20 Maddoxford Lane, Botley, Southampton, England S032 2DG
Last fall, GEM sponsored a European Tour arranged by Arena Travel which included Switzerland, Germany, Holland and England. GEM staffer Judy Whiteside participated in this venture and was a contributor to this article.
It seems not too long ago that I was busy assembling information and getting packed for what promised to be an exciting tour with the prospect of making new friends and meeting quite a few from previous trips.
On Thursday September 7, 'the team' from Arena Tours assembled at Felixstowe, England and boarded the cross channel ferry 'Pride of Norfolk' for the overnight sailing to Zeebrugge, Belgium. The weather was far from encouraging with gale force winds and quite a rough sea, I mention this because contrary to expectations the ship was rock steady and the only evidence of being at sea was the occasional sledge hammer like blows of waves crashing against the hull. To me this was a real tribute to the effectiveness of the stabilising system. After a good night's sleep we disembarked and drove in our coach through Belgium and France down to Zurich, Switzerland so as to be ready on Saturday morning to pick up the first arrivals. It was good to see a sprinkling of familiar faces, including those of Charles and Sheila Wendel.
To get the tour under way and distract everyone from the effects of jetlag, a trip was taken on the 'Grindelwald to First' chair lift in Switzerland. Fortunately the weather was perfect for viewing the magnificent Alpine scenery, and to give an engine related interest the manager gave a conducted tour of the cable driving machinery. This is the longest cable car in Europe and replaced its predecessor in 1991. Three hundred gondolas, each with six seats, populate the system and all are stored each night within the four station buildings. Control is by a computerized system which updates every three seconds using fibre optics embedded in the cable for data transfer from the various sensors. The system is 5226m long, is supported on 43 pylons and can convey 1200 persons/hour over an altitude change of 1105m.
Our visit to the Swiss Transport Museum in Luzern really excited railroad enthusiasts, with steam powered rack and pinion engines, a number of electric locomotives and numerous high quality models. In the aeronautical collection a number of rotary engines aroused much interest as did the Siemans and Halske in which both the cylinders and crankshafts rotated but in opposite directions. Another early solution to the quest for power with minimum weight was the Dufaux motor with five tandem in-line cylinders. Each cylinder was double-acting so it corresponds to a conventional 20-cylinder engine. It was interesting to compare this engine with a Junker Jumo 207 opposed piston six cylinder diesel standing close by.
Before leaving this superb museum we walked past the steamship 'Rigi' now standing on dry land and used as a restaurant. Constructed in 1847 by a London company, this ship served for 105 years and had an oscillating twin cylinder steam engine which drove feathering side paddles. This was a forerunner to the steamship 'Unterwalden' which we boarded on leaving the museum for our cruise to Brunne. This side paddler has a 2-cylinder cross compound steam engine. She entered service in 1902 one year after her sister ship 'Uri' which passed us going in the opposite direction with a good deal of hooting and waving from the Captains downward.
Other paddle steamers seen were Schiller (1906), Gallia (1913), Stadt Luzern (1928) and Wilhelm Tell (1908). Luzern boasts a covered dry dock which enables these priceless old ships to be kept in regular service with a level of reliability that satisfies precise departure times in keeping with traditional Swiss practice.
At the Swiss Federal Agricultural Research Station in Tanikon, we were given the opportunity to view both their regular activities and their superb collection of antique tractors and agricultural equipment (over 700 items from the past 170 years) stored in a fine old barn which was part of a former convent.
Our next stop was to Stuhlingen and to the marvelous collection of Roland Porten. His collection of 25 years filled every nook and cranny of five rooms plus a loft. Roland, despite a serious health problem with bypass surgery arranged for the following day, pulled out all the stops to make his fine collection available for all to see. Everyone, including Roland demonstrating high speed hands-off tractor runs, really enjoyed themselves. The collection consisted of around 100 tractors, including 30 Lanz Bulldogs and other makes such as Bautz, Fahr, Fordson, Hanomag, Hur-limann, Kiva, Kramer, Lanz-Aulendorf, Man, Meili, Porsche, Ursus, Wahl to name but a few. There were a large number of engines and other pieces of farm equipment.
To provide yet another contrast we visited the German Clock Museum in Furtwangen. This excellent museum contained wooden clocks from 1640 onwards as well as more recent ones using metal components. Of particular interest were the displays of tools and machinery used in the clock making industry.
During this part of the tour we were fortunate to be joined by Walter Reiff of Bulldog Services, a well-known trader in books and models, etc., based in Eberdingen. Walter's good knowledge of English was most helpful, as was his ability to hold a very humorous and entertaining conversation with our knowledgeable guide at the clock museum.
A rare tractor made in Germany. There are only two known to be in existence. During the war, these tractors were used in Africa to pull out trucks stuck in the sand. Production of the Kramer stopped after the war.
After that we were 'just in time' to visit the 'Vogtsbaurenhof' Black Forest open-air museum. Unfortunately it rained, but we were able to view several of the houses and get a good impression of Black Forest life in days gone by.
Through the persisting rain we made our way to Willi Hoffmann's home in Ehninger. Because of the weather much of the collection and the excellent refreshments had to stay inside but this made for a very friendly evening with excited group members discovering engines and tractors in abundance, not to mention the host of other farm implements and artifacts.
Among his collection we saw some gas producers of the type used on cars, tractors and lorries during WWII when liquid fuels were unavailable except for military use. We had previously seen one of these in Roland Porten's collection, and not being able to examine it closely, had guessed it to be a refrigeration compressorjust how wrong can one get when you ought to know better. During World War II the Germans began a gigantic fuel-saving campaign. The need for 575,000 barrels a day in Hitler's Europe was a bare minimum figure sufficient only for maintaining an economy of peace. A nation at war would require a doubling or trebling of oil requirements. To help with the effort, large numbers of cars, trucks and tractors were converted to use 'gasogenes,' wood or charcoal-burning units that generated combustible gases. Methane gas was also used as an alternative fuel. The gas is produced by a fermentation process. Raw materials could be waste by-products such as farmyard manure and slurry or cereal straw. As supplies of coal and oil became plentiful again, the research and the gas conversions were abandoned.
I noted the following makes of tractors in the Hoffman collection: Fahr, LHW-Stumpf (a crawler), Hanomag, Lanz, Allgaier, Zanker, Farymann, Fendt, Deutz, Schluter (complete with its gas producer) and examples of the Polish made Ursus. It was hard to believe that this magnificent collection could be located in the middle of this village.
At Hohenheim is Germany's oldest agricultural university which was founded in 1818 by a Russian princess. A German agricultural society based on the same lines as the British Society was founded about the same time. Today the university is in the midst of a major industrial area with land values as high as 1500 to 2000 DM/square meter being quoted. A central part of the university is the exceptionally fine German Agricultural Museum housed in two halls covering more than 2550 square meters.
The museum traces the history of agriculture with extensive displays of farm equipment from the days of hand held tools. Over 50 tractors and hundreds of ploughs are displayed. A very exciting feature of the museum is its collection of nearly one thousand models of old farm implements and machinery. All these models are to the same scale and were made to a very high standard in the model shop attached to the museum. To properly appreciate the exhibits in this museum would take at least a week, so we were all very reluctant to leave such a fine display. I listed over 15 makes of tractors in this collection including an Ursus (this means Bear) which was copied after the Bulldog Lanz after WWII.
From Hohenheim we moved on to the Mercedes-Benz Unimog trials and demonstration grounds. During the introduction we were told that conventional tractors with large rear and smaller front wheels are known as being Kangaroo designs while those with equal size wheels all round like the Unimog are to the Horse design. (I am still trying to work out where that leaves the Ursus). After a very spectacular demonstration several members, including some of our ladies, took rides of a lifetime and sampled the delights of 45 degree inclines as well as water lapping the windows when wading. A feature of the Unimog is its continuous tire pressure monitoring and the means to adjust tire pressures when on the move to suit operating conditions.
1928 Mercedes Benz 1 cylinder multi-drive tractor with evaporating cooling system and front axle suspension. It was changed from three forward gears to two so anyone could drive it. Model was manufactured between 1926-28. Out of 150 made, only 3 still exist.
Located in Mannheim is the John Deere plant, currently building the new 6000 series models. The 6200, 6300 and 6400 are imported to the States. Hans Hetterich, Marketing Services manager, gave a presentation of Lanz and John Deere backgrounds. Heinrich Lanz started his business in 1859 by selling farm machinery and importing locomotives which he later started to manufacture. He claimed that his design for a tractor with a single cylinder 2-stroke diesel engine was a world first. When J.D. took over in 1956 Lanz had a 45% market share in Germany but could not afford the necessary re-equipment of the factory which was extensively damaged during the war. It is now Deere's largest plant outside the United States and their third largest worldwide. There are 3,000 employees making about 20,000 tractors a year. We were told that you can buy a John Deere painted any color you may desire provided you are prepared to pay the extra cost. (Shades of Henry Ford!) It is also possible to buy a John Deere made by the Czech company, Zetor.
The next stop was to the magnificent Automobile and Technology Museum at Sinsheiman exhibition that will thrill and fascinate you! Well it did that easily with its 300-plus exhibits featuring engines, cars, tractors (50), aircraft (60) and railway engines. Features that enhanced the exhibits were life-size models in realistic poses and the opportunity to see many items work by inserting a few marks in a slot. Certainly worth a whole day's visit and a must for the future.
After a long weekend in Heidelberg, Rudesheim and Cologne, we drove to Langenboom in Holland to visit the William Van Schazik private museum. This semi-retired agricultural dealer had an impressive display including over 80 tractors, 140 stationary engines, model steam traction engines, and a scale model fair. Among the engines is a single cylinder marine Kromhout, a DeDion Bouton, 2 Claeys (Belgium), a Dutch Thomassen, an Italian Vellino and an Austrian Jenbach. Outside a number of engines were running with perfection to everyone's delight. Some tractor makes noted were Holder, Wahl (Germany), Kramer (German), Fiat, Landini (Italian), Guldner (German) and Howard (British). The Van Schazik family can only be described as being totally dedicated to their fabulous collection with plans already approved to build a large new 2,200 square meter exhibition and display museum.
We then drove through the interesting and well-farmed countryside of Holland to visit the I.R.D.F. Woudogemaal steam-powered pumping station near Lemmer. This is a showpiece from bygone days which are not yet over, since these steam pumps are still responsible for discharging 7% of Friesland's surplus water. It is the only remaining steam pumping' station working in Holland The plant generates power equal to 630 HP each and has a capacity of 4000 m3 water per minute. The heartbeat of the pumping station is produced by four tandem compound steam engines with single high pressure cylinders which work on overheated steam of 320 degrees Celsius and 14 kg per cm2 overpressure. They've been working without fail since 1920. The steam engines each drive two centrifugal pumps that pump the water from the Friesland outlet pool to IJsselmeer Lake. During our visit, the summer maintenance program was still going on so it was possible to look inside one of the huge centrifugal pumps.
While at Lemmer we were joined by Ronnie Sohilstra, a member of 'De Vrienden Van De Krukas' (Friends of the Crankshaft Club). Ronnie acted as a much appreciated navigator on the route to Zwolle and explained that members of his club were also coming to the Machine museum Zwolle with a little surprise. That was a bit of Dutch modesty for we were indeed surprised to arrive in a road lined with engines and tractors on either side, complete with puffs of blue exhaust and flags flying along the hedge rows. What a show this was including a Moteur Moes Semi Diesel (Belgium), a Titan-Halloy C'Liege, Moteur Japy, Nelson Jumbos, 1911 10 HP Stickney (USA), and Water Motel (Hampton Wick UK). Another engine drove a portable workshop via flat belts, while across the road, members took turns driving a superbly restored Lanz Bulldog that could do 40 kmph. Another interesting feature of this Bulldog was the removal of the steering wheel to crank-up the engine. In addition to all this fun, there was an outstanding museum to be seen. Among the numerous exhibits were a Neufeld and Konkwe, a Stuart with polished copper water jackets on each of its two cylinders, a 3-cyl-inder Stork (Dutch), a Bolnes 3-cylin-der diesel, a 2-cylinder hot bulb Hollandiamotor, a 20 PK (HP) hot bulb Bromhout motor and a 16 PK hot bulb Industrie. However to me the Brons engines symbolized Dutch achievement in engine design. This make was represented by a 1924 engine and a 1908 28 PK air start. Many engines in the museum were running for the occasion with some magnificent sounds and smells to be savoured. To conclude this very memorable visit the museum curator, Reel de Boer, Ronnie Sohilstra and all their enthusiastic helpers were warmly thanked for their exceptional, efforts and generosity.
This blue engine with a brass oil tank incorporating duplicating feed adjusters to the cylinder and timing gears is a typical example of the standard to which the engines in the Van Schazik collection are restored.
The following day we went to the Polder Museum which tells the story of living and struggling against water. This outstanding museum contains a wealth of information on land reclamation, dyke construction and developing the polders to produce a valuable asset. It also enabled us to appreciate the significance of the pumping stations such as the I.R.D.F. Woudagemaal visited earlier. Close by is the Batavia spice ship which a few members visited. Unfortunately I did not have time for this but it looked a fine opportunity to see what an East Indiaman was really like. In the afternoon we briefly relaxed with a sightseeing boat cruise in Amsterdam.
A number of model enthusiasts then went on to Groot Ammers for an evening visit to Donald Van Schaik's model collection. Donald is a dentist, who for relaxation, goes driving heavy earth moving machines every Friday afternoon! Together with a friend he has also assembled the largest collection (3,800 items) of model trucks and construction equipment I have ever seen. The collection is superbly displayed in illuminated glass cases and in some cases, complete with appropriate scenery. Pictured below is a fully detailed gold-plated Model Sixty Caterpillar.
On our last morning in mainland Europe we made our way to Calais, France and the Channel Tunnel. After a smooth uneventful 35 minute trip we were in England and spent the early afternoon viewing the Eurotunnel Exhibition Centre at Folkstone. When one sees the massive tunnel boring machines (pictured) and views the huge model of the railway layouts at either end, then some appreciation of this monumental achievement is apparent.
On to London. On our final morning some went sightseeing, some shopping; about 30 came with me to the Science Museum. We saw models, full size engines, and a host of other engineering items most the sole surviving originals 200 or more years old. An excellent book shop enabled us to acquire information on the exhibits and some enjoyable reading for a cold winter's evening.
For our final visit we went to see Brian and Anita Thompson's Brattle Farm Museum at Staplehurst in Kent. They have a very fine collection of engines, tractors, and farm machinery. Members of the UK Two-Cylinder Club joined us and brought exhibits. We were able to see a magnificent pair of oxen at work and some lucky members even got a ride on a Sentinel steam lorry. After a very fine barn dinner, shared with a number of British collectors and enthusiasts, we were entertained by a small musical group and everyone joined in the open air singing on a very pleasant autumnal evening. All that then remained was to say 'Au Revoir' and wish everyone a safe journey home with all their many memories, treasures and souvenirs.