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Notes from Bob Carr — October 1993

Waterwheel at Kew

The Kew Bridge Steam Museum has the popular image of a steam engine collection but it also has the important purpose to serve as a museum of water supply. Before the advent of the steam pumping engine water wheels were widely used to provide motive power for water pumps and it is therefore appropriate that a water-pumping water wheel should be installed there. A recent acquisition from Maiden Bradley in Somerset is just such a device and was officially inaugurated by His Grace the Duke of Somerset at a ceremony held on 27 July 1993.

The new waterwheel is 20 feet in diameter and has 72 buckets. It is of the backshot type and drives through gearing a set of three throw ram pumps, which for demonstration purposes pump water round a recycling system. A decorative fountain for the amusement of the public may be installed later. The wheel was built by E S Hindley and Sons in 1902 at Bourton, Dorset. Originally it provided a water supply for the Duke of Somerset's estate and the village of Maiden Bradley. Bob Carr

Waterloo & City Line reopens

The new trains are (with a few initial teething troubles) now in service between Waterloo and Bank (GLIAS Newsletter August 1993).

At Bank a newly opened pedestrian tunnel gives a convenient more direct connection from British Rail to the Docklands Light Railway. The new pedestrian tunnel makes use of the old railway tunnel made in the late 1890s where the tunnelling shield was run on past the intended site for Bank station.

The original Greathead tunnelling shield is still in situ and thoughtfully in the recent conversion the front few inches have been left bare and painted red, forming a feature of interest to passengers walking through the old shield and continuing on along a newly made tunnel to the Docklands Light Railway. Bob Carr

The Wharncliffe viaduct and Hanwell railway station

Hanwell railway station in Greater London on I K Brunel's Great Western main line from Paddington to Bristol is a strong reminder of what suburban railway stations used to be before many of them were reduced to a bus shelter on an exposed platform. At Hanwell there are still substantial station buildings complete with overhanging canopies. The whole is a charming survival and well worth a nostalgic visit and in the vicinity are 22 listed areas/buildings. In 1980 British Rail spent a considerable sum of money restoring Hanwell Station in a sympathetic manner and the station has listed status.

However with the introduction of Crossrail it is intended to electrify the railway through Hanwell on the overhead system and British Rail would now like the station to be de-listed so that the canopies can be cut back to make room for the overhead electric wires. Moreover just to the West is the famous Wharncliffe Viaduct which carries the main line over the valley of the River Brent. Overhead electrification here is likely to alter appearances considerably.

Wharncliffe Viaduct was the first contract of the GWR to be let, in November 1835. It was the only really big engineering work on the first section of the railway, between Paddington and Taplow, which opened on 4 June 1838. Brunel's substantial viaduct over the Brent of eight yellow-brick arches is an impressive early railway structure using the Egyptian style for the piers to great effect. There is a well-known lithograph by J C Bourne. What we now have is not exactly as I K Brunel left things as the viaduct was rebuilt to accommodate four tracks when the main line was quadrupled in 1877.

Durham viaduct on the East Coast Main Line to Scotland was electrified in a manner which was not too disfiguring and although more expensive than the standard system perhaps with Wharncliffe a similar approach might be adopted. On the Liverpool Street suburban electric system it proved possible to retain station canopies and Walthamstow Central station might be quoted as an example of what can be done. It is to be hoped that this whole issue can be simply resolved. Bob Carr
Anyone interested in the fate of Wharncliffe Viaduct and Hanwell Station is asked to contact Mr Gordon Pedley of the Hanwell Preservation Group. Tel: 020 8567 0470

VVIA in London

Over the weekend 21-23 May this year two van loads of industrial archaeologists from the Belgian industrial archaeology society Vlaamse Vereniging voor IndustriŽle Archeologie v.z.w. visited London and were shown round by GLIAS members. Staying at a small hotel in Finsbury Park visits were made to the Kew Bridge Steam Museum, Kirkaldy Testing Museum, The London Canal Museum Battlebridge Basin and Crossness beam engines and there were informal stops at various places to see more things. On Saturday afternoon there was a visit around Dockland calling in at the North Woolwich Old Station Museum with in the evening an Indian restaurant meal in Brick Lane. Many thanks to all who helped. Bob Carr

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© GLIAS, 1993