12 November 2015

BTH Type E Loudspeaker

British Thomson-Houston Co. Ltd (BTH) was a diversified engineering company headquartered in Rugby, Warwickshire, that had been founded in 1894 as the British subsidiary of the USA's General Electric. In 1928 it was merged with Metropolitan-Vickers to form Associated Electrical Industries (AEI), which itself later merged with GEC.

The BTH Type E moving-iron cone loudspeaker was introduced in August 1925 with a chromium-plated body. This Form E of the type appeared in 1928, the body of brown Bakelite. 15 inches high and 13 inches wide, the loudspeaker originally cost £3.0s.0d.

01 November 2015

Warrington - Transporter Bridge

Of the 16 transporter bridges built to completion worldwide the UK boasted four: Newport (operational), Middlesbrough (operational), Widnes-Runcorn (demolished 1961), and Warrington. Warrington (also known as Bank Quay) Transporter Bridge was commenced in 1913 and opened in 1916. It linked two parts of the Joseph Crosfield and Sons Ltd chemical and soap works, either side of the Mersey.

Designed by William Henry Hunter and built by Sir William Arrol & Co., the bridge has an overall length of 339 feet, a span of 187 feet, is 30 feet wide, and has a height above the high water level of 75 feet. The cantilevered truss structure is founded in massive concrete caissons, faced in engineering brick. These, and the heavy double cantilevers to each of the four towers, shout the industrial use.

The bridge is alternatively known as Crosfield's No.2, as there was another 'bridge' on the site, slightly further north. Built in 1905, Crosfield's No.1 is oft-cited as a transporter bridge, yet there is no evidence that it ever carried a gondola, which disqualifies it from the club. It was, in effect, a gantry crane. The trolley of No.1 was removed by the time of WWII, and the structure was demolished in the 1970s.

Warrington (Bank Quay, Crosfield's No.2) Transporter Bridge was, and is, unique in the world, in that it was designed to carry railway wagons, of up to 18 tons. (Duluth Transporter Bridge, in Minnesota, USA, did though carry trams.) The rails continued right up to the edge of the aprons either end of the bridge (above) and onto the gondola, and can still be seen in the adjoining east bank chemical works yard. The bridge was converted for use by road vehicles in 1940, and strengthened in 1950 (or 1953, depending on source) to carry loads up to 30 tons.

It ceased operations in 1964, and now stands in a very dilapidated state, the gondola stranded on the inaccessible west bank. Despite being Grade II*-listed, scheduled as an ancient monument, and included on the Heritage at Risk Register, the bridge has been left to rot, a victim of its Warrington Borough Council ownership.

Warrington - K4 Rarity

Designed by the GPO's Engineering Department on the basis of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's K2, the K4 kiosk incorporated a post box and a pair of stamp vending machines. Nicknamed the Vermillion Giant, it was one-and-half times the size of the already monumental K2. The kiosk featured the same fluted architrave mouldings as Scott's K2, but the addition of the postal elements necessitated the stretching of the domed roof and extra trim moulding on the longer sides to break up the otherwise flat cast iron surfaces.

Three of the pediments were pierced with the same Tudor crown used on the K2, providing ventilation. The rear pediment bore a lamp, missing on this example in Warrington. The entablatures carried illuminated signs, Post Office on the long sides, Telephone above the door, and Stamps above the post box and stamp machines.

Introduced in 1930, production ceased in 1935, and only 50 were produced and sited. The stamp machines let in water and were noisy, making telephone calls difficult. Moreover, post boxes tend to be placed by the roadside for ease of access, whilst telephone boxes tend to be tucked up against buildings to limit noise, and the K4 thus proved difficult to site successfully.

Just ten K4s remain, only three on the public streets of Britain: Frodsham, Warrington, and Whitley Bay. Three more grace railway stations: Bolton Street Station in Bury, at the East Somerset Railway in Cranmore, and at the Severn Valley Railway in Bewdley. A further three are housed in museums: the Amberley Museum and Heritage Centre, the Avoncroft Museum in Bromsgrove, and the British Postal Museum and Archives in London. A tenth can be found on the Sand le Mere campsite in Tunstall.