Engines at Bishop's Castle

Regular readers will know that occasionally I like to visit an air-display and a traction-engine rally, to keep a sense of proportion. For anyone with these sentiments living near the Midlands, the August Bank Holiday rally of the County of Salop Steam Engine Society at Bishop’s Castle is an excellent means of fulfilling one of these aims.

Nowadays such a rally has not only the tractions but such auxiliary attractions as vintage and veteran cars and motorcycles, fairground organs, historic commercial vehicles, ancient farm tractors, a steam children-carrying model railway, engineering models; miniature steam traction-engines, stationary engines, and even a special service at the nearby Parish Church.

Steam enthusiasts were admirably catered for by Fowler, Garret, Foster, Burrell, Marshall, Ransomes, Foden, Aveling, Clayton, Wallis, and Sentinel engines and a Ransomes portable steam-raiser. it would be invidious to pick out a “best”, but Foden’s own 1916 five-tonner wagon with centre-pivot steering always appeals to me. Many of the engines were new to this rally and I see that the 1927 Wallis & Steevens roller, once owned by Christopher Jennings, late of The Motor, was entered and that Robert Wynn, the heavy-haulage contractors, had brought their 1920 Fowler. When we drove over to this rural scene in the BMW on the Sunday there was an enormous crowd already present, efficiently marshalled into the car parks by an ample number of police and officials.

These days fewer vintage-car owners go to steam rallies and at Salop there were but eight, one of which was a post-vintage Austin towing a caravan. The parade was led by a 1923 Bean two-seater and a 1928 Standard Nine saloon, which were followed by sound examples of Austin and Morris products. The veterans were not due until the next day. The recognised dates had been changed, extending to 1920, but to no avail, as the nine entries ranged from an 1899 Decauville to a 1915 Ford. The “vintage” commercials were Post-1930, mostly coaches, including a Brockhouse-bodied Crossley, but the ex-RAE Leyland fire engine was present. ‘These vehicles are locally owned. The VMCC had put on a good display of motorcycles, which included a fine vee-twin Ariel family outfit with hooded sidecar, gas headlamp and foot-boards, an unusual Johnson Motor Wheel, the horizontally opposed engine sitting over the bicycle’s back wheel, which it drives by chain and spring-cushions, a side-valve Omega, and a veteran Buchet. All the exhibits were properly fenced off, which should encourage more in future. The farm tractors were all post-vintage or post-war, the oldest a 1938 John Deere. An attraction which rivalled the big engines was the display of working stationary engines, by the Midland Oil-Engine Club. It refuses to allow its exhibits to be judged for “bests”, an autocratic if wise attitude, and it has made a corner in engines from Salop and the adjoining Welsh counties, one member collecting as many as nine in one swoop. It had 52 listed in the programme, of which, in car parlance, two were veteran, nine Edwardian, 22 vintage, five post vintage and two post-war engines, although one suspects that, in the absence of an oil-engine Dennis Field, some of the dating is a bit vague. On the Sunday I counted more than 30 of these engines, So the hobby, to which MOTOR SPORT first drew attention many years ago, after a Sussex rally, is expanding. Fortunately it is still possible to buy these engines, even in running order, for a tenner or less, but monopolies are thinning the ranks, so if readers care to tell us of any such engines, likely to be scrapped, we will do our best to put would-be restorers in touch, as we have done and still do in the case of pre-war vehicles.

Just as gas lamps, chain drive and automatic inlet valves denote the more interesting veteran cars, so the things to aim for in the oil-engine camp are hit-and-miss governors, exposed flywheels, crank-pins and big-ends, and l.t. ignition, It is interesting to find magnetos often driven by 45 deg. skew gears, this apparently being a means of getting the magneto in the confined space between engine and outside flywheel where previously, on models for the American market, ignition had been by trembler coils. I noted that Wipac magnetos are popular, as on one hopper-cooled 3 hp Bamford. A one-owner 1920 Amanco, product of the Associated Manufacturing Co., had a suction inlet valve and the exhaust valve actuated by an angle-iron push-rod some three feet long.

Interesting exhibits included an Avon power saw, “The Victoria” 5 hp engine made by the Bristol Wagon & Carriage Works, a 1924 Crossley of 4 hp, a circa 1919 Type Z Fairbanks-Morse on I.t. ignition, and ”The Morton”, claimed to date front 1890. There was a fascinating 1924 National developing 5¼ hp at 250 r.p.m. – none of the high-speed 450 r.p.m. of some engines! – with hit-and-miss speed control, it’s magneto driven via an eccentric, which had been used by the East Shropshire Water Board, while a 1920 5/6 hp Ruston & Hornsby petrol/paraffin engine was another with l.t. magneto. There were several two-stroke Petters of various sizes, like the example I had got going the previous Sunday, one having the neat bulbous Petter cooling-hopper, a 1901 Bentall found in a swamp, and a Lion giving 4 hp at 425 r.p.m.

A 4 hp Warwick which cost over £80 new had its cylinder completely surrounded by the hopper and used an exhaust-heated pan-type vapouriser. Two of the bigger and more impressive engines present were a 1916 Hornsby portable oil-engine with exposed big-end, its water tank topped by a cylindrical silencer, and, even, bigger, a similar Nayler Patent Oil Engine made in Hereford but as yet undated, with hot-bulb ignition and ball-governor. A 1923 10 hp Ruston cost £130 new, weighs 25 cwt., and had been used up to 1966 to drive a corn mill, the later Barnfords are of neat monobloc construction, and judging by the similarity of my 1924 Type 2L Lister to a 1918/19 model, the classic design of these engines does not seem to have changed much down the years.

‘These stationary engines which performed divers duties in factories, farms and country houses have their place in history and it will be most unfortunate if those remaining are scrapped, instead of being restored, as happened to so many of the older cars. So I hope I shall be informed in good time of any which could be saved and made to run again the Midland-Oil Engine Club has done its part in rounding them up! – W.B.

V-E-V Miscellany In connection with our recent article on Sixty Mercedes, we dropped a clanger in suggesting that the Mr. Higginbotham who owned one of these cars might have been the gentleman who invented the Autovac; as a reader points out, the latter was Mr. Higginson. We well remember the story of how he wanted something faster to drive at Shelsley Walsh than his big La Buire, which led to the advent of the 30/98 Vauxhall. We felt very vexed about the error until we saw in The Times that even Bernard Levin is not immune, for in his excellent piece about Post Office inefficiency he inadvertently killed off a living Peer of the Realm. Our same article has led to a reprimand that we made present-day Ireland sound too dangerous, for, says the correspondent making the point, all is quiet in the South of Ireland and around the Athy circuit. He refers to a family friend who took a four-in-hand pantechnicon loaded with friends, tables and chairs, food and much drink to spectate at the 1903 race.

That 1919 GN which has languished near Hereford for years has been given to the sons of the family, who would like a Museum to store and restore it, but it has to remain in the family, The Rolls-Royce Phantom book by John Oldham to which we referred in August is, he tells us, to he called “The Rolls-Royce 40/50” and will cover Ghosts. Phantoms and Spectres, with, we understand, a great deal of unpublished material about experimental cars, etc. It should be published some time next year and should be very well worth waiting for. Christopher Leife, who wrote the Alpine Trial Rolls-Royce book, is selling his 20/25 as he has found a 1910 Ghost chassis minus engine in use as a farm tractor in Oxfordshire, and is busy restoring it.

We are informed that a Model-T Ford raceabout has been put on display at the “History On Wheels” Museum at Syon Park. Not much seems to be known about it but some sources say it was specially assembled for a visit to this country by Henry Ford during the First World War, It has been in the possession of a Brixton collector for many years and we wonder if it could be the car which Dee’s of Croydon owned before the war, and which we have never seen since? The wheelbase appears to be longer than standard and there is an auxiliary gearbox, so that there are five forward speeds overall, and an external four-branch exhaust manifold is fitted. Finished in purple with a bolster fuel tank, this Ford does not seem to have been a genuine racer, as it has gas (converted to electric) headlamps and oil side and rear lamps. The Museum’s Curator appeals for its history. It was a nice idea for No. 1 ohv racing 12/50 Alvis to invite other vintage cars to attend its 50th birthday party at its owner’s house near Wellingborough on August 19th last. Nor can it be regarded as senile, because it has been going very well at Silverstone this year, driven by Wieksteed, and only a week before its party it had taken part in the VSCC Prescott hill-climb, clocking 56.16 sec.

It is a sign of the times that the Daily Mirror devoted quite a lot of space to the story of a bullnose Morris which changed hands for 95p when the old ladies who had been using it found cranking it up had become tedious. They had paid £1 for it originally but found a shilling under a seat. Many years ago two other ladies sold their Ariel light-car under somewhat similar circumstances. The Albion Vehicle Preservation Trust, 3, Hamilton Crescent, Bishopton, Renfrewshire, knows of 116 Albions.