| July/August 1979

  • # Picture 01

  • Gladstone's engine

    W. Litant
  • Gladstone's engine

  • # Picture 01
  • Gladstone's engine
  • Gladstone's engine

Messers, Charles Burrell and Sons of Thetford, Norfolk, England built over 4,000 steam road engines. In 1974, we here at the Museum of Transportation in Boston became the proud owners of Burrell tractor #3540. 3540 rolled out the doors of the factory on January 22, 1914 and went to William Oakes, a haulage contractor in Hollington, Staffordshire where it was christened 'Gladstone.' Gladstone passed to another owner in 1918 and another in 1950. In the late 1950s, Mr. Geoffrey Roberts of Osterville, Massachusetts spotted Gladstone chugging down a street in England. Conversing with the driver, Roberts mentioned how he'd love to take the machine home to the United States. The driver returned with a 'Why not?'

Gladstone spent the next 14 years puffing around Robert's house on Cape Cod pulling out stumps and scaring the daylights out of innocent motorists as he blasted the whistle and popped out from behind a row of trees and steamed across the street.

In 1974, Gladstone was donated to the Museum and has been on static display since. By 1977, Richard Friedman, museum mechanic and vehicle restoration specialist, and I decided it was high time Gladstone was put back in service as a living exhibit. The first step was to do some historical research. Gladstone was build to conform to England's Heavy Motor Car Act of 1903 which permitted traction engines of five tons unladen weight to be operated at no more than five miles per hour by one man. Previously, at least two men were required, by law, to run the machines. We found that Gladstone had spent most of its life as a threshing engine, hauling the thresher from farm to farm and operating the machinery on site. As a road engine, Gladstone boasts several distinctive features. In addition to the normal rear water tank, holding 70 gallons, there is also a belly tank of 60 gallon capacity greatly increasing distance between water stops. A 1/8' plate is fitted under the engine to protect the firebox when fording streams. All valve gear is provided with covers to disguise the moving parts from easily frightened horses. This is also the rational for the solid flywheel as animals could not be disturbed by spinning spokes. There is no provision for a water pump and the engine is simply fitted with an injector on each side. Lubrication is provided by both a feed into live steam and a mechanical lubricator working off the valve motion. A great deal of this historical and technical information was provided by the Road Locomotive Society in England who sent us copies of the complete original specs for engine 3540 including everything from parts listings to paint scheme.

While we were waiting for the information from England, Freedman carefully lubed and freed all working parts. We turned her over briefly on compressed air. As the engine reciprocated, we found, to our delight, that we could operate her on less and less air pressure.

It was decided it would be easier to work on Gladstone in our warehouse and out of its exhibit environment so, with the aid of a large tractor-trailer unit, she was taken out of our building in Brookline, Massachusetts and moved some five miles to our storage space. Here, a group of volunteers removed the steering chain drum, chains, belly tank, and stripped the lagging from the boiler. Larry Vaughn, president of the Klendall Boiler and Tank Company in Cambridge was approached to retube the boiler. While the original tubes were still serviceable, it was decided to make the boiler as new as possible. Vaughn was aware of the limited amount of funds available for the restoration process and he generously agreed to retube Gladstone at no cost. Vaughn's men removed the old tubes and replaced them with 1' ones. As the original tubes were 1', it was necessary to shim the replacements at the tube sheets. Eventually, the crown and tube sheets may need to be replaced but, for the time being, experts feel we are completely safe to run Gladstone at the 100 lbs. pressure we plan to. Originally, she ran on 200 lbs. but Roberts tells us there's more than enough power at half that. Boiler inspectors, particularly in Massachusetts, are not known to be an extremely flexible lot and, as Gladstone's double-lap seam British boiler does not carry an ASME stamp, we're doing all we can to convince our inspector that no safety precaution is being neglected. After all, the Boothbay Railway in Maine had to redo the boilers on their German-built locomotives because, as the boilers were completely serviceable, a Maine law dating from WW I forbids the use of German boilers in that state!

Richard Friedman, Museum mechanic and restoration expert, checks the movement of Gladstone's reversing lever. Notice the 3-speed gear setup. The number '3's on the canopy brace and the side of the tractor is to aid with canopy replacement once removed. (W. Litant photo)


Farm Collector April 16Farm Collector is a monthly magazine focusing on antique tractors and all kinds of antique farm equipment. If it's old and from the farm, we're interested in it!

Save Even More Money with our SQUARE-DEAL Plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our SQUARE-DEAL automatic renewal savings plan. You'll get 12 issues of Farm Collector for only $24.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and send me one year of Farm Collector for just $29.95.

Facebook Pinterest YouTube