Friday, 18 December 2015

Wednesday's pictures

As promised in the previous posting, someone has been kind enough to step forward with regular pictures, so here is the first set, covering Wednesday 16th.

Thank you Mike !

A last, quick question to our readers re the lighting of Hayles Abbey Halt.

This was provided by oil lamps hung on hooks fixed to the top of wooden posts at the back of the platform. Does anyone know what such a lamp would look like?


Further to Michael Johnson's pictures of lamps at GWR halts, I now realise that I have seen them before at another railway.
Here are two pictures, a close up and one in context.
The KESR Bodiam gang went to a lot of trouble to make Bodiam station as authentic as possible, and selected this lamp from a well know supplier. I think they got it pretty well right !

Thank you, Michael!


  1. The definitive books (in fact the only books) on Great Western halts are 'Great Western Railway Halts Volumes 1 and 2' by Kevin Robertson. Volume 1 was published by Irwell Press in 1990, Vol 2 by KRB Publications (Kevin Robinson himself) in 2002.

    The lengthy delay between the two volumes, and the fact that Kevin Robertson had to self-publish the second one, suggests they were never big sellers.

    But the books go into the subject in great depth, not just about the halts themselves but also about the services that used them - railmotors and auto-trains. Every GWR halt is described, many with with plans and photographs. There will definitely be photos showing lighting arrangements.

    It's a surprisingly complicated subject. Halts were built in a wide variety of styles (even though they were supposed to be standardised) over a large span of time. For example, the supposedly standard pagoda shelter actually had several variants, and could be built in steel, timber or even concrete. (Cheltenham High St. had concrete pagoda shelters - a surprising choice, since they must have placed a lot of weight on the elevated platforms).

    The very first halts were built on the Gloucester - Stroud line in the 1890s. Before then, stations were stations - the concept of a small, basic stopping place didn't really exist.

    Hayles Abbey Halt itself was part of a second wave of halts, built in the 1920s and 30s, when the GWR tried to compete with road transport by opening new halts near tourist attractions (The Lakes, north of Stratford on Avon, was another halt built at this time).

    Hayles Abbey Halt itself has an entry, but unfortunately no photos. However, the GWR built several other halts to the same design as Hayles Abbey, and some of these are illustrated. I'd say that these books are a key reference point - they'll answer just about any question!

  2. After posting the comment above, I thought I'd look in the books myself and see if any photos exist of platform lamps like the ones at Hayles Abbey Halt.

    It's bizarrely difficult to find photos of Hayles Abbey Halt itself. There are some very good ones floating around (including the famous shot of an 0-4-2 tank engine braking to a stop with water sloshing out of its tanks). Unfortunately none of these photos seem to be on the web.

    The Restoration & Archiving Trust has a slideshow in the Toddington car park signal box which shows some good views of Hayles Abbey Halt at full-screen size, but none of these photos are on the Restoration & Archiving Trust website (although if you're looking for photos of railways in Guatemala you'll be spoilt for choice).

    However, from memory, photos of Hayles Abbey Halt show that each platform had just one lamp post - and these were very simple wooden posts, just like fence posts really. The lamps themselves were detachable.

    I don't think any photos exist of the lamps actually on the posts at Hayles Abbey Halt. Presumably they were stored in the lamp hut just a few yards north of the platforms during the day, and only brought out as darkness fell.

    I looked in 'Great Western Railway Halts Volume 2' for photos of similar posts with lamps attached. (The first volume seems to have gone missing from my's not easy being a researcher!)

    I found a couple of reasonably clear shots of platform lamps similar to those at Hayles Abbey Halt. I've put them on the web here:

    In one photo it seems the fence posts had a couple of cross-pieces nailed on, and the lamps hooked over these - presumably using hooks attached to the back panel of the lamp box.

    The other photo doesn't seem to show the cross-pieces. In this case the lamp appears to be attached directly to the post. I can't recall that the posts at Hayles Abbey Halt had cross-pieces, so this might be the most similar arrangement.

    The lamps themselves look like GWR 'wall' lamps, which were designed to be fitted to a flat vertical surface. They obviously could be adapted for use on a post, too.

    Possibly the lamps at Hayles Abbey Halt were not brand-new - the 'second wave' of halts were built very cheaply, and second-hand items were often used.

    Maybe lamps from Cheltenham were re-used at Hayles Abbey, with the glass panels with the station name removed. Those fragments of glass with 'Cheltenham Spa' printed on them that were found recently at Broadway might have been discarded in 1928, when the lamps were transferred to Hayles Abbey Halt!

    1. Thank you, Michael, for this detailed text with suggestions. Just the sort of reply we needed !

      See now my amended text above, with a lamp that looks pretty much like the ones in your pictures.

  3. Since I made the comments above, I have found a good photo of Hayles Abbey Halt in Mike Oakley's book 'Gloucestershire Railway Stations'.

    I've put the photo on my web page - in full, plus a couple of enlarged details:

    The lamp posts (without lamps attached) are visible, and we can see how the lamps were hooked on.

    It seems Hayles Abbey Halt had two freestanding lamp posts on each platform - plus each nameboard had an extended support post which was used to hang a lamp. So the halt had 4 lamps in total.

    The hooks seem to be metal rods with a little dip in the end to form the hook part. This presumably engaged with a loop arrangement on top of the lamps - but I can't imagine how this was done, because surely the lamp chimneys would get in the way.

    However, at least there's a bit more evidence to go on!

    The photo shows other interesting details, in particular the post-and-rail fences alongside the paths down to the platforms. The posts are old sleepers cut in half lengthways, and given a pointed top. The rails are steel tubes.

    A length of this type of fence survives (in poor condition) alongside the path up the embankment at the foot crossing just north of CRC. This gives us the pattern for a replica fence at Hayles Abbey.

    It's interesting that the rails and post tops have been painted white. Possibly this was done in the war, when the halt would have been blacked out. Alternatively it may just have been done as a matter of course, since even with the lamps in place the halt must have been pretty dark at night!

    1. A great picture, thank you, Michael.
      I noticed remnants of the old post and tube fencing at Broadway in the lower 'car park' field too.
      We'll see what we can do. Need some volunteer brick layers first, anyone want to come and help?

  4. And there's more...

    Those lamp post hooks bothered me, because I couldn't see how they could support the big square lanterns. Possibly that type of lamp wasn't used at Hayles Abbey after all - or, if they were, they had been replaced by other lamps by 1960.

    According to 'Great Western Railway Halts Vol. 2' some halts were lit by ordinary hand-held oil lamps, hung on hooks. Some were 'modernised' in later years with pressurised parraffin lamps (otherwise known as Tilley lamps).

    Lamps of those types would suit the hooks we can see in the 1960 photo of Hayles Abbey Halt.

    I found a photo which shows hand-held lamps hooked on posts at Downfield Crossing Halt (on the Stroud Valley line). It's not a very clear photo, but it's possible to pick out what seem to be oil lamps lamps hanging from their carrying handles. I think this may have been done at Hayles Abbey Halt, too.

    Apparently there was a special type of Tilley lamp made for British Railways. This type of lamp might have been used at Hayles Abbey Halt in later years - it would certainly fit the hooks.

    There's a photo and some information about these lamps here:

    It's certainly possible that Halyes Abbey Halt had more than one type of lamp over the years. All the photos I have ever seen of the halt were taken in 1960 - the year it closed. Presumably the looming closure inspired photographers to get a few pictures before it was too late. But this means we only really know what the halt looked like in its last days. All sorts of different lamps might have been used since 1928.

    However, that's as far as my detective work has taken me. It's amazing (but fascinating) how an apparently simple detail can be so hard to pin down.

    I have put the photos of oil lamps at Downfield Crossing Halt on my web page:

    1. Thank you, Michael. An excellent piece of research.
      Our project leader thinks the lamps were 'Hurricane' lamps, as apparently in the zoomed in picture you show. If you Google them today, you get what I think of as a classic camping type oil lamp. Cheap to buy too.
      It isn't very railway like, but how else to justify the hooks?
      The Tilley lamp is good but of course quite recent, not 1920.

    2. Is the intention to rebuild Hayles Abbey halt as it was when it first opened, or when it closed - or at some time in between? It obviously didn't change much, but there might have been a few differences as GWR practice gave way to BR practice.

      It's fascinating to dig out info like this - and find that in some respects the Great Western wasn't all about carefully crafted standardised designs. In some areas, the company had a very cheap 'n' cheerful approach.

      It's something that heritage railways, which tend to present the past as much more neat and tidy than it really was, often don't reflect. For example, the Severn Valley replaced the original wooden 'garden shed' shelter at Northwood Halt with a brand-new pagoda shelter - which the halt never originally had.

      It's impressive, but it doesn't give a true impression of how basic GWR halts often were. Maybe Hayles Abbey can correct the balance a bit!