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Kidderminster Turntable

The History of Kidderminster Turntable

Ordered by the LNER from Cowan Sheldon Ltd of Carlisle in July 1945 for installation at Fort William, the order called for a 70ft vacuum operated turntable with reserve tanks. The longest locomotives allowed to Fort William were K4s - 'The Great Marquess' class, which were 60ft long. The reserve tanks and 70ft length were required to turn the observation saloons that were carried at the rear of some of the trains. The table was designed to turn a 176 ton locomotive through 180 degrees in two minutes.

The construction of the pit at Fort William by Sir Robert McAlpine & Co was carried out in 1948, therefore the table was installed into BR ownership. It is presumed that the table was used into the late 1960s or early 1970s. The Merchant Navy Preservation Society purchased the table from BR and moved it to Horsted Keynes on the Bluebell Railway, but it was not installed.

A small group of SVR volunteers bought the table in 1980 for installation at Bewdley, being moved from the Bluebell in 1981. The kit of parts rested on the Cleobury Mortimer branch trackbed during the 1980s while its owners raised the funds for its eventual installation. The purchase of Kidderminster Yard by SVR meant a change of plan; the table was now to be sited in an unused corner of the yard. Trial borings were done in 1991 to investigate the make-up of the ground. A small group of volunteers started work on restoration early in 1992. George Law Ltd of Kidderminster were contracted to install the ring of concrete in January 1994, the rest of the work being carried out by volunteers. The table was craned into its pit on 12 April 1994, the first turning being the 6-ton steam crane on 31 July. The first large engine to turn was Gordon on 9 September 1994.

The centre bearing can carry 115 tons and consists of 21 steel ball bearings, each 2ins in diameter. Each of the outer running wheels can carry 34 tons. The table is moved either by manually turning the handles, or by the twin cylinder vacuum motor being operated by the locomotive's braking system.

The pit wall was constructed using eight thousand blue engineering bricks, laid in English Bond, backed by concrete building blocks. A turntable pit wall is normally designed to have only a recess built into it to allow inspection of the ends of the table. From early days of this project, a hedgehog escape tunnel was decided upon. This idea was expanded to be an access ramp suitably designed so that any wildlife falling into the pit could get out again. The ramp also allows easy access for maintenance of the table; its width will allow tractors etc to enter the pit, if necessary. Cost of installation was thirty-five thousand pounds.

Our table has been used, so far, to turn visiting main line locomotives, coaches and engines for filming, or to allow restorers easier and safe access to the other side of vehicles. The main use will be to turn our passenger coaches to even out paint wear, as the west side fades much quicker than the east. Several Buffet cars have been turned to allow stock-loading and gas bottle changing to be done easily, particularly at Bridgnorth platform 1.

The main task left to complete is the provision of diamond pattern edging stones and brick pathway on and around the top of the pit wall. Further plans include the provision of safe visitor access to the site, and general improvements to the turntable spectator area, but not at the moment.