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GWR Route: North Warwickshire Line

GWR Route: Hatton to Stratford on Avon

Wilmcote Station: gwrwil511a

GWR 2-8-0T 5205 class No 5233 is seen at the head of a train of brand new mainly 12 ton five-plank wagons as it climbs Wilmcote Bank on 4th August 1940

Close up of image 'gwrwil511' showing the rake of new wagons being hauled past a line side permanent way hut. Permanent way huts are also known as a platelayer's hut, such structures were generally a single room, immediately adjacent to the running lines, equipped with a table, chairs, and a simple heating stove. Platelayers are railway employees whose job is to inspect and maintain the permanent way of a specific section of the railway. This inspection and track maintenance included all its component parts such as rails, sleepers, fishplates, bolts, etc. Working as part of a gang headed by a chargehand their duties include greasing points, and generally watching for wear and tear. When sections of track require complete replacement, larger teams of platelayers would work together occupying the line as the ballast was renewed and new sleepers and rails laid.

The term 'platelayer' had its origins in pre-steam days when 'plateways' were built using L shaped rails and the vehicles which ran on them did not have flanged wheels. Essentially this was to overcome the problem encountered by road vehicles running on roads which were not much better than mud tracks. Eventually, around 1830, with the coming of heavier engines and wagons, plateways gave way to edged rails and flanged wheels. Plateways were less able to carry the increased weights, and the track was prone to wear. With the coming of the first railroad (this was originally a British term before becoming American vernacular) the word 'platelayer' continued to be used to describe those workers. 'Ganger' is a term used to describe the person who would be in charge of a 'gang' of platelayers (and is still in use to day across many construction sites). The term 'Lengthman' describes a member of the gang of platelayers responsible for a length or stretch of track.

Photographer H W Robinson courtesy and © of Steam Archive