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Any old iron

Posted: Fri Sep 24, 2021 3:35 pm
by Graham R
I have had an old cast-iron maker’s plate for a bridge or similar knocking about in dark corners of various sheds, garages etc. for the last 40 years or so, having originally obtained it in a swap (for an old radio!) with a gent in the Dundee area who specialised in the mysterious acquisition and disposal of superannuated railway items.

Recently I dug it out with the aim of finally finding out more about it. It’s about 23”x13” in size.
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A bit of Googling revealed that Blaikie Brothers had a foundry at Footdee in Aberdeen until 1891, so this must have been one of their final contracts. They designed and produced the notably long single-span bridge at Garmouth on the GNSR in 1886, amongst other things. I had always assumed my plate was from a humble footbridge, but maybe not. Gentle attempts to remove layers of paint revealed that under a layer of heavy-duty coating (with period political graffiti applied by brush, not spray-can) and an orange primer, there are traces of gold paint on the lettering, so someone was quite proud of the structure it originally adorned.
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It’s a bit unlikely I suppose, but can anyone hazard a guess at whether it’s most likely from a footbridge, and whether the Caley gave any business to Blaikie Bros? Maybe the GNSRA forum would be a better place to ask?

best regards
Graham Roberts

Re: Any old iron

Posted: Sat Sep 25, 2021 7:49 am
by dunalastairv
Good morning, Graham,

'Old Iron' is a subject which has occupied me for most of my long life, so I was very interested to read about your plate. I think it most likely to be from a footbridge but it could also be from an ordinary bridge, or structure such as a water tank. A picture of the back would help: if it's just a universal rust colour then that probably means a structure other than a footbridge because usually footbridge plates have evidence of the lattice pieces on the back.

I love the gold leaf and could quite believe it was originally turned out like that, but the universal grey or brown would have been applied over it at first repaint. The red oxide, which is real red lead, with a lot of lead, would have been liberally applied as a first coat at the works.

I'd guess it's GNS, unless anyone knows Blaikie's did work for the Caley.

Re: Any old iron

Posted: Sat Sep 25, 2021 4:04 pm
by Graham R
Thanks Michael. The interesting thing is that the gold colour is under the orange primer, so I guess the latter was applied in service.

I hadn’t thought about the back. In fact it is painted, not bare metal: it’s dark green with a fair amount of blue.
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Re: Any old iron

Posted: Sat Sep 25, 2021 4:38 pm
by dunalastairv
The back is very interesting. I assume that's the original paint and hasn't been altered since the plate was taken off. There's no rust or weathering at all which I think rules out an exposed location like a footbridge. The back is so clean that I suspect this is from some sort of structural steelwork which has been under cover - station roof or awning for example. Wherever it was, it's not suffered the vagaries of the good old Scottish weather!

Re: Any old iron

Posted: Sun Sep 26, 2021 8:58 am
by Mike 1
That back is very unusual. Unless my eyesight is even worse than I thought, the smooth part is recessed. I've never seen one like that and the usual cheap sand casting would give a completely flat back.


Re: Any old iron

Posted: Sun Sep 26, 2021 9:31 am
by WCML55.68
Quite a few railway worksplates etc are recessed at the back, possibly to save weight or material or to reduce metal to metal contact and corrosion although this one has a quite fine raised edge. Of particular interest is the higgledy-piggledy arrangement of the letters.
Sorry cannot further your plate as yet, but Id agree with Mike, its led a very sheltered life.

Theres a shot here of a much more professional casting.

And this may be of general interest.