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Miscellaneous: Operating Equipment & Practices

Miscellaneous Equipment: misc_equip193

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Composite image showing a photo and drawings of a standard GWR 8 ton Water Crane and drainage hopper

Provision of water was a fundamental requirement when operating steam locomotives and there was a comprehensive deployment of water cranes distributed at strategic stations, engine sheds and important goods yards along the railway routes. On the Great Western Railway main line in Warwickshire water crane provision was made at; Leamington (8), Warwick (1, later 2), Knowle & Dorridge (1), Tyseley (5), Bordesley (6), Moor St (3), Snow Hill (7), Hockley (5) and Handsworth & Smethwick (1), while on the North Warwickshire Line water cranes were provided at; Earlswood Lakes (2), Henley in Arden (2), Bearley (1 - from Aqueduct) and Stratford-on-Avon (4). At the end of both the Alcester and Shipston-on-Stow Branches, there were also watering facilities. Additionally water troughs were also provided at Rowington. It took time to fill a locomotive's tender or tanks with water so the selected sites were usually locations where trains regularly started or terminated their journeys, with intermediate locations providing back up. These intermediate locations were normally selected because their proximity to adequate water resources.

The whole system was designed to minimise the time it took to replenish locomotives with the transfer of two thousand gallons of water typically taking about five minutes. Large storage tanks were positioned where they could gravity fed the water cranes through a large diameter pipe network. The pressure depended upon the head of water in the storage tanks. The Great Western Railway standard water crane shown in official diagram No 2918 and seen in the photograph of Moor Street station had an eight inch diameter horizontal jib which could be swung to either side using a chain. A rod operated by a lever on the main column locked the horizontal jib in place. The length of the jib varied depending on location to allow the end to sit over the centre of the track when it was swung out at 90 degrees (as this was the position of a tender's central filler). This simplified the filling of tender locomotives, but tank engines had their fillers off-centre, so it was only necessary to pull the jib partially around. It was common place to find an arrow chipped into the platform edge stone indicating where the ideal stopping place was. A steel strut provided a rigid support for the horizontal jib from the main upright column, but on longer jibs a second bracing strut at the rear of the column was required. This bracing strut is not shown in the diagram but is evident in the photograph. A six foot long flexible leather hose at the end of the jib was provided to be placed into the locomotive's water tank or tender filler, before the handle at the base of the water crane was turned to regulate the flow of water.

Although a drain or grating was provided under where the hose was positioned when it was not in use, to catch any dripping water, it was later decided to supplement this with a raised hopper drain into which the end of the hose could be placed when it was not being used. This raised hopper had a top diameter of approximately 22 inches and can be seen both in the photograph and in official diagram No 53913 above. As an added precaution against the jib swinging, a hook was provided on the hopper's drain pipe on to which the jib chain was attached when not in use. Note the original drawing shows the chain attached to a hook on the main upright column.

The flexible hose was made from leather stitched with copper rivets and this would hang flat when drained. It also had a tendency to freeze solid in winter making the water crane unusable. To prevent the wet hose and the crane's pipework from freezing, a fire grate (popularly referred to as a fire devil) was provided. The fire grate can be seen in the photograph and the component parts in official diagram No 43867 above. The fire grate was placed adjacent to where the hose normally hung and the long fork-ended stovepipe positioned to direct the heat on to the water crane's pipework.

Robert Ferris

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Standard GWR 8 inch Water Crane

Close of Leamington station's straight arm water crane located on the up platform seen in July 1966

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GWR Standard Hopper for Water Cranes

Close of Leamington station's straight arm water crane located on the up platform seen in July 1966

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