Phitberds Manor, East Harvey, Wantage, Berks, England.
Last year my father purchased 5 or 6 back-numbers of your magazine. I have studied these with great interest.
We are joint owners of two engines, a Fowler cable slough engine, and a Marshall portable. The Fowler is a compound cylinder 7' x 12' x 12', 16 H.P. I don't know what this rates in your horsepower scales. The Marshall is enormous for a portable being larger than the Fowler. The boiler is 3' 11' 1 cylinder 11' and 11' x 16', double high pressure.
I would like to make a few comments on the article on page 3 of the May-June 1973 issue. There are only 2 or 3 McLaren ploughers in existence compared to 130 (approximately) Fowlers. There are also 2 Burrells, 2 Aveling and Porters and 1 John Allen.
There are no undermounted engines left, excluding some lorries, as only very few were produced before being tagged a failure. One make of lorry has a return flue boiler of which about 5 examples exist.
Most engines are two speed, some road engines have three, but four was almost unknown. The only double cylinder engines that I know of are portable. We went in for compounds over here due to their greater economy with coal and water.
These were either cross-compound or special patent called single crank compounds. These were produced by one firm only. The layout was to have the high pressure cylinder mounted diagonally over the low pressure. Both piston rods drove to a common crosshead and thence via a single connecting rod to the crank.
One set of valve gears was used with the drive split after the Stephenson's link motion. These engines made a very good name for themselves.
On the subject of valve gears over here, we are virtually all Stephenson, although some experimenting was carried out using Joy's and Firth's. They did not catch on.
Cam-operated poppet valves were used on a few steam lorries but normally slide valves were the order of the day with piston valves in conjunction with super heating (itself very rarely come across).
On the subject of the engine I half own, we got the plougher 6 years ago when I was only 11. I drove to our first rally, (father steering), when I was but 14. I hate to think what the legal age limit is. We thought we had at last finished work on it last year after fitting a new cable, then a boiler tube blew rust as we were about to start work at a rally. We replaced it and eventually worked the following day.
Last Winter we removed the other 44 tubes and hope to replace them shortly. This gave us the opportunity to have some electric welding done to build up the inside of the boiler barrel where corrosion had taken place. We are hydraulically tested to 300 pounds and blow off at 180 pounds.
The Marshall was bought last year. It had been built in 1910 and from then till 1936 powered a sawmill. It was then bought by a brickman who used it until 1941. They had sunk it to just below the foundation ring in a pit which collected all the rainwater that fell on the works. This was its feed water supply.
They also built a building around it. Over the years the pit filled up with muck. Thus when we came on the scene we had to dig out the pit, knock down one end of the building, jack it up, and replace the rear wheels, then tow it out. It took four men, a four wheel drive tractor and countless blocks of wood, three days.
It is now here. We will have to get a new smokebox rolled up and a new chimney made. We have had cast three new bearing brasses, (the gypsies had stolen the top halves but the crank was sitting on the bottoms), and bought a complete new set of lubricators. It may be going next year.
Wallis and Stevens made some double high-pressure, piston valve, outside disc crank rollers.
A firm called Buffalo-Pitts made some overtype steam wagons that looked remarkable like some of ours.
I would be interested to know the fate of the cable plough engines made by O. S. Kelly of Springfield, Ohio and also those imported from Fowlers in the 1860's and 70's to work the Mississippi cotton fields when slavery was abolished.
So there are a few notes from this side of the 'puddle.'