SCENES FROM ENGLAND'S SECOND GREAT STATIONARY ENGINE RALLY, JUNE 1981
Blackstone Hot Bulb 2HP 1912; J. & E. Thorpe, Bridgwater. Somerset
Route 1, Box 66, Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin 53578.
What a coincidence! The Second Great Stationary Engine Rally at Longleaf was held during the same three weeks my wife, Pearlie, and I chose to vacation in Great Britain as a special 25th wedding anniversary trip. Leave it to an engine enthusiast to figure that out!
We departed from Minneapolis on June 15, late in the afternoon, and arrived at Gatwick Airport, south of London, early June 16.
Upon arrival we were met by Brian Money and his wife, Vern. Although we had corresponded for many years, Brian and I had never met. They took us to their home near Chipping Norton, Oxon, which is about 90 miles northwest of London. It is located in the very picturesque Cottswold area of England. During the three weeks we vacationed in Great Britain, it was the Money's home that was our headquarters and 'home away from home.'
Five days were spent traveling with the Moneys in and around the Cottswolds. We enjoyed seeing the lush, green countryside, the quaint well-kept villages, and the beautiful older homes. There was an abundance of flowering roses in the villages, and many thatched roofs are seen. During these days and the rest of the trip we found that the local pub was the best place to go for your food. Each one seemed to have a personality all of its own, and the food was usually superb.
One day we spent traveling to Birmingham where we visited the Museum of Science and Industry. Here there were many very good examples of the earliest British engines. I was most impressed with the nice restoring and the fact that many of these engines-both large and small-were operated on a regular schedule.
One evening we attended the monthly meeting of the Cottswold Steam Society, of which Brian is a member. It was held on the farm of one of the members. He had gone to a terrific amount of work moving most of his engines, tractors and threshing drums (separators) out of their sheds and having many of them in operation. The very popular Ploughman's lunch was served. This delicious lunch consisted of a large piece of bread or roll, a large chunk of cheese, a sauce, lettuce and tomato slices, pickle and beverage.
On Thursday, the 19th, Brian and Vern took us to Banbury where we picked up a rented Ford Granada which we had rented before we left home. Friday noon we left the Cottswold area, following the Moneys in their auto; we traveled southwest to Longleat where we would spend two days at the Great Engine Rally. By following the Moneys, who were also going to Longleat, it gave me a good chance to get used to driving on the left side of the road while sitting on the right side of the car. Also, it helped familiarize me when and where to drive in the very frequent round-abouts, which take the place of our intersections with stop signs.
Longleat, located in the Wiltshire District in the southern part of England, is a stately house which was started in 1368 as a monastic establishment. Today it is owned by the 6th Marquess of Bath, and has been in this family for over 400 years. This beautifully furnished home is open to the public. Contributions are used to maintain the house and to preserve it because of its architectural importance. There is no doubt about it- this was surely the most impressive setting for an engine rally that I ever expect to see.
Upon our arrival at the Longleat grounds, we checked in at a private farm home where we had three nights reservations, using the B & B (bed and breakfast) plan which is so popular all through Great Britain. This dairy farm is actually a part of the Longleat estate.
After having our evening meal at the home, we drove into the immediate area of Longleat House. The drive is bordered with towering rhododendrons and leads you through the beautifully landscaped grounds past the house, to the area where the rally was held.
Upon arrival at the rally site, we found that several large areas were roped off and marked with letters (A, B, C, etc.); and these areas were divided into individual spaces and numbered. Already there were many engines set up in their proper spaces, and in the distance we could see the many caravans (campers) of the exhibitors who had already arrived.
Early Saturday we approached Longleat from another direction; a recent addition to Longleat is a wild animal park where you drive your car among the various animals. As we left this fenced in area, we found ourselves at the crest of a hill, overlooking the Second Great Stationary Engine Rally.
Finally, after seven years of writing letters and sending voice tapes back and forth, I had the opportunity to meet David Edgington and his wife, Doreen, in person. David and I felt that we already knew one another very well, but it was an exciting moment to shake his hand.
The engines had rolled in from all over Great Britain; it seemed they came from all parts of England, with many coming from Wales and Scotland, too. By noon on Saturday most of the engines were on display and in operation.
Never have we attended a show with such a high percentage of extremely good, nicely restored engines on display. When talking to other collectors who were at the show, they agreed that you could not go to any other engine rally in Great Britain and see a display of engines that would compare in quality. Roger Kriebel, and wife Jean were there from Harleysville, Pennsylvania; Roger agreed that this was truly an outstanding display.
Although I do not know the exact number of spectators that attended, the crowds seemed really large. Because the people were moving around the large rally area, walking across the bridge to the Longleat House and adjoining gardens and amusement area, it was most difficult to even estimate the number.
Three modern engine companies donated and set up displays of their old engines, along with their modern ones. Those companies included Petter Diesel, R. A. Lister and Co., and Villiers, Ltd.
On Saturday evening a very enjoyable program was held in a very large marques (tent) that had been set up on the grounds near the Longleat House. The popular Ploughman's lunch was served, and an outstanding program was presented.
The highlight of the program was a question and answer session with four of the most knowledgeable enginemen in Great Britain on the panel. These enginemen were: David Edgington, Charles Hudson, Ray Hooley, and Charles Cawood. I felt privileged to hear these men and meet each of them personally. The program for the evening was well organized and enjoyable.
Four old unrestored engines were donated for raffle prizes. Raffle tickets were sold by the Rally Committee during the rally, with over 1200 Pounds ($2400) being realized from this project. We purchased some tickets, and then worried what we would do if I won an IHC and had to bring it back to Wisconsin.
Late Sunday found everyone packed up and ready to leave. As here, it seems the exhibitors wished it could have lasted longer. They all agreed that the organizations of the event was fantastic and it was a most enjoyable rally.
It was with a bit of humor that we found that even though we all spoke English, including those from Scotland and Wales, we did have a problem understanding one another very often. And as soon as we said a few words, they knew at once we were from America.
My story on Longleat would not be complete without some facts about the history of the rally.
It was David and Doreen Edging-ton who fostered the idea of a Great Stationary Engine Rally in 1979. David is the editor of the Stationary Engine Magazine, published in England. Doreen is the assistant editor. The magazine, begun in 1974, is devoted wholly to gasoline engines or stationary engines (also referred to as barn engines by many in Britain).
In 1979 David and Doreen decided to hold a 'one time only' Greatest Stationary Engine Rally-it was to be the best rally ever held in Great Britain. Such a rally would require a large area, and they found that Longleat would host their show and furnish a most spectacular setting.
This first rally was held without the help or support of any particular engine club. With only David and Doreen and a committee they had put together to help them, they organized and put on this great rally, drawing the best engines from all of Great Britain.
The first show was called the 1000 Engine Rally; it was very successful even though the goal of 1000 engines was not realized. Over 900 engines were brought in for display and the participants and spectators had a most enjoyable time. They then put the pressure on for the Edgingtons to put together another rally.
Finally David and Doreen consented and started to plan the second rally. Much had been learned from the first one-it was seen that there just would not be room for 1000 engines and all the tents and caravans that would be brought in. Therefore, they set a limit of 800 engines for the second show, with not more than two engines for each exhibitor. The date chosen was June 20, 21, 1981.
Several months before the rally date, entry forms were enclosed in an issue of The Stationary Engine Magazine. They Had decided to allow engines to be exhibited by subscribers to their magazine only.
Within three weeks after the entry forms had been sent out, the limit of 800 engines was reached. David said that about 200 more applications were received, but had to be turned down.
On the entry form all collectors had to list the engines that they wanted to exhibit, and give the serial number, horsepower, year built etc. All engine spaces were assigned and in this way they were able to print up a program that showed the areas, spaces, name of exhibitor and the information on the engines. This was quite an undertaking, for sure; however, as a spectator who wanted to see every engine and take pictures of many, we found the program indispensable.
When entering the grounds of Longleat, a fee was collected which was admission to the Longleat grounds and also the engine rally. David did not receive any of these monies, but his group was responsible for cleaning up the area of the rally. Exhibitors paid no entrance fee so in order to have funds to operate the rally, donations were received from several companies, banks and individuals. When all obligations were taken care of, David said there was a little money left over. Perhaps to help finance a Third Great Stationary Engine Rally?
The Monday after Longleat we left on our self-conducted tour of Great Britain in our rented car. We traveled south and west into Cornwall where we saw several of the engine house ruins that mark the sites of old mines. Two of these engine houses, complete with their engines, were seen in operation. One is a steam winding engine of the beam type, built in 1887. With a cylinder 30' in diameter, and a piston with a stroke of 9', it was designed to run at 17 revolutions per minute.
The other great engine has a cylinder 90' in diameter, weighs 125 tons and is the largest and youngest of all engines left in Cornwall. It was used in a mine from 1892 until 1913 when the mine failed; then it was moved to a brand new engine house in 1924 where it pumped continuously for nearly thirty years. The size of these engines is awesome.
After following the coast line of Cornwall we continued northeast until we crossed the Bristol Channel into Wales. Following near the coast of Wales we traveled to the northwest area called Snowdonia. Here we rode to the top of Snowdon Mountain, the highest point in England and Wales; our transportation was the Snowdon Mountain Railway, a steam powered cog train which was built in Switzerland during the 1800s.
Hunday, the National Tractor and Farm Museum, was our next 'engine' stop. It was much larger than I expected it to be, and the machinery is so very well restored and organized. Any person who is interested in antique machinery would find it well worth his time to travel to West Cumbria, 14 miles west of Newcastle, if they ever go to England.
Mr. Moffitt has on display all types of old farm equipment and tools. To us, of course, the greatest interest was in the two large buildings of tractors, both American built and many, very early British; also, the two areas of gas engines. What a fantastic collection of old engines, including one of the oldest Crossley-Otto engines I have ever seen-a 6 B.H.P. built in 1887. There was a room of models of all types which was a sight to behold! Also, steam engines were on display.
After visiting Hunday, we returned to Chipping Norton. The next day we attended the Banbury Steam Society Rally near Banbury which included displays of steam engines, tractors, gas engines and more. Steam lorries (trucks) were interesting and a first for us to see. Among the tractor displays was a Cat 'R 2', shown by our host, Brian Money. Of course, the gas engine display was very interesting to me. Another display that was intriguing was old military vehicles that had been restored. Most of these were Second World War vehicles and they ranged from Army bicycles and motorcycles to jeeps, trucks, armoured personnel carriers and tanks. Quite a few of them were old U.S. Army vehicles.
The typical engine rally that we saw had a more festive atmosphere than those we see in the United States. At the Banbury there were several fair organs operated by showman's engines. Also, they had a modern tractor pull, run much the same as ours are. A carnival and flea market were set up also.
Although I consider myself a confirmed 'gas engine' fellow, I must admit that the displays which fascinated me the very most were the big, beautiful, colorful steam showman's engines; they are breathtaking-they are items of fantastic detail and each one is a real masterpiece!
We had the opportunity to see the 'Supreme'-which is considered by most everyone in Britain to be the number one showman's engine. Many of you have probably seen pictures of this engine as it is widely used on books, calendars, magazines and other items. It required 12 years (25,000 hours) to restore this engine. What a beautiful, massive machine it really is!
Never before had I seen a steam ploughing engine-they are so massive and well-built. Steam rollers were much more common there. It is evident that the steam traction engines built in England are very different from those built in America -they are built much better in many ways.
The next day we traveled back down to Westbury, in Wiltshire, to spend a couple of days with David and Doreen Edgington. As I got to know David, I found that he has a fantastic memory for engine information and surely the best library of old and new gas engine books that I have ever seen. David has an outstanding collection of Petter engines-he also has a collection of several small, beautiful engines.
We returned to our Cottswold home and spent the rest of the week with Brian and Vern Money. A trip to London was made by train which was very modern, fast and on time! We left Gatwick Sunday afternoon, and arrived in Minneapolis, also on Sunday afternoon.
After this trip I find that many engine names have a whole new meaning to me. The most common and popular were Lister, Wolseley, Villiers, and Petter; these I was somewhat familiar with. But names like Ruston Hornsby, Richard Hornsby, Crossley, National, Tangye, Blackstone, Hornsby Akroyd, Stuart and Gardner were strange to me. They are such well-built, very nice looking engines. Among the U.S. built engines which we saw there, Amanco was the most popular. Amanco means Associated Manufacturing Company. There are also several Fairbanks-Morse of different types, Nelson Bros., Witte, International (both the Famous and Type M), Stover, Detroit, Emerson Brantingham, and even my favorite Fuller & Johnson. In fact, there were five F & J's on display at Longleat. These are not all the names of engines which I saw, but those come to mind now.
We enjoyed our trip to Great Britain immensely; it is a trip never to be forgotten. The people we met were so warm and friendly-their kindness will never be forgotten.
Perhaps some of you will plan a trip to Great Britain-hopefully there will be a Third Great Stationary Engine Rally for you to attend.