THE ORIGINS of SEVERN MILL NAMEPLATES

I am indebted to Stewart Hine for his fascinating article in the August 1978 edition of “Model Railways”. entitled “Artwork for Etching”. which explained the principle of laying down resist images on both sides of a sheet of metal in order to etch from both sides simultaneously , the result being to eventually break through and form cut-out shapes. Fired with enthusiasm, I applied this principle to nameplates and designed the “CGW Nameplates” range for the 4mm scale market from 1980, eventually selling out to Richard Tebbutt , back in 1993. as by then I wanted to work in 7mm scale.

I spent the following year travelling around the country visiting most public venues where preserved nameplates were on display, taking brass rubbings of more than forty of the most commonly used alphabets- Letraset were clearly not around when the early Railway Companies put their drawing offices to work designing their distinctive plates, which made my task a lot more challenging ! I am most grateful to the many private Collectors of railwayana who have allowed me, over the years, to access their treasured original plates, in order to take rubbings, measurements and photographs in my efforts to obtain as near perfection as possible with my 7mm scale plates. This has led to friendships going back over thirty years in many cases.

From 1993 until 2003 I was content to make 7mm scale loco plates only to Special Order for a handful of discerning loco builders. You don’t get much more discerning than Tony Reynalds of Bristol, but I must single out Bob Merry of Birmingham, for being responsible for organizing numerous commissions for himself and his friends throughout this period. Several of Bob’s fine kit and scratchbuilt locos are illustrated on this website, and permission to photograph and publish them is appreciated. I think it was another of my old clients, Pete Waterman, who suggested in 2003 that I should make my plates available to all modellers. As I had just started to computerize my artwork, I accepted the challenge, and after burning the midnight oil solidly for the next two years, the Severn Mill Nameplates’ range was successfully launched on an unsuspecting public at the 2005 Telford Show. Having managed to avoid computers all my life, it wasn’t easy to come to terms with this modern technology, but I’ve finally come to accept that it is perfectly logical to hit the “Start” key when you want to turn the thing off- or am I just kidding myself ?

By keeping advertising to a minimum, I’ve been able to concentrate on research and design in recent years, resulting in masses of new additions being steadily added to the Range on the relevant pages of my website. Whilst certain Sections are now virtually completely covered, there are of course others where more can be done to make this large Range even more comprehensive. I think that I shall leave this to the next owner of this Range to do after I've retired !

The economic situation is continuing to cause problems for model railway manufacturers, and having held prices at 2005 levels for almost eight years, and then held the 2013 levels for another four years, I feel that nobody will begrudge the fresh price increases that will come into force from 1st July 2017.

In setting out the available sets in the Range, I have tried to make this website as customer-friendly as possible by including gratuitous pieces of information. If your particular model needs a slightly different set of plates to those listed, please ask for what you want, and I shall do my best to oblige, provided the plates are designed and etched. Sets of plates are available for most classes for which there is a kit or ready-to-run model on the market, but I have also indulged myself by designing a selection of Great Central Railway sets for the pre-Grouping modeller, although this is a very neglected area these days. My interest in the Great Central stems from seeing Peter Denny’s fine Buckingham Branch layout on more than one occasion at the Central Hall, Westminster back in the early 1950s. There is also a reasonable selection of LB&SCR cabside oval numberplates listed, and most of these now come with their pairs of works plates.

The Southern Railway section contains a goodly selection of cabside oval numberplates, covering the various designs manufactured by the three Works, Ashford, Brighton and Eastleigh. It will be seen that I have deliberately avoided the first series of “B”- prefixed plates with either a “5” or an “8” – this is because I have been unable to find a clear broadside-on photo of a plate with either of these numerals on. It should be explained that the numerals used on the “B”- prefixed ovals cast at Brighton and carried from 1923 – 1930 were quite different from those of Ashford and Eastleigh.

My West Country and Battle of Britain sets are particularly effective with their shields/plaques being designed in two layers for a coloured digital photo to be sandwiched between the layers. These coloured centres are included at no extra cost where I have been able to obtain the necessary photograph, but for those of you who are railwayana collectors, and who have one of these attractive items, please be kind enough to send me a broadside-on colour print , free of any flash reflections etc- but please advise which one you have before sending it, in case I’ve just obtained a print elsewhere.

In the Great Western section on Absorbed Locomotives, there is a good selection of GWR sets for ex-Welsh standard gauge locos. I would have liked to have done some of their distinctive cabside oval numberplates, such as those of the Taff Vale Railway; the Barry Railway, and the Cambrian Railways, but getting suitable close-up photos has proved to be virtually impossible, and I have given up on this project !

Back in the 1980s, I was commissioned by an Irishman to make some 4mm scale sets of plates of the LMS/NCC locos, and when I found several of their unique nameplates and numberplates in the old Doncaster Grammar School collection, I have to admit that I was hooked on these fascinating plates . It took me a quarter of a century to get around to designing a comprehensive selection of them in 7mm scale, but this was eventually achieved during the summer of 2012. I am indebted to several kind gentlemen from across the water for their help in providing data, including Michael McMahon. In particular, a big “Thank You” is extended to Anthony Ragg for supplying detailed photos and measurements of a large number of plates in his local museum, which was sufficient to inspire me to make these delightful plates. Despite my hope that their availability would encourage kit designers and modellers to model this much neglected Company, I cannot recall ever having sold any of these sets, so that has to be one of my less successful enterprises ! Nevertheless, I did enjoy designing their attractive plates, and getting them etched.

I hope you will find plenty to interest you in the lists of available sets. Unfortunately, it has become more and more difficult to find professional firms of etchers who have the ability and patience to work to such tight tolerances as are necessary to maintain the superb quality that my customers have come to expect, so I am not planning to make any further additions to the Range. This means that I am unable to accept any more commissions to make plates to customers' Special Orders. I have seen this coming for several years, and have good stocks of everything in the Range, but as sets eventually run out, they will just disappear from the Range.

Good Modelling to you all !

                                             Chris Watford – East Sussex- Summer 2017.