69. Black Country Living Museum, Tipton Road, Dudley Installed around the Museum's expansive site are a number of vintage lanterns that complement the painstakingly recreated period street scenes. The buildings and equipment are all salvaged from around the Black Country area and all have been selected as typical structures that would have been seen from the mid-1850s onwards, although most of the lighting stock dates from the 1930s until the 1960s.
The Museum operates a trolleybus service around parts of the site, with several of the traction poles topped with Revo C13723/S ("Dalek") 90 Watt low-pressure sodium SOX lanterns.
I understand that much of this equipment came from Wolverhampton, with fellow Collector Claire Pendrous donating the lanterns to the Museum.
The high-gabled building visible in the background houses a replica of Thomas Newcomen's 1712 steam engine, which was developed for pumping water out of collieries. At the time of the visit, the engine was awaiting replacement of its 31-year-old boiler.
The lanterns retain 90 Watt SOX lamps, although they were designed to run the earlier 140 Watt SO/H and SOI/H lamps.
The lamp control gear is housed in these "Visacast" enclosures that are attached a little further down the traction poles.
The Museum's tram and trolleybus services cross at this point, necessitating the use of numerous overhead wire support cables.
A relatively narrow gap is provided in the mesh of wires, in order for the lantern to be accessed for maintenance.
The lanterns are in relatively good condition, though sadly, this example's Perspex bowl is damaged at the front.
Whilst most of the traction poles are quite rusty, this one has a fresher paint finish applied.
The lanterns are nicknamed 'Daleks' by the Collecting fraternity, owing to the dimply front and rear bowl ends that resemble the Doctor Who villains. The lanterns, however, are a much less menacing species!
The same installation again, but pictured from the other side. The Headframe of The Racecourse Colliery (taken from Amblecote Colliery Pit No.12), along with the workers' "Hovel", is visible in the background.
A small portion of this lantern's bowl is damaged too.
The final C13723/S is situated alongside the Museum's example of a semi-detached house built using cast iron blocks that are bolted together. This experimental concept dates from 1925; ultimately, only four such houses (two buildings) were constructed in the Dudley area before the idea was considered too expensive. These houses remained occupied until September 1987, when they were deemed no longer suitable for habitation, and this building was taken down from its original location, and rebuilt at the Museum.
Whilst not all of the traction poles accommodate lanterns, others contain switching apparatus - the pole below being one such example.
This cast GEC Z1912 appears to serve as the initial termination point for the street lighting supply cable seen on the left of the above picture.
Further down the pole is this Revo box and manual switch.
A Sangamo time switch is visible inside this box, thanks to its access door being slightly ajar.
Speaking of boxes, the Museum is home to two ex-Birmingham top-entry GEC 'Box' lanterns, dating from the 1930s.
The design is similar to GEC's 'Lewisham' lantern, which ran a single medium-pressure Mercury Vapour (MA/V) lamp. Unlike the Lewisham, the glass panels are fully transparent (instead of featuring prismatic refractors), and two tungsten filament (GLS) - now LED retrofit equivalent - lamps are fitted.
A trough-shaped reflector situated above the lamps provides a (limited) means of optical control.
The second example marks the start of 1930s' Street (Old Birmingham Road)
The original GEC cover plate over the anti-condensation connector is missing, requiring a modern substitute to be fabricated.
This small top-entry lantern is installed around the back of the nearby tram depot.
The lantern is mounted to an AC Ford wall bracket, and sports a toughened glass bowl and internal prismatic refractor, which surrounds a compact fluorescent lamp.
A sewer gas destructor lighting column is situated on the junction of the 1930s' Road and the road leading to the 'Village' (a street themed in the style of the early 20th Century). These prevented the build-up of (potentially) explosive gases in sewers by having the hot mantles in the lantern draw the gases away - any smells and bacteria being destroyed in the process - before the sewer gas passed into the open air.
The two gas mantles were lit when pictured - the control for these being located on the left-hand side of the lantern, as it appears here.
Cast into the base of the column is:
J.E. WEBB'S PATENT
With the 'Village' serving as a backdrop, a more conventional gas installation was seen.
The column was very local, having been cast by Cochrane & Co. (West) Ltd of the Woodside Ironworks in Dudley in 1935.
Four ornate gas lanterns are installed on short pedestal posts that top the pillars at either end of the Canal Street Bridge, which was constructed in Wolverhampton in 1879 and rebuilt at the Museum in 1976. The fly-posting advised of a forthcoming meeting (on the 11th April 1910!) debating the demanded 2 1/2 d. hourly payment for female chainmakers, who had gone on strike.
The lanterns are replicas, although the plinths are original.
Back on the 1930s' Street - another gas installation is seen to the right of the picture, but this is now supplemented with electric lanterns on the other side of the street.
This gas lantern was also dayburning. Notice the additional bar that has been added to this installation, allowing a ladder to be placed over the railings - the supports for these would be in the way if the column's own ladder bars were used.
A number of polished reflective surfaces surround the gas mantles, in an attempt to maximise their (rather limited) output.
The electric lighting was represented by various two-way ESLA Bi-Multi reflector lanterns attached to Revo 'Wolverhampton' cast iron columns.
This lantern is attached to an AC Ford swan neck with a damaged finial. The lantern itself is positioned facing backwards on the bracket, though the distinctive mirrored facets that are such a characteristic of ESLAs are (mostly) intact and undamaged. A retro-fit LED GLS lamp is fitted here too.
A side view, with the missing top spike more obvious.
The 'Wolverhampton' pattern is similar to Revo's 'Moseley' design, although the door is smaller, slightly more decorative, and the column base is more ornate.
The installation casts a pleasing appearance on the surrounding roadway.
A similar installation was situated outside the tobacconist's and radio shops.
The mirrors on this slightly narrower ESLA were in poorer condition. Again, the lantern is positioned the wrong way around.
The Moseley column features a modified door that incorporates the Coat of Arms of Birmingham.
This column was situated opposite the Workers' Institute - this was built with money left over from the aforementioned Women Chainmakers' Strike, and opened in Cradley Heath on the 10th June 1912.
The mirrors on this ESLA were also in quite poor condition, though none appeared to be missing.
Temporary wooden hoardings prevented direct access to this installation near Hut 14 - a former RAF hut from the Leicestershire area that was moved to Elmfield School in Stourbridge, and used as a classroom on the site from the 1960s until 2006.
The symmetrical nature of this ESLA's 'wings' suggests that it might be a 180° angled example.
From a slightly different angle, the height of this column's swan neck is more apparent.
This lantern is facing the correct way around, though rather ironically, the 180° versions could be installed either way around anyway!
The swan neck is made by Bleeco, formerly of Brighton.
This wall-mounted example is situated on the tram depot too.
Sadly, the lantern body is damaged, and a number of mirrors are missing from the right-hand side, as it appears here.
Although the LED 'filaments' replicate the lit appearance of a tungsten filament reasonably accurately, clear lamps should not be run with non-patterned mirrors, as the lantern's optical performance (such as it is) is marred with this combination - the glare is increased.
Judging by the lack of mirrors around the damaged portion of the lantern, a very forceful blow must have occurred for the cast iron to have fractured in the way that it did.
Visible through a window of the recreated St. James' School building (dating from 1842, and originally located in Dudley's Salop Street) is this Wolverhampton column topped with a very small ESLA. Don't tell the teacher that I wasn't paying attention to her lesson, mind you!
This utterly adorable little lantern is of the rarer Group 'A' type, which were designed for quiet side roads; the lanterns seen above are the larger 'Group AL' type, whilst the largest examples produced were classed as 'Group B', even though 'A' roads tend to cater for higher traffic volumes than 'B' roads do!
One of the overhead supports for the trolleybuses is situated opposite this column.
The typical dimensions for these lanterns was 9 inches (228·6 mm) in length and height, and 10 inches (254 mm) in width.
As these lanterns were designed to run lamps with a wattage as low as 40 Watt (how dim must that have been?), or as high as 150 Watt, the 60 mm diameter of the LED lamp seems more in proportion in this lantern than in the larger types seem above.
A couple of pole-mounted examples were situated on land that was occupied formerly by a small period fairground.
The pole and fixings appear to have been recent replacements. Notice that the Revo logo on the bracket's attachment plate is upside-down, even though the conduit between the bracket and the fuse box is meant to be underneath the bracket!
The lampholder is fixed at the wrong focus position - the lower hemisphere of the lamp should hang just below the lower front and rear edges of the lantern.
Curiously, this is about the only ESLA to retain its lampholder focusing screw - visible at the top of the picture.
Even with these two lanterns being fitted to brackets with long outreaches, the presence of the fence ensured that they would do a rather poor job of lighting the roadway until it was removed.
The slightly offset nature of the lamp with this lantern suggests that its beam angles are configured to a narrower setting than the 180 degree example seen earlier was.
Once again, the bracket plate is upside-down.
The mirrors were in excellent condition with only minimal damp patches visible on the silver coating.
Despite there only being two pole brackets, I managed to photograph this third pole-mounted example too, somehow (the rusting is different to both of the other examples), but am not sure of how!
Before the Black Country Museum turns into the Twilight Zone, the final two pole brackets supported Revo Magnalite fittings; the Magnalite being Revo's equivalent of the ESLA Bi-Multi.
Unlike the ESLA's facetted mirror reflector system, the Magnalite used two single glass panels with a mirrored finish applied to the back. These were shaped to fit the contours of the lantern 'wings'. Unfortunately, this one-piece design made replacing damaged glass all the more difficult, particularly when the mirroring wore away if moisture passed behind the glass. The reflectors of this example must have been in this advanced stage of degradation, as mirrored mosaic tiles have been used as makeshift replacements - a rather innovative idea.
As the mirror tiles would be produced on a flat sheet, they have had to be cut to shape, in order to fit the curved profile of the wings.
This Magnalite is positioned facing backwards too!
The final Magnalite was situated at quite a low mounting height.
The reflectors were original on this lantern, and were in poor condition.
Much of the silvering had worn away from the backs of the glass pieces.
Judging by how the lantern appears behind these, the Magnalite castings must have holes in them that are covered by the glass pieces, with the upper-facing sides painted to match the finish of the lantern - if that is the case, it is a major design flaw, as unless the lantern received regular painting, the glass would be doomed to losing its mirroring within only a few years of the lantern being installed.
For more information, please visit the Museum's website: https://www.bclm.co.uk/.
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