It was just a year ago, as the August 1993 issue of Gas Engine Magazine went to press, that a group of 75 gas and steam power enthusiasts were gathering in airports across the nation (in fact, across the world, as we had some folks from Canada and from South Africa), to depart on a two-week excursion tailored specifically to the interests of the vintage machinery collector.
Our tour was expertly organized by Rob Rushen-Smith, of Wade Farm Tours, Felixstowe, England. British engine aficionado Alex Skinner served as consultant engineer to Wade Farm Tours, and provided valuable input as to what a group of traveling American old iron buffs should be shown in Britain. All agreed that Rob, Alex, and the Wade Farm staff had done a 'bang-up' job in selecting the sites we would visitwe didn't have one wasted moment during the whole fortnight. I'd like to say that each day brought something new and exciting to look at, but that's not true; each day actually brought something old and exciting. Rob, a genial young man, also served as one of our escorts for the tour, assisted by Jackie Coggan, a gregarious, enormously knowledgeable, and lovely lady who charmed everyone on the tour. Jackie also arranged an 'escape' or two for the ladies on the trip who had seen enough old iron for a while.
Our tour began with a visit to the British Engineerium at Hove, near Brighton. The Engineerium is housed in the former Goldstone Pumping Station, built in 1866 and expanded in 1876 to supply residents of the surrounding area with water for drinking, sanitation, and all domestic needs. By 1975, the station had fallen into disrepair, but was rescued by Jonathan Minns and a dedicated corps of preservationists who have restored several buildings in the complex. The old coal storage building currently serves as an exhibition hall, where an extensive collection of steam models are displayed, along with a working 1859 Corliss design engine built by Crepelle &. Garand of Lille in France. We also toured the boiler room, workshops, and the No. 2 engine house, which houses a 250 HP jet condensing Woolf Compound Engine built by Eastons & Anderson. This engine, which is beautifully restored and was put back into steam on Good Friday 1976, is capable of pumping 150,000 gallons per hour to a mean height of 250 feet.
While at the Engineerium, we were welcomed and treated to an enthusiastic lecture by founder Jonathan Minns, which was greatly enjoyed despite the fact that many in the group were struggling valiantly against the effects of jet lag! We were soon enough back to our hotel in Winchester for a good night's rest.
Our first full day of touring began with a drive through the New Forest, a region once reserved as a royal hunting ground, parts of which are now open to the public for recreational use. A large population of wild horses roams the area, much like they do in the Chin-coteague/Assateague area of Virginia on America's east coast.
Our drive brought us to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu (pronounced byoo-lee). Established by the current Lord Montagu to honor his father, John, Second Baron Montagu of Beaulieu, who was a motoring pioneer, the museum has grown into what must be one of the finest collections of historic automobiles extant. Hundreds of well-kept veteran (up to December 1918) and vintage (January 1919-De-cember 1930) cars are on display, as are commercial vehicles, sports cars, speed record breakers, racing cars, and post-war mass market automobiles. The display is complemented by exhibits of maps, motoring gear, and other items of automobilia which paint a total picture of the motoring experience in Britain. There is also a collection of early motorcycles, and several steam traction engines and road rollers.
A highlight of our visit to the Motor Museum was a look at the museum's restoration shops, not generally open to the public. They are currently working on a DeDion, which is being restored to carry children around and for use in some of the dramatic reenactments which the museum frequently stages. Also in the shop is a 1930 Bentley, which is often used in rallys. It can do 130 miles per hour; it can't stop at that speed, but it can do it!
Upon departing Beaulieu, our drive took us through a coastal area. The Isle of Wight was just visible, and several old wartime airstrips could be seen in the fields flanking the road. These strips, once used by returning fighter pilots in World War II, are now used by local residents as a relatively safe place to teach their children to drive.
Our next stop was Stapehill Abbey, Crafts, and Gardens. The focus of our visit here was the 'Power to the Land' exhibit, an extensive collection of historic equipment which illustrates the changes advancing technology and mechanical power have brought to agriculture. The collection was assembled by John Moffitt over 25 years, and was acquired by Stapehill's owners so that the public could continue to enjoy it after Mr. Moffitt's retirement.
The exhibit is part of a complex of craft exhibits, shops, and gardens housed in a 19th century Cistercian abbey which housed the Nuns of the Holy Cross Order from the early 1800s to 1990, when the abbey was purchased by a private owner and the eight remaining sisters were able to move to a smaller retreat.
On special display were Ron Jarvis's exquisite models of early steam engines, including a 1/16 model of the engines of the 1836 paddle steamer Red Rover, several 1/12 models of steam carriages, and a 1/12 scale 1805 sugarcane mill. Mr. Jarvis had the models not only on display, but working as well, and said of the GEM group that we were a good audience and that he'd never had a group of visitors who a) knew so much about engineering, and b) didn't contradict him.
Our day was completed by a trip to the Hampshire County Museum. We were shuttled to and from our hotel aboard a 29 seater 1949 Bedford OB coach. Our hosts at the museum were Gary Wragg and Ivor Brown, the men responsible for a great deal of the museum's restoration work. In addition to a large collection of agricultural machinery and engines, the museum also houses archaeological, photographic, and textile exhibits outlining the county's history. Our visit ended with a brief reception complete with tea and biscuits (cookies).
Next on the itinerary, a trip to the Royal Naval Heritage Museum and HMS Warrior in the city of Portsmouth. Warrior, restored in 1979 as she would have appeared during her first commission in 1861-64, was, at the time of her launching, the largest, fastest and most powerful warship in the world, and was noted for her armored citadel. The ship could be powered by sail or steam, or a combination of both. Power came from a two cylinder, single expansion Penn trunk steam engine, which at 55 rpm could produce 1,250 HP. Under sail, maximum speed was 13 knots, under steam 14-5 knots, and with both sail and steam she once attained a speed of 17 knots.
It was here in Portsmouth that we were also able to tour HMS Victory, the flagship of Britain's finest Admiral, Lord Nelson, at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar.
The afternoon was spent at the Amberley Chalk Pits Museum, a 36-acre industrial complex. Normally closed on Tuesdays, which is when we were there, a devoted bunch of volunteers were on hand to staff those parts of the museum our group had most interest in, including several petrol and steam engines.
Our last night in Winchester was made special by a concert in Winchester Cathedral (right next door to our hotel!). The cathedral celebrated its 900th anniversary in 1993.
A very special highlight of the trip was a day spent at the home of John Upton, where we were able to view his enormous collection of engines and vintage tractors. (His inventory included 105 engines on the date of our visit.) Several of his friends also brought a number of their tractors and engines, making for quite a gas-up! We were all quite moved by and appreciative of the gracious hospitality of Mr. Upton and his family, who treated us to a delicious luncheon in addition to the engine display.
At the Bristol Industrial Museum, we attended an after-dinner lecture entitled 'Brunei and Bristol,' given by curator Paul Elkin. Brunei, one of the most farsighted of Britain's 19th century engineers, was a brilliant and fascinating character.
The talk prepared us for our visit the next day to the s.s. Great Britain, designed and built by Brunei in Bristol in 1843. She was the first screw propeller-driven oceangoing ship with an iron hull. She was designed to be propelled using steam as the primary power, with auxiliary use of sail to preserve coal when the wind cooperated. The four cylinder engine could generate over 1,600 HP, and transferred power to the propeller shaft via a chain drive, rather than through gears. The ship, rescued from ruin in 1969, is currently the focus of a massive restoration project.
We were then on to the town of Bath, where we were hosted for tea by several members of Christ Church. After a tour of the Bath Industrial Heritage Center, located right next door to the church, where 'Mr. Bowler's Business,' a late 1800s soda water factory, has been recreated from original equipment left behind when the business closed in 1969, we had a bit of time to take in the other sights of Bath. The town takes its name from the ancient Roman public baths discovered there. Another top attraction, right next door to the baths, is the Bath Abbey, a spectacular house of worship which boasts a breathtaking vaulted ceiling.
A slow-paced day of excursion in Wales, through the Elan Valley Reservoirs and a ride on the Ffestiniog Railway (a narrow gauge line traversing 13 miles through the beautifully scenic slate-mining region near Snow-donia National Park), gave us a bit of rest before our big day visiting the Tat-ton Park 1000 Engine Rally. The rally is put on by the Five Counties Vintage Machinery Organisation, Inc., with major support from the publication Exchange & Mart; the rally committee is chaired by the able Percy Gallimore.
Wouldn't you know, the one day that we planned to be out of doors all day was the only rainy day we had! But hey, there's no stopping 75 engine buffs when there are an estimated 1,000 pieces of old machinery on display!
Until the rain let up, many of us took the opportunity to go on a guided tour of the Mansion at Tatton Park, the lavish home of generations of the Egerton family. Built between 1780 and 1813, the mansion is furnished with original (and exquisite!) family furnishings and works of art.
The rain slacked off by mid-morning, and we spent hours getting a look at how the British go about restoring and showing off their old iron. Advertised as Europe's largest display of vintage engines, the show did not disappoint. In addition to the petrol and gas engines, there were innumerable models, vintage cars, tractors, motorcycles, and military vehicles to browse around.
One surprise: while taking my first photograph at the rally, I heard a voice saying, rather loudly in order to penetrate my concentration, something to the effect that I looked like I was pretty far from home. Who should I see through my viewfinder? None other than exhibitor Preston Foster, director of the Coolspring Power Museum and a fellow Pennsylvanian! Turns out that he has some English friends, Terry Lines and John Murray, who allow him to store his 1914 Blackstone 6 HP engine at their place. This is his fifth year of exhibiting at Tatton Park.
We closed our day at the rally with a visit to the FCVMO hospitality tent, where we were warmly greeted by rally chairman and vice chairman Percy Gallimore and George Houghton, and were presented with exhibitor medallions.
What a busy day! Luckily, we weren't too tired out to enjoy a very special Anglo-American Dinner at our hotel that evening, where we were joined by some of our new British friends for a delicious meal followed by remarks by the Reflector, Charles Wendel. After dinner, those who still had the stamina 'cut some rug' to the sounds of the band 'Mondo Carne.' (I must mention that one of the band members had a sister who worked for a time here in Lancaster, home base of Gas Engine Magazineboy, the world sure was small on this particular day!)
From the modern beat of rock 'n roll (albeit gentle rock 'n roll) the night before, we journeyed back in time the next morning to the Iron bridge Gorge Museum, birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. The museum, a World Heritage Site, actually incorporates a number of sites within several miles of each other which together illustrate the evolution of industry in England, and henceforth the world at large.
We started with Coalbrookdale and the Museum of Iron. It was in the blast furnaces here, in 1709, that ironmaster Abraham Darby became the first to smelt iron using coke as fuel. Coke was a much more plentiful fuel than the formerly-used charcoal, and its use allowed for greater quantities of iron to be produced. Iron from these furnaces was used to cast the first railway wheels and rails, the first iron boat, and the first high-pressure steam locomotive.
It was also here at Coalbrookdale that the world's first iron bridge was cast. Erected in 1779, that bridge still stands a few miles upriver, spanning the Severn River gorge at a town which has come to be known as Iron Bridge. The use of iron to build something which, to that time, had always been constructed of wood or stone, opened the minds of late 18th century 'imagineers' to the endless possibilities of this versatile material.
One of the most fascinating parts of the museum complex is Blists Hill, a 50 acre open air museum which recreates life in a circa 1900 town bustling with industry. On site are the remnants of the Blists Hill blast furnaces, as well as a foundry, and an ironworks where pig iron was refined into wrought iron, which was reworked into bar form with a steam hammer in a stamping mill. Lots of machinery here for us to get excited about, including a few old steam traction engines roaming around! I could have spent another day here, just wandering through the shops and buildings and soaking up the history.
The following day was scheduled as a travel day, and the itinerary mentioned a stop for refreshments at a place called Anson Museum. What it didn't mention was that the Anson Museum was a treasure trove of stationary engines. Wow! Geoff Challinor and Les Cawley, leaders of the developing museum, have done a tremendous job. The collection includes such makes as National, Crossley, Gardner, Bates and Scholes, Ruston Hornsby, Campbell, Robinson, and Furnival, all beautifully maintained and most in working order. The main thrust of the collection is machinery manufactured in and around Manchester.
The museum also contains an interesting local history display. And yes, we did get the promised refreshments, which were quite delicious and hit the spot! The ladies serving up tea were surprised that we Americans didn't use very much milk in our teaand I thought the British didn't use any!
At first glance one would think that our scheduled stop at Sandringham, one of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's royal residences, was put on our tour to give everyone (especially some of the ladies) a break from all the mechanical 'stuff we'd been seeing. On the contrary! While the house itself was of course grand and beautiful, there was also a museum housing a fine display of automobiles used by the royal family, some of them classics.
Perhaps the most exciting part of our day at the Queen's estate, which spreads over 20,000 acres, was our ride around the farm, guided by Danny Harvey. Sandringham isn't just a place for royal relaxation; it is a working farm, personal property of the queen, income from which is used for maintenance and upkeep. The queen herself farms 3,310 acres, while another three-fourths of the estate is let out to tenant farmers. Crops grown here include wheat, barley, sugar beets, peas, beans, and quite a bit of 'pick-your-own' fruit, including apples, strawberries and raspberries. The fruit farm also produces a healthy crop of blackcurrants, which are mechanically harvested.
The queen employs over 100 people here, and has 150 tractors (!) in her 'stable.' Our behind-the-scenes tour included a stop at the Vehicle and Tractor Maintenance Shop, where we got a look at one of the farm's blackcurrant harvesters, and where we discovered that the Queen owns at least two John Deere tractors!
We closed our evening with a visit to Thursford, a museum containing George Cushing's absolutely, fabulously restored and beautifully displayed array of steam traction engines, road rollers, lorries (trucks), and showman's engines. Thursford also exhibits, in addition to the steam engines, several petrol engines, and an incredible collection of mechanical fairground organs. A mighty Wurlitzer organ, rescued from a moviehouse due for remodeling, is the centerpiece of the collection, on which resident organist Robert Wolfe gave a stirring concert during our visit. I think it was here that I finally was overwhelmed! The gleaming engines, the earth-shaking music, the flashing lightswhat an evening!
On to London! In transit, we stopped at Duxford Airfield, one of the largest aircraft museums in Europe, and part of the Imperial War Museum. It served as a fighter base for the 8th U.S. Air Force from 1943-1945, and is the future home of the American Air Museum, a tribute to the sacrifices of the thousands of American airmen who flew from British airbases during World War II. In addition to a large collection of military and civilian aircraft, the museum also holds an extensive collection of military vehicles, tanks and artillery.
A nice surprise was provided by a small group of local gasoline engine collectors who had received permission to have a 'gas-up' on the grounds in honor of our- visit.
In London, following a lively half-day tour of the city's top attractions, we ended up at the Tower Bridge (what many people mistakenly think of as London Bridge, which is actually a little further upriver). While the bridge was closed to traffic during our visit (due to renovations in preparation for the bridge's 100th birthday in 1994), Bridge Master Christopher Stevens and his staff were gracious enough to open up the engine rooms and historic machinery exhibits for us. While the machinery for raising the bridge to allow large ships to pass through was modernized in the early '70s, most of the original hydraulics and engines were left to remain. The bascules which span the center section of the bridge each weigh 1,200 tons. Steam from four coal-fired Lancashire boilers, working two at a time, was fed at 75 lbs. psi to one of two 360 HP pumping engines, which in turn pumped water into the hydraulic system at ,750 lbs. psi to lift the bascules. Reserve power was held in accumulators, so that the bascules could be raised at any time.
While viewing the control room, Doris Thatcher of Branson, Missouri, and I each had the opportunity to man the lever which raised and lowered the bridge... oh, the power! Doris's chance came when she happily admitted that
she was the oldest woman in our little group; my chance came when none of the men would admit to that same distinction. (If anyone has a photo of Doris at the controls, she'd love to have a copy.)
Our final engine attraction visit was to the Kew Bridge Steam Museum. Housed in a 19th century pumping station which once provided water to West London, the museum is home to five Cornish beam engines, one of which, the 'Grand Junction 90,' is touted as the world's largest working beam engine. Grand Junction 90, built in 1845 and boasting a 90 inch diameter cylinder, was in steam for our visit, as was the museum's oldest engine, an 1820 Boulton & Watt 'West Cornish' engine, which is capable of pumping 130 gallons on each stroke.
Kew Bridge also features several other working steam engines, a busy steam engine restoration shop, and its own short line railway.
Well, all good things must come to an end, and so it was with our Engine Extravaganza in Britain. To celebrate our last night, we took a dinner cruise on the Thames on board the Westminster. The cruise took us past Greenwich, through the Thames Barrier (a modern engineering marvel erected to protect London from surge tide flooding), and back to London to view the beautiful skyline and historic buildings at night.
After our farewells, everyone headed for the airport and home.
I've never been much of a group traveler, preferring to go off on my own, but I must say that the folks on this particular trip were a pleasant lot to travel with. I really enjoyed jumping around from bus to bus each day and getting a chance to mingle with the group.
I hope, and I believe, that everyone who went on the trip had a good time and was satisfied that they saw enough vintage machinery. A good measure of that satisfaction is the fact that quite a few who traveled to England have already expressed interest in the continental European tour proposed for 1995.
Yes, we had fun, and the reason why, I believe, was the unequalled hospitality we were shown by our British hosts and fellow engine collectors. Everywhere we went we were afforded special treatment and attention, by which I was astounded and for which I'm very grateful. I only hope that we here in America can return the favor to visitors from abroad.
Cornelius Bergbower, of Bluford, Illinois, on the right in this picture, took advantage of his time in England by arranging to meet with his friend and fellow sparkplug collector, David McFeat, of Surrey, England, at left, for a little trading.
David has been collecting for 14 years, and has perhaps the largest sparkplug collection in Europe. He and Mr. Bergbower met several years ago in Hershey, Pennsylvania; David's been back to Hershey seven times. He has also traveled to Paris, Belgium, and Holland in search of unusual specimens.
David makes his living as an engine restorer, but spends quite a bit of time doing work for the United Nations. In those endeavors he has served in such troubled areas as Somalia and Bosnia.