Rosie, The Road Workers' Living Wagon
Rebuilt upon an original early 1930’s chassis by Ben Moor of The Original Highland Hut Company, Daviot near Inverness, Rosie arrived at Tall Pine Croft in November 2019.
We commissioned the hut in memory of Fred and Daphne, Peter’s Mum and Dad. The engraved music over the wood burner is their favourite Bing Crosby song from the Second World War years. Dad served in the Intelligence Corps and Mum worked in the Royal Ordnance Factory in Salford, the city where they met. The opening song lyrics are: ‘When the blue of the night meets the gold of the day, someone waits for you’. This song continued to be their favourite throughout their lives. Ben, a former amateur musician, was well aware of our strong musical backgrounds, so the various musical features (and indeed the quirky architectural features) were very much his idea!
Here are two photos of a rather sad looking Rosie as she was when Ben found her - just crying out for restoration! The living wagons were constructed of wood, usually vertically matchboard panelled, on a wooden chassis. Traditionally they were painted dark green outside, white inside for lightness. The roof was curved, of canvas over a wooden frame. This would be tarred or treated as oilcloth for
weatherproofing. Some small windows were provided, for light and ventilation and often too high for a view out. They had a four-wheel chassis, the front axle having simple single-pivot platform steering. Steering followed the drawbar from the engine, rather than being steered. Distinctively from earlier horse-drawn wagons, no driver's position was needed at their front. There were no brakes fitted, although wheel chocks were always carried.
Pulled along by the steam rollers, the wagons carried solid rubber tyres such as ones on our chassis. From the mid 1930’s, living vans for steam roller gangs on road construction began using pneumatic tyres in the 1930s, to avoid damage to newly-laid asphalt.
Living vans often included a coal stove for heating and cooking, depending on the seasonal nature of their work. Otherwise a paraffin stove would be used for cooking. Unlike railway locomotives, the steam roller engine's own firebox was rarely used for cooking 'on the shovel' as it was too cramped and also provided no way to make a first cup of tea in the morning, before lighting up.