In August I finally made a trip to see the Ellesmere canal yard and have a look in the 'Pattern Shop', a room about which I had heard much and was very curious to explore.
The yard itself is great, with a dry dock and a huge maintenance workshop (see below) of which I am extremely envious. What artist doesn't dream of a studio so well equipped and cavernous? The crane outside is also pretty impressive.
The yard is an interesting mixture of buildings still in use for their intended purpose, such as the dry dock, where a narrow boat was being repainted, and spaces such as the weighing house that look as they would have done the day people downed tools in the 1930s.
|The maintenance workshop / Mega-studio|
Next to the maintenance workshop, the original blacksmith's shop is still in action, occupied by blacksmith Rowan Taylor who shares it with a selection of relics and artefacts from canal engineering days.
One such artefact is this pattern for an iron fire-box. These were used in the little lock-keepers huts to keep warm when there was no adjacent lock cottage. They are temptingly reminiscent of parts from a giant meccano set.
|Pattern for an iron fire-box|
And now to the Pattern Shop! This was something of a pilgrimage for me. I love mouldmaking and casting and had been told there were many of the original designs or 'patterns' for moulding all sorts of components on the Montgomery Canal.
This is indeed the case, and what follows are glimpses of a treasure trove of wooden patterns, carved in to all sorts of unlikely shapes that would be more recognisable in metal, but are somehow made strange by their conversion in to this mellow material.
|Patterns for all sorts of components: handrails to gearing to depth measures...|
There was a sense that you could put all these parts together to create a wonderful, completely wooden world.
|The wooden treasure trove|
|Some particularly nice gearing and cogs|
Rather than speculating wildly (although that would be fun) I am going to find out more about the patterns and their uses at the Heritage Open day on September the 12th and will post some more images of specific curiosities then.
Until then I will leave you with an image of the wooden pattern for the handrails on the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. If you've ever walked across this aqueduct you'll agree they are crucial, with a lot riding on their durability. The gaps between the rails are rather wider than I would like, but it adds an extra thrill, and it's good to know they can always make more...