It seems ironic that a foundry in West Sussex
would be supplying its period style cast iron radiators to America, home to some of the first cast iron radiators. But after scouring the country
President Richard Mindler of the Quakertown Train Station Historical Society
discovered that none of the foundries in the USA manufactured cast iron
radiators in the style needed for the $800,000 refurbishment of the town’s
Victorian train station built in 1902.
After obtaining a 25 year lease from SEPT (South Eastern Pennsylvania Transport Authority),
the Quakertown Train Station
Historical Society began its mission to restore the train station which was
damaged by fire in an arson attack in 1989, back to
its former glory. Deborah Samsel, Treasurer of the Quakertown Train Station Historical Society explains: “Because the train station was owned by
SEPT and no longer in use, it was left neglected. SEPT is self-insured so did
not have to repair the building. The local government threatened to have it
raised so we formed the Quakertown Train Station Historical Society to save the
To stabilize the building, five feet of water had to be pumped out of the cellar
and the roof covered. The Society, consisting of ten members, began its struggle
to raise enough funds to pay for the engineering and restoration costs. The
renovations commenced in August 2003 once the building had been listed on the
Register of Historical Places. The Society had a clear idea of what the building
needed, Deborah reveals: “The main objective was to update and replace all the
utilities so the train station could become a venue to rent out for functions.
This meant adding features like air conditioning, provisions for the handicapped
and also a full fire and security system.”
The original cast iron radiators including
a rare ancient barrel shaped radiator were unfortunately not drained after the
fire and suffered severe cracking during the winter months. Richard Mindler,
President of the Society searched the internet for exact replica cast iron
radiators but could not find any foundries in the whole of the USA that manufactured radiators in this style.
“Richard couldn’t find anything in the USA that was suitable” explains Deborah, “He then decided to broaden his search abroad
where he eventually found Tuscan Foundry Products and exactly the style of
radiator needed for the station. We definitely needed cast iron as that’s what
the original radiators were made of and cast iron produces a much better heat”
Paul Trace, Managing Director of Tuscan
Foundry Products was thrilled to be able to help:
“When I received the inquiry I was intrigued as its not every day we get
approached by an American town and such a unique project. Our Nouveau radiator
has a scrolled relief pattern which gives it a very unique period styling that
is perfect for replacing cast iron radiators from the Victorian era. I felt
honoured we had been approached by such a worthy restoration project”.
The restoration project took
approximately 17 months to complete but the whole process has taken more than
15 years of planning and fundraising. However, the project is not totally
complete as the Society is currently waiting for an opinion from an English
mason as to what process is needed to clean the external stone walls.
“There were countless problems that arose
during the restoration”, Deborah reflects: “One of the most challenging
problems was the retrieval of the radiators, getting through US customs and
picking them up at their final destination in Baltimore MD in the allocated
time was truly a learning experience”.
The restoration of the train station has
generated a huge amount of media coverage and will be used to host Quakertown’s
150th Anniversary in June 2005. Deborah concludes:
“It’s a huge achievement to have the
train station completed after all these years, the waiting room looks
fantastic. The radiators are a real feature; I have been photographed next to
them by the media because they came all the way from England.”
The future of the Quakertown train
station is positive. The society are already speaking to organisations about
using it for business functions and are keen for everyone that has donated time
and funds to benefit from using the station as a venue. However, according to
President Richard Mindler one thing is certain about the future of the train
station: there will be no McDonalds or Starbucks!
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