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GREATER LONDON INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY SOCIETY

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Notes and news — February 1999

Wilson's lorries

Stephen Croad's piece (GLIAS Newsletter 179) raised some interesting points. Regarding adults collecting 'Dinky toys' this is a popular activity. In the vicinity of Victoria Street, Derby, a shop well-stocked with Supertoy type lorries and buses was displaying a large notice stressing that they did not sell toys but models for collectors (just in case any were bought for children by mistake).

Do you remember the Wilson's Lorry craze of the late 1940s? About 1948 Wilson's lorry kits took hold of some people. The materials were largely balsa wood, card and embossed and colour-printed (aluminium?) foil and you glued them together with balsa cement, fairly novel at the time as it was so quick drying. The lorry cabs looked excellent when assembled and one could make small sacks from old white handkerchiefs to go on the back of say flourmill lorries which looked very fine too.

People displayed them in glass-fronted bookcases. They were probably 4mm scale, compatible with 00 gauge model railways anyway. The sort of people who made Wilson's lorries had other hobbies such as making glove puppets and doing marquetry. The Wilson lorry kits were reminiscent of the 00 gauge model railway Peco private owner wagon kits which were marketed for many years and may still be available.

Do any GLIAS members remember ever having seen a Wilson's lorry kit? They were sold by the type of shop which sold model aeroplane kits (eg Keil Kraft) which sold in large numbers. These kits were balsa wood and tissue which you doped * and made flying models. All this home activity was before television was cheap enough to be widely available and this was what went on during winter evenings. No plastic kits then. Bob Carr

* Regarding dope there was very little risk of confusion with narcotics 50 years ago although really it was a kind of glue inhaling. Dope was mostly cellulose which had a strong smell of peardrops, overpowering with the windows closed. Balsa cement had a similar strong smell. Probably it is now illegal to sell this kind of thing, at least to minors.

The Dutch Motor Coaster

A successful application of the diesel engine, about the time of the First World War, was to the propulsion of the small Dutch motor coaster. At this time the Netherlands were neutral and these small ships were able to trade with both sides in the great conflict which from the start gave them an economic advantage over the coal-fired coasters of Britain.

However in a small ship, say about 150 feet in length, not requiring space for a boiler or bulky coal bunkers was a considerable boon, even more so when we consider that no-one was needed, 24 hours a day even if part time, to stoke coal.

That also meant no cabins to accommodate stoking crew or the need to feed them. Thus the Dutch were able to operate small ships with considerable cargo capacity economically with a tiny crew and the British coastal shipping industry suffered as a result.

In the lean years between the wars the Dutch motor coaster became ubiquitous and these efficient and attractive vessels, usually with the hull painted grey, were to be seen on the Thames in large numbers. With masts that could be lowered they could pass up-river beyond London Bridge and penetrate inland as far as Brentford or Isleworth. Of course on the other side of the North Sea they could do likewise on the large European rivers and canals. This situation persisted until the 1970s or so when the even more efficient German diesel-engined coaster began to make inroads on the Dutch domain. Bob Carr

Woolwich Arsenal and railways

Ex-War Department 8F 90733 at Oakworth station, 21.2.09.  Robert Mason It is difficult to fully appreciate the great extent of Woolwich Arsenal in south-east London. Now there is little left but 50 years ago the site was served internally by over 400 miles of standard-gauge railway track and a steam hauled standard-gauge passenger service was operated about the works to transport employees to their place of work.

A four-road locomotive shed housed the Arsenal's own steam locomotives and during the Second World War about 50 were in use internally.

Some idea of the engineering capacity available at that time may be gathered from the fact that about 1947 a batch of War Department 2-8-0 heavy main line freight locomotives was being refurbished by the Arsenal for export to the Far East.

These locomotives, introduced in 1943, were designed by Mr Riddles for the Ministry of Supply and when British Railways came into being 700 of these large machines were taken into BR stock.

The overhauling of the WD 2-8-0s was the work of just one shop at Woolwich, another was manufacturing standard MOT all-metal railway wagons at the rate of 30 per day. Bob Carr

GLIAS Recording Group report

text to come

Crossness Engines

text to come

Pedestrian Subways

text to come

Lighthouses

text to come

Trollope's interesting chimney

text to come

Quarrying on Herm Channel Island

text to come

Greenwich Railway Gasworks

text to come

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© GLIAS, 1999