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Platform And Yard Lamps

DocRef: JC4a

Make Your Own British-style Victorian Station and Yard Lamps

Up until the early half of the 20th Century, most stations were lit by oil or gas lamps. There were a few early examples of stations lit by electric arc lamps but these were in larger towns and cities which would have had a "municipal electricity works".

In rural locations, the lamps would have been oil burners, since gas supplies would have been limited to areas around towns which had a gasworks. I can remember, as late as the 1970's, as a commuter on the Hastings line, there still being oil lamps at both Frant and Stonegate stations, while all the passenger trains were DEMUs and the freight was hauled by BRCW Type 3 (Class 33) B0-B0s!

There were two principal "styles" of lamp. The smaller would have a four-facet arrangement, while larger lamps (often containing double or triple burners) would be hexagonal. The same style of lamp could be found mounted on a post, on a wall bracket or suspended from the framework of a canopy.

Platform lamps were usually of the smaller type and mounted at a height of around 8ft or so. Yard lamps tended to be of the larger type and mounted on much taller posts (typically around 15ft) so as to cast light over a wider area. If you want a typical British style of oil or gas lamp to adorn your platforms, buildings, loco depot or goods yard, you have no alternative but to make your own. The design of Victorian lamps were similar for most railway companies, usually only varying in the style and extent of decorative "frippery".

Now to the task of producing such lamps at home. Posts can be easily made up from varying diameters of plastic and brass tube (telescope style) and decorated with as little or as much decoration as you wish. Construction of examples of both types are described in detail further down but, first, some observations on the materials which will be used to make the castings.

The process described involves the use of silicone rubber, water-clear polyester resin and polyurethane resin. All these materials carry health and safety warnings so are not suitable for children to use unless closely supervised by an adult and used with appropriate eye, skin and respiratory protection.

You will need patterns and moulds for both components. It is intended that the lantern components described here may soon be available from a trade supplier, so salvation is at hand, should you not feel inclined to indulge in the dark art of casting!

The patterns and moulds of the two types of lantern produced are shown below, together with the completed lamps. The clear resin component can be drilled to either accept a miniature LED or to give a visual representation of a gas burner/mantle.

Observations on the use of "water clear" Polyester Resin.

Both types of resin involved in this project are mixed by weight but the ratios of the two parts (resin and catalyst) are very different, as are the curing times and resulting properties.

Polyurethane resin is mixed in equal weights : If you want 100 gm then you add 50 of part B to 50 of part A and mix thoroughly... for at least one minute.

The clear polyester resin is very different : If you want 30 gm then you pour that weight of the styrene into a mixing bowl and add very little little as 3 percent by weight. It is extremely difficult to measure such small quantities even with digital kitchen scales, which register only whole numbers, not fractions. It is very difficult to get the proportions correct (and to fully mix) with such small quantities and, without quite a few moulds to fill, you will waste far more resin than you use.

Whereas (subject to ambient temperature) a polyurethane casting can be removed from the mould in anything from 30 minutes to an hour or so, the polyester resin needs to be at around 20 Celsius before it is mixed and then can take up to a day before it can be safely removed from the mould and even then you should avoid touching the important surfaces, since it will leave finger marks. The polyester can take up to week or more before it fully cures and can be confidently handled. Another point to be aware of is that different brands of polyester have different requirements. Some insist that the "open" side of the mould is sealed from the air while others do not require this. The first brand I tried was Swiss and and I had two consecutive failures with it before switching to the current British brand (at around a fifth of the price). One point which I have observed is that the clear polyester has a shrinkage factor : It is slight but if you fill a mould just to the brim, you will find it has dropped in level when hardened. I tend to fill the mould so the surface tension raises it just above the brim. Polyurethane resin does not noticeably shrink, so fill just to the brim.

Whether for oil or gas, post-mounted, bracketed from buildings or suspended from canopies, the designs varied very little. The smaller lamps were usually four-faceted, whereas larger lamps, with higher light outputs (number of gas mantles), were usually of hexagonal design. The designs described here can be illuminated with miniature LEDs or perhaps fibre-optics, otherwise left unlit (during daytime, oil burner lamps would be removed from the housings and taken to the lamp room for refilling, wick-trimming, etc.).

The Method Described in Detail.

The Lamp Posts

1. Tall Yard Lamp total height of post (including base mounting spigot) 180mm

Cutting List from Plastruct tube (OD dimension quoted)

9.5mm dia. one section 57mm long

7.9mm dia. one section 68.5mm plus another 1.5mm long

6.4mm dia. one section 12mm plus another 1.5mm long

4.8mm dia. one section 122mm long

Take the 57mm length of 9.5 tube and round-off the shoulder at one end.

Take the 68.5mm length of 7.9 tube and do likewise.

Slide the 9.5 tube over the 7.9 with the rounded shoulders at the same end and glue so that 9mm projects at the base (the squared-off ends).

Take the 12mm length of 6.4mm tube and slide into the top of the base unit such that the end projects 3.75mm above the rounded shoulder of the 7.9 tube.

Take the 122mm length of 4.8mm tube and slide/glue into the base unit such that the overall length of the post is 180mm.

Take the 1.5mm ring of 7.9 tube, round-off one shoulder and glue over and flush with the end of the 6.4 tube, the rounded shoulder facing the top of the post.

Finally, take the 1.5mm ring of 6.4 tube, round-off shoulders both ends and fit over the top of the 4.8 tube at a distance of 4.5mm from the top end of the post.

The basic tall yard lamp post is now complete.

2. Platform Lamp

Cutting list:

4.8mm dia. one section 117mm long.

6.3mm dia. one section 34mm long plus another 1.5mm long.

7.9mm dia. one section 2mm long.

Take the 34mm length of 6.3 tube and round-off the shoulder at one end.

Slide the 6.3 tube over the 4.8 tube and glue so that 6.5mm of the 4.8mm tube projects at the base with the rounded shoulder facing toward top of the post.

Take the 2mm ring of 7.9 tube and round-off one shoulder. With the rounded shoulder facing the top of post, slide over and glue to the upper end of the 6.3 tube, such that the rounded shoulder of the 6.3 tube protrudes.

Finally, take the 1.5mm ring of 7.9mm tube and round-off both shoulders, then glue at distance of 2.5mm from top end of the post.

It is usual (but not always the case) that there are supports for ladders built into lamp posts and these varied in size and shape. Two types are shown in the accompanying photos and are from brass wire with end collars cut from plastic tube.

In both cases I have reinforced the posts with a "core" of 1/8th dia. brass tube which projects just a couple of mm above the top of the plastic post. This serves three purposes : 1) To strengthen the post : 2) To provide a spigot for mounting the lantern : 3) Provide the cathode supply if the lamp is to be LED lit.

The Lantern

As previously mentioned, these came in a variety of shapes and sizes, to match the light output/number of burners. Most common are the four-facet and hexagonal types. If you wish to model electric lamps, then there is a wide selection of shade patterns to choose from.

You can make them functional with miniature LEDs such as these or non-working : The method of construction is same for both.

There are two components, the "bonnet" and the glazed lantern. The former I have cast from polyurethane resin and the latter from "water clear" polyester resin.

If you are going to attempt to make the patterns yourself, you will need either to "brush up" on your maths/geometry, in particular Isosceles triangles and Pythagoras, or use the dimensioned cutting list I provide below! If you are going to "give it a go", you will require plastic card to make the patterns, silicone rubber for the moulds and both polyurethane resin and "water clear" polyester resin to cast the components. Given the cost of these raw materials, it is only worthwhile if you are going to produce a large batch, otherwise the unit cost will be extortionate and involve a lot of surplus/wasted material.

Patterns for Pattern-making

Four-faceted lantern:

Hexagonal Lantern:

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Page last modified on March 01, 2018, at 08:57 AM