Belgrave, Llandrindod Wells, Radnorshire, Great Britain
I was surprised and very pleased to see the photograph of Mr.
William Marshall which included myself in your issue for this
month. I am one of the lucky ones who benefit by your arrangement
with Mr. Pratt for getting copies ever here. It has amazed me how
much interest there is in your Country in these elderly engines,
for we do tend to imagine that your folk are only interested in
what came tomorrow. That you are able to run to such an elaborate
and expensively produced magazine with so many pictures goes to
show the number, and wealth, of your supporters. Four day Rallies
certainly make me wonder, do the organizers, or the engine owners,
or the spectators have to work for their living and if so how come
four days off in a row?.
Still, we had a little local do last month at Andover,
Hampshire, with about 19 engines and I drove my little Burrell
Showmans tractor with a trailer of coal, water and tools for 85
miles in modern traffic to get there, all on my lonesome. Went on
from there to the National Rally, where there were about 25 engines
at Appleford, near Oxford. Here it rained all day and only the
threshing engines could get about in any form, while the Showmans
engines put their belts on and made light with their dynamos,
‘driving light’ as we say. All except me, having steamed a
good deal farther than any other engine there my little tractor got
leaky tubes and as the weather was hopeless I did not attempt to do
anything about it. Next weekend we expanded the tubes, lit up, and
were home, 115 miles in a day and a half.
All this was with my little Burrell 4NHP, three speed tractor,
built in 1912. I also own a big Fowler, also a Showman’s
engine, 3 speed, 4 shaft, 7NHP. She sports a 350 amp. dynamo and so
can light up half a fairground if required. She was built in 1918,
six years younger than the Burrell. These two are painted maroon
with yellow wheels and look very well together on a fairground, a
kind of ‘Mother and Son’ effect. At Portland .Fair recently
we had four in a row with my old ‘Queen Mary’, the Fowler,
lighting the lot of them.
I have recently acquired a Clayton and Shuttle worth tractor,
not a Showman, but with rubber tyres and a cab. She has not been
done up yet although I have retubed her and had her in steam.
I enclose photos of the two Showmans engines, which, of course,
you may keep if you wish.
Now you will realize that my chief interest lies in the showmans
type of engines and I rather gather the impression that there never
were many, of indeed any, engines of this type in the States, and I
wonder if you can confirm this. That your circuses travel by rail
we gather from the films, although how they got from the station
(depot I think you say) to the to ber (the field where they are to
show) is obscure. Presumeably by horses. Our circuses traditionally
travel by road and in most cases retained horses until they
switched direct to diesels, with no steam era between. Some had one
or two tractors to pull beast wagons and drive light.
But our travelling showmen used tractions over a period of fifty
years, ranging from 3 to 20 tons in weight and usually of the
general pattern represented by my photos. They hauled the rides
from, town to town and drove light, or later when the rides had
electric drive, the rides as well. Three trailers is the legal
limit on our roads (and that for Showmen only) and a complete set
of Dogems or an Ark would be loaded behind one engine. Big engines
handled the rides, tractors the living vans and side stuff. The
engine acted as a show-piece, advertising the coming of the fair
and often stood at the gate to the showground when driving light. I
have seen seven in one field, but at the big fairs in the north of
England twenty or more in a bunch was quite usual, all fully
brassed up and polished to reflect the lights. With their dynamos
purring, the engine rocking to her own beat, and the tap, tap of
the belt they made a fine sight.
I don’t doubt for one moment that the old threshing and
haulage engines, and the ploughing engines, were very fine engines,
but if you have never seen a really good Showman’s engine in
show condition, then you’ve missed something.
I mention ploughing engines. It appears that all yours were
direct traction ploughing engines. Did you never use the single or
double engine system of cable ploughing or are your fields too big?
Most of ours were on this pattern.
To avoid confusion, the address at the top of this letter is my
present postal address as I am working here, exiled into Wales, but
my engines live at Weymouth, Dorset, on the south coast of England
and I hope to return to them before very long.
May I wish you the very best for yourself and your Magazine.