Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Rails Were For...

All the way back in May of 2013, I blogged about the odd set of narrow rails you could see if you visited my local DIY shop. Unfortunately the road has since been resurfaced and the rails can no longer be seen.

The DIY shop is housed in what was, according to old maps, a wagon and wheel works and in the previous post I speculated that, for want of any other information, that the rails might relate to some form of travelling crane. Well I was wrong.

I've now, thanks to issue 190 of the Industrial Railway Record, that the works were the premises of William Gittus & Son Ltd. It appears that in general most of the work involved repairing wagons rather than building new ones, but they had a very distinctive builders plate featuring a dog which they attached to the wagons they worked on.

While it is nice to be able to put a name to the company that ran the works, the article also clears up the issue of the rails...

by 1905 several developments had taken place ... a large wooden building (which could accommodate six wagons and was known to the workmen as the "big shed") was constructed on the west side of the dike. The big shed had a full length traverser at it's west end and was served by four sidings. ... Further expansion took place in the 1920s when extensions were made to the Big Shed and a second similar sized building was erected on its west side. The traverser was then situated between the two shops and two horses were employed to shunt in this area.
So we now have a definitive answer, the rails were the remains of the wagon traverser.


  1. I love this sort of thing; real history. Things are made much easier now by the availability of the NLS Ordnance Survey series 1 maps online, it's fascinating how busy some places were back in the day! That's a wonderful plate!

    1. Working for a University I have access to lots of historic maps through Digimap which does make this kind of sleuthing much easier. The makes plate is by far the most interesting I've ever seen; all the others have simply been rectangles with the makers name.

  2. The plate set me off on a train of thought about pride in one's work and the fact that making and repairing was still, to a large extent, done by identifiable people and businesses. If you put your plate or mark on something then you were proud to have been responsible for the work that gave you the right to place the plate there. Your mark and your pride in it were your advertisement and guarantee as well.