Pit Tub, Wigan
Pit tubs were small trucks that were pushed or pulled from the mines (either by men, ponies, or in some cases women) carrying the coal to be washed and sorted. The tubs would run along narrow gauge railway tracks and a section of this was to be included in the restoration and display. Following delivery to the workshop, the truck was disassembled.
An initial inspection and assessment found that, following on from a previous attempt at restoration, the body of the truck was found to be of low grade timber, this had been inadequately treated or maintained and the timber was rotten in a number of areas. In addition, the body of the truck was held together with low gauge metal that did not provide the necessary bracing.
An important element of any restoration is authenticity – the degree to which the process can truly reflect the original construction of an object. We found that the fixings used for the construction were inappropriate as they included ‘Phillips’ style screws and bolt configurations that would not have been in existence or would not have been used at the time of construction of an original example.
The frame of the truck was also found to be in poor condition, again, having been constructed in low grade timber and had not been maintained, with the effect that the timber had rotted in some areas. In addition, the frame had been constructed incorrectly, having been made too wide and therefore indents had been cut in order to accommodate the wheels.
A new frame was constructed to which the wheels would be fitted below it and the truck body attached above it.
The new truck body was produced using appropriate timber, the correct gauge of metal and the correct shape and type of fastenings etc as would have been used in the construction of an original example. The body has also been clad in metal sheeting where appropriate.
The truck body was painted as required.
In order to protect the truck body against corrosion and rot, a number of drainage pits were included in the base of the truck body, preventing a build up of standing water inside the truck body following periods of rain. Ocasionally restoration projects require consideration of current modes of use and location. These are drainage components usually associated with installation in central heating systems and therefore are intended for long term and heavy use and will prove eminently suitable in the current setting.
The fittings for the axles were cleaned and treated with several layers of corrosion inhibiting primers prior to receiving the first top coat. A further coat washand applied before the truck was reassembled. The components shown are fastened directly to the frame with the components below being fixed around the axles and attached back to the components above.
The wheels and axles were completely cleaned back to bare metal and then been treated with corrosion inhibiting layers of primer and then topcoat. They were then fixed to the frame of the truck using the components as described above.
In addition to the above, the track components require further attention and agreement was reached with the client on the most appropriate means of securing the truck to the length of track in such a manner that it cannot be moved.
Eventually all the restoration work was complete and the Lost Art operatives were able to install the pit tub in its new location. For some residents of Wigan, it is a reminder of their not too distant past, whilst for younger residents, it will hopefully serve as a prompt to questions about the history of the town.
Like many Northern towns, modern day Wigan was built on a combination of coal and cotton. In order to reflect the contribution of the former to the heritage of the town, the town council wanted to restore an old pit tub for installation and display in Mesnes Park, an oasis of green in the town centre, provided in an age when the citizens were most in need of the relief it provided.