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Quainton News Archive - Quainton News No. 30 - Winter 1976

The Wickhams of Quainton

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J R Fairman - The PW Trolley. 28th March 1970

Our Stockbook lists three products of D Wickham & Co Ltd, of Ware under the heading of Miscellaneous Vehicles and it is true to say that we have a choice selection of petrol powered items; one a rail car, a second an inspection car and the third, a permanent way trolley. This article is written to give more details of their histories and design.

Let us start with the Society owned permanent way trolley illustrated above. This is a very typical BR trolley and it had the honour of being the first vehicle to arrive at Quainton Road after we took over. It was delivered on 4th April 1969, and carried the BR number TP53P.

It's works number is 8263 and this shows that it was one of a batch of nine trolleys ordered by the British Transport Commission on 24th November 1958. It's delivery despatch date to the London Midland Region at Manchester was 27th February 1959.

The main rectangular frame of the trolley is robustly constructed from channel section steel, 7ft 9in long and 4ft wide, strengthened by two longitudinal members and two transverse members on which the engine and transmission are carried. The engine is the very successful 1323 cc JAP twin-vee which is used in many applications in industry and has even been used in motor racing. The design has two air-cooled cylinders set in a 'V' pattern with dry sump lubrication. Lubrication is by scavenger pump and there is an oil reservoir tank which has a simple indicator. In operation it is very easy to maintain and will run happily with oil, petrol and just the minimum of maintenance.

A Solex carburettor is used and there is magneto ignition. Electric starting is not a feature of the PW Trolley, the gangs presumably having plenty of beefy characters to wield a starting handle! The drive was interesting. The engine is fitted with a dished shaped flywheel which has a friction disc set at right angles to the flywheel. This friction disc is fitted on a layshaft with a variable sliding spline which allows the disc to move across the face of the flywheel; thus the disc and its shaft move faster as the disc is moved towards the periphery of the flywheel. The transmission is through a plate clutch to a shaft carrying a chain sprocket for the chain drive to one axle. The two axles of the trolley are carried on roller bearing axleboxes each supported by two coil springs mounted on the main frames. The flanged running wheels are of pressed steel construction and they are 16in diameter. Apart from the actual driving controls there is an ignition switch and a warning horn.

Over the engine, transmission and petrol tank there is a longitudinal bench for the passengers and there are footboards on both sides. Underneath the bench there is also an enclosed toolbox. At the ends of the trolley are two sheet metal windscreens fitted with three fixed safety glass lights and between these screens there is a wood framed canopy covered with canvas from which are hung waterproof side aprons; as draughty an arrangement as you could conceive!

The brakes are operated by simple foot pedals with linkage to hardwood brake blocks onto the four wheels and for wet weather there was sand available from one sandbox to supply in front of the nearside driving wheel.

The trolley has a matching non-powered truck with the same basic frame layout and there is a drawbar and spring hook at each end. The truck was also fitted with detachable side boards to permit loose material to be carried. Another part of the ensemble was a turntable which was provided to allow the trolley to be jacked up and turned to remove it from the running line for parking alongside the track.

In latter years on BR TP53P was used at Northampton but it was withdrawn in 1965, offered for sale by tender and purchased by David Alexander. Transport was by road to the LRPS storage depot at Luton where it was re-railed and kept in good order for the day when it was transferred to Quainton in 1969. Not only was it the first vehicle to arrive at our new site but it was first to venture the whole length of the long siding! In those days that was quite an expedition! In 1971 the trolley was sold by David to the Society to facilitate insurance arrangements. It had served extremely well during the first two years at Quainton when the stock of the LRPS and members was being moved to the Brill yard and later in 1971 it was decided to give the trolley a complete overhaul. Pressure of work on more immediate maintenance problems has delayed its completion but the present situation is that it is only waiting for time to carry out re-assembly. The truck has continued in service while its motive power has been out of action and many members will testify to its running capabilities! Mick Rolley has discovered that the trolley was named Hesperus in its BR days and he has had some small brass nameplates made which will grace 8263 when it takes to the Quainton tracks in the not too distant future.

The second Wickham at Quainton is the petrol inspection car owned by Mick Rolley which is resident in the up yard. This is of similar vintage to the PW Trolley, both being built in 1958. Mick's car is Maker's No. 8197 and is one of a batch of five ordered by the Ministry of Supply of 28th May 1958. It was delivered to the O/C Bicester Detachment, No. 1 Railway Group, RE, No.3 Camp, Arncott Depot, Bicester on 20th November 1958.

In its basic construction the inspection car is very similar to the trolley except the dimensions of the frame are slightly larger to accommodate the larger power unit. The wheelbase on the two vehicles is similar; 3ft Bin. The engine is a Ford side valve petrol industrial engine which is very akin to the Ford car engine of the 1950's. It has a single plate Ford clutch and a three-speed gearbox which has an additional Wickham box to allow the three speed drive in either direction. Taken from the gearbox output is a sprocket drive to the axle. The engine for the car is fitted at one end within the body and the engine proper and the radiator are both with in a cowling to the left of the driving position. The dashboard has an ammeter, petrol gauge, speedometer, horn control, oil pressure and ignition warning lights, and switches for the front and tail lights and for the interior and external roof lights. Since the car can travel in either direction the driver's seat has a detachable back rest.

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J R Fairman - The Inspection Car

Inside the car, the floor is made of wood boards covered by linoleum and protected where necessary by treadplates. There is a wooden slatted bench seat across the centre and another similar seat across the end. The body of the car has steel ends with two large safety glass lights divided by a roof pillar on which are carried head and tail lamps. The vehicle sides are also made of steel plate with smaller lights. On the right hand side there are two half style doors at either end which have canvas and Perspex side screens above the waistline, but the drivers side is differently arranged due to the driver's position. The roof is also of steel plate reinforced by angle iron ribs and at one time it carried a flashing beacon. Controls are by foot-operated pedals just like a motor car. There is a fly-off type hand brake mounted on the floor and the foot brakes work asbestos lined brake blocks on the running wheels.

The smart finish applied to the inspection car is the Army livery of deep bronze green outside, wasp striping on the ends and a black roof. Inside the car the roof is white and the sides grey. The WD gave the vehicle their number RLC 009037 for its working life of twelve years and the simplified number ARMY 9037 can be seen on the ends above the front lights.

Near the end of 1971 the inspection car was offered for disposal by tender, together with some covered box vans. The Society were interested in the vans and Mick Rolley became interested in 9037! The offer made for the car and vans was accepted on 15th August 1972 without Mick having had any opportunity of examining the car to determine its mechanical condition.

When he did this inspection he found it had a sheared off flywheel so he removed the engine and started a major overhaul. Re-assembly was not too difficult but the gearbox selector forks required three hours work and it was not too long before Mick had the railcar in action again. He hopes to be able to replace some of the fittings which were removed after its withdrawal from active service and he also hopes to convert and re-wire the electrical system from six to twelve volts. Since 9037 has been in the up yard it has been used on several occasions for passenger carrying duties and Mick assures us that his car is capable of speeds up to 50 mph providing there is enough track to run on and he has good brakes!

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J R Fairman - The Rail Car, 28th March 1970

The third of our trio of Wickhams is the rail car which was built at Ware in 1955, Maker's No. 6963. It is a larger vehicle than the other two and the frame consists of a double H section of channels with two mid-longitudinal members carrying the Ford V-8 engine and the gearbox. From this frame there are angle iron stanchions supporting the floor, side sheets and the roof. The vehicle sides are of mild steel sheet including the doors which are faced internally with upholstered board. The roof is also made of steel plate carried on the cab body pillars.

The rail car is carried on two axles running in roller bearing boxes sprung by leaf springs with shackles mounted on the main frames. Lateral motion is restrained by a system of radius link arms. The running wheels are pressed steel, flanged and they have comparatively wide tyres. At both ends there are Wickham type central buffers.

The purchase of the rail car by Bob Mellish in April 1969 followed an advertisement in 'Exchange & Mart'. A scrap dealer in Abingdon had bought it from the Ministry of Defence, Bicester where it had been used until about 1967 for passenger transport between the station and various parts of the depot. In 1968, still carrying its number ARMY 9040 it was disposed of to the Abingdon dealer, then to Bob, who brought it to Quainton down yard on 25th June 1969. An inspection revealed a broken drive shaft, an unusable battery, no starting handle, and the need for some work to be done before it could become mobile again. This was tackled and the railcar has been used for small groups visiting the site end, more humbly, for taking rubble up to the far end of the long siding! About 1973 it suffered impact damage, (in other words somebody hit it!) and Bob had to put it on one side because he was getting married and buying a house. This year he has managed to knock out the dents, (from the railcar, not the house!), do some electrical repairs and have some painting done to one end, (by his wife!).

Turning to the controls of the car, these are rod linked except the brake which has vacuum assistance and operation. There is a vacuum storage reservoir in which the vacuum is induced from the inlet manifold. The foot brake pedals work valves supplying two slave cylinders, one on each side of the engine and the brakes are rigged to shoes operating onto the inside of the tyres on the running wheels.

The transmission from the four speed crash gearbox on 9040 is through a propeller shaft with two universal couplings into the differential which is on the leading axle. Engine cooling is by water and the system includes two radiators which are mounted one at each end of the car. The front bonnets have expanded metal grilles to direct air flow and to protect the radiators.

The driving controls of the car are duplicated at each end on the same side but there is one handbrake and the gear stick is taken by the driver from end to end and inserted into a socket as required. On the dashboards are speedometers, fuel gauges, ammeters and oil and ignition lights. There are also switches for the horn, head, tail and interior lights, starter, choke and a light to give a clear to the driver for engaging gear after changing ends. The bonnet ends have two CAV headlights and a centrally mounted tail lamp. Twin vacuum operated windscreen wipers are fitted and all fixed windows are glazed with safety glass. The four doors have droplights.

Inside there are the two fixed driving seats, a bench of three seats at the end and four reversible seats in the middle of the car. These four seats can be taken out and a section of the lino covered wood floor removed to give access to the engine covers.

The paintwork of the railcar reflects its Army origin, for the inside is dark green with a white roof and the outside is finished in black below the body and green for the body shell, grey roof and wasp ends. Stencilled on the centre of the frames is the weight 2-19-0, which, for the metricated, means 2 tons, 19 hundredweights! Bob's car is in running order and happily it suffered no significant damage when it came off the rails in the Wembley shed last year. Sometime in the future he hopes to transfer it to the up side so that it will be in a good strategic position to run to Aylesbury (!) to pick up members before we start a day's steaming and to return them home at the end of the day.

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J R Fairman - Manpowered Wickham truck

As a tailpiece we illustrate the truck, 7962, which is propelled by muscle power on non-steaming weekends. The photograph was taken at Easter 1974 soon after the useful vehicle had been overhauled and it shows the Wickham pressed steel wheels clearly.

(In the preparation of this article, the Editor wishes to thank Mick Rolley, Bob Mellish and the Editorial Assistant, Nigel Halliday for their help in gathering the facts and writing the notes).

The text in this Quainton Railway Society publication was written in 1976 and so does not reflect events in the 39+ years since publication. The text and photographs are repeated verbatim from the original publication, with only a few minor grammar changes but some clarifying notes are added if deemed necessary. The photos from the original publication are provided as scans in this internet version of this long out of print publication.

The Wickhams of Quainton - Quainton News No. 30 - Winter 1976

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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Page Updated: 11 November 2017