Tree Nails

A Description of Tree Nail Manufacture In Gargrave and Their Use On The Railways

By Dennis French


The letter heading above shows the railway bridge on Marton Road and the tree nail works at New Brighton. The New Brighton cottages on the left which are still there today.

The tree nail works are shown extending as far as Marton road but it may just be artistic license as it probably never extended quite that far. In small words just below the sketch it says “The largest treenail manufacturer in the kingdom“.

On the 29/30 May, 1919, much of the Eshton Hall Estate, for years the seat of the Wilson family, was sold by auction in the town hall, Skipton. Looking through the brochure for the “Sale of Gargrave” as the locals called it, part of the opening statement reads as follows….

The Airebank Mills are surrounded by the estate
and the New Brighton Treenail Works is a short
distance away.

The Treenail works, operating as New Brighton Sawmills, was on the site now occupied by the New Brighton caravan site run by Mr Paul Watson.
new_brighton_treenail_smallLight railways sprang up in the latter part of the 19th century, very few made a profit, and their very existence relied on the elimination of all non-essential expenditure, especially on the permanent way.
Instead of the chairs which hold the rails being held down by four metal bolts to the sleepers, treenails were substituted for two of the four bolts and simply driven through the chair into the sleeper.

My father worked at the mill in those days and described the method of manufacture….

treenail_sm“Trees of all shapes and sizes were shipped in by rail and brought to New Brighton by wood wagons drawn by two strong horses. Once unloaded they went through a series of saw benches ending up as pieces six inches long by two inches square.They were turned in a lathe to the profile as shown in the photograph.
After drying out they were put in a tank full of “black lead”, sealed by a lid, and left to soak for some time. (Well known local man, Robert Nuttall, once had this job.)
Soaking in black lead was followed by a visit to the drying shed, and finally, having been given a coating of oil, the treenails were put in a press to give them their final shape. As they were ejected from the press, two men would count them into bags of two hundred and fifty for final dispatch. Any spare wood was heated in kilns to form charcoal and also bagged for dispatch.”

Short and sweet, I only wish now, with hindsight, that I had asked more questions.

So far only we have found only one mention of Treenails and that is extracted from “The Basingstoke and Alton Light Railway” which gives details of the preparation required to stage a rail crash for the silent film “The Wrecker” in which a train hits a traction engine on a level crossing and comes off the track.

“All fastenings on one side of the track were faked, the treenails were shortened so as not to engage the sleepers.”

With nothing to restrain it the train left the track in spectacular fashion.
Any further information is more than welcome.

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