An Oriental Intrigue?

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One of the rewarding and unexpected bonuses of rebuilding an industrial Museum comes when the clearance process reveals an exhibit that appears in the collection records and archives but which has not been seen for many years.

In recent weeks the curatorial team came across an interesting collection of cast iron sections which were understood to form a once common quarry railway locomotive sand dryer. The interesting and intriguing machine came from the local Market Overton Ironstone Quarry and dates from the 1920’s.

The sections of the machine were recovered and cleaned and in the last week have been reassembled close to our locomotive servicing facilities on a brand new concrete base ready for commissioning in the near future.

Sand is an essential requirement for the operation of steam and diesel railway locomotives in order to assist with traction on wet or greasy rails. Sand is dropped onto the railhead in front of the wheel tyre by the locomotive sanding system to stop the wheels spinning while starting or stopping. All industrial railways would have set up a sand dryer to produce the dry fine sand required for the locomotive sand boxes, usually housed in a specific building close to the loco sheds.

Our exhibit will be a working example and we can already determine that the chimney and outer hopper into which raw sand would have been emptied will have to be replaced. The castings now erected include a fire box and an oriental looking beehive which would have been surrounded by the sand which when dried would run out of the bottom to be collected for use.

So, a clever Victorian railway engineering invention – not the oriental intrigue originally imagined!