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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 I wanted to work in 7mm scale. Richard still operates the 4mm scale Range at www.cgwnameplates.co.uk

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, who now trades as Footplate Models, 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, and the results of masses of new additions to the Range have now been added to 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.

The economic situation is continuing to cause problems for model railway manufacturers, and having held prices at 2005 levels for almost eight years, I have reluctantly been forced to make increases across the range – but not by as much as my gas bills! Please check the current prices, which are effective from 1st April , 2013.

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, and which are listed here for the first time. 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 patterns 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 still not been able 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, and I am not prepared to guess at what they might have looked like!

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. If you are unable to photograph your own plaque/crest, please allow me to visit you to take my own digital photograph. You only have to ask any of the top collectors to confirm my complete discretion and confidentiality.

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 do some of their distinctive cabside oval numberplates, such as those of the Taff Vale Railway; the Barry Railway, and the Cambrian Railways, but whilst I was able to locate many suitable photos in the reference library at the NRM at York over ten years ago, these may not currently be accessible, so this project will have to wait.

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 has taken me a quarter of a century to get around to designing a comprehensive selection of them in 7mm scale, but this was achieved last summer, and they are now listed as being available in the Range. 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. I hope their availability will encourage kit designers and modellers to model this much neglected Company.

I hope you will find plenty to interest you in the lists of available sets,

Good Modelling to you all !

                                             Chris Watford – Bourne, Lincoln – Easter, 2013.