Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Highley, Shropshire

Job done

These are probably the humblest of all railway buildings. They’re lamp huts or tool sheds, and these corrugated iron versions, just 6 ft wide by 9 ft long, were ubiquitous on the Great Western Railway, and no doubt on other lines too. You found them by the trackside, near stations, signal boxes, and anywhere else where lamps, tools, and other small items needed to be stored. They were cheap, utilitarian, and supplied in flat-pack form, for easy erection on a prepared base in a matter of hours. Corrugated iron made assembling these structures quick and easy. Prepare a base, order up the flat pack, assemble, add a coat or two of paint – and the job was done. Whether they were building the roof of a large train shed in a city or putting up a little shed at a country halt, the Victorians looked on corrugated iron as a marvel of the industrial age.

Usually you find these huts on their own – if you needed more space, the flat-pack building firms like Boulton & Paul of Norwich or Samuel Taylor of Birmingham could supply something larger. But here on the Severn Valley Railway at Highley there are a couple, close together, painted in GWR colours, like the little platform shelter I posted recently on the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway at Hailes. Most of them are admirable examples of the way heritage railways find old, worn-out structures, restore them, and give them new life.

People used to look down on corrugated iron structures, especially small ones like this. ‘It’s just a tin hut’, they’d say. ‘What’s so special about that?’ But they were economical, readily available, easier to put up than a chest of drawers from IKEA, long-lasting, and simple to customize with a coat of paint in your railway’s livery. These days, more people appreciate these qualities of corrugated iron, and more and more I notice garages, sheds, and fences in the gardens of private houses, even in the cosseted Cotswolds where I live, many of them put there by people who haven’t necessarily chosen this material because it’s cheap. From a lamp hut to a barn for your 4 x 4, this Victorian wonder material is quietly but effectively doing its job.


Unknown said...

Highley is actually in Shropshire, not Worcestershire. The last SVR station in Worcestershire is Arley and the line enters Shropshire shortly after travelling North from there. Please excuse the pedantry...

Philip Wilkinson said...

You're right! I've corrected the post. Thank you.