both sides but one side later sustained damage and was replaced with parts that were detailed differently. We can't be sure how it looked when it was built.

John, who's the engineer at Bitton, pointed out to me today that even if it had been built with brakes on one side only, it now has brakes on both sides and that addition is part of the wagon's history, and it is that history that we seek to preserve. Taken to its logical, if absurd, conclusion, this line of argument would leave us with an unreconstructed pile of rotten timber and rusting iron-work, because the rot and rust are also part of its history.

In the end its a question of choice. Do we let it rot at the one extreme; do we find out exactly how it was when it left the wagon works and put it into that pristine condition at the other extreme; or do we find a useful and acceptable compromise?

I vote for compromise. Partly because it's easier and partly because in doing so we can honour its origins and its history while preserving it for people in the future to see how railway wagons were made and developed.

There are photographs of the wagon here.

I'll add more to them and to this as time goes on.

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