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Conserving a model signal lever


The signal lever model ready for display in the People's Republic gallery, Museum of Liverpool.

Not all our projects are large or complicated; this is a model of one of a pair of signal levers made as a demonstration model or travellers sample. It was prepared for display in the Museum of Liverpool and arrived in the studio with rust and missing parts. It was also mounted on a crude box made from scrap wood. 

The rust was removed using oil and a very fine rubber polishing block called ‘Garryflex’ which left the steel bright and shiny. Some types of tarnish are desirable like the dull grey on the top of the cast iron frame. This ‘patina’ is kept as a sign of age so was left un-polished. The metal was protected from further corrosion by a coating of wax polish. 

Replacement pins were turned in a lathe to replace those missing from the trigger mechanism and a new wooden base with brass columns allows you to see the levers below the cast iron frame.

Click on the thumbnails below to see conservation work in progress.

The signal lever as it arrived in the studio, it has parts that are missing and is mounted on a crude wooden box. A close up of the model before we cleaned it, rusty, dusty and greasy. The lever pivot after cleaning. A new brass 'cotter' pin has been added to replace the one that was missing. Some tarnish can be desirable, like the dull grey on the top of the cast iron frame shown here. This 'patina' is kept as a sign of age. The finished signal lever model ready for display. The new stand with four brass columns allows visitors to see the levers under the model. We always mark the object with its own individual catalogue number so we know what it is.

Museum of Liverpool collection

Accession number 1974.168.5