This week’s #FindsFriday is a wagonway track chair that was recovered from Leeds, West Yorkshire. Many track chairs were found near the area excavated. Some were probably associated with a nearby passenger or goods railway, but it is likely that others, such as this example, are from a colliery wagonway.
This iron chair was probably used to secure iron wagonway rails to wooden sleepers; a single spike was used to fix the chair to the sleeper and was installed via the hole visible on the left side. The rail would then sit inside the chair. This format suggests that the chair was intended to serve a light-gauge line, such as those used to transport coal out of a mine. This example also has a small casting on the right flange, which could indicate that it was associated with a switchgear mechanism.
Before 1767, rails and some wheels of wagons were made from wood. However, they would have to be replaced often because of damage caused by the weight of loaded wagons. From 1767 onwards, both wheels and rails were made from iron, a more durable material that proved more cost effective. This helped date this example to between the late 18th and 19th century.
Iron chairs sometimes had the name of the railway company or foundry cast onto them. Sadly, no such markings were present on this example, but it is still a great example of well-preserved industrial archaeology and highlights the importance of coal mining in this area.