Farm Collector

ENGINE RECOVERED FROM A RIVER

By Staff

(When Margaret and I visited New Zealand early in 1984, we were
able to meet the Heron family Frank, Joyce and two sons, Kerry and
Garry. One of the family’s proudest accomplishments is the
rescue of a huge traction engine from the Docherty Creek in 1975.
Michael Hanrahan, editor of ‘Vintage Farming’ magazine, who
sewed as our guide in New Zealand, has very kindly enabled us to
quote from an article in the magazine in 1978, written by Joyce
Heron. Gerry Lestz.)

Frank Heron, chatting with Bill Scott, of Rangiora, after a
traction engine rally, said he would like to own a traction engine,
since he had repaired many of them. Bill said he knew where one was
buried in a river at Franz Josef. Permission was obtained from Ted
Gibb, who owned it, for a visit of inspection. Joyce’s account
continues:

Frank Heron with the Marshall 2 speed #38513, single cylinder,
rescued from its water resting place. Frank’s large collection
includes a Keystone drilling rig; he has located two more in
Christchurch, both operational.

The engine was located completely covered in shingle, boulders,
and sand and with branches caught on the top. There was also water
in Docherty Creek almost to the top of the engine.

By lowering the level of water with Bob Gibb’s D8 bulldozer
we were able to establish that it was a 7 HP Marshall traction
engine number 38513 built by Marshall Sons & Co., Ltd., in
Gainsborough, England, in 1902 and that the boiler was in excellent
condition, even though a lot of the top gear had been removed.

A further trip in May, 1975, followed and with the aid of George
Wheeler’s (Kaiapoi) Fordson tractor and Dinkum Digger, and Bob
Gibb’s (Franz Josef) bulldozer and plenty of hand work by my
family and Harold Feather, we were able to dig out the traction
engine in under two days. It was very helpful to find that Docherty
Creek was dry.

On getting the traction engine to the surface, rain started to
pelt down as it can only do on the West Coast. The decision was
made to pull the traction engine to the river bank. With three
wheels turning and one sledging, the engine was pulled out with Bob
Gibb’s bulldozer and Ted Richards’ tractor, while the
freezing rain pelted down. Ted Richards also retrieved the funnel a
mile down stream. We were unable to find the crankshaft and
flywheel.

On a later trip in February 1976 we had the aid of an army metal
detector to try and locate these items. However, certain stones
responded to the detector. If however, you wait your patience, the
river will give up the missing pieces. Ted Richards found this on
Boxing Day 1977 about 60 yards further down stream. So you can see
that this is a very savage river at times. It is very interesting
to note that at one stage Franz Josef Glacier had covered this
area.

The following day we inspected our prize and found that Docherty
Creek was in flood. In January 1976 we went to Franz Josef to free
up the cogs and wheel. This took four days and we were surprised
there was still oil in the wheel hub.

The engine was thoroughly washed to get rid of tons of sand and
stones through it. After all this time there is still visible the
salmon colored paint on the wheels and brown on the body.
‘Franz Josef’ has now been painted the same colors.

The traction engine was loaded on a Lowloader truck and
transported back to our workshop at Fernside (near Rangiora) via
the Lewis Pass.

We have hunted most of the South Island for the top gear,
flywheel and crankshaft for a 7 HP Marshall, but only saw one
restored 7 HP in Ashburton district.

With the help of Stewart Leddington of the Invercargill Traction
Engine Club, we were able to locate a derelict 8 HP Marshall at
Spars Bush. These parts we purchased from the owner and Stewart
helped remove them from the engine. This engine’s number is
38825, so it was probably manufactured about three months after
‘Franz Josef’.

It was used for stumping trees at Spars Bush, and the land has
now become very fertile sheep country. Of course some of these
parts have been too large such as the main crankshaft gear. Each
tooth had to be cut down and shaped by 1 inch and the root of the
tooth by half an inch.

Frank works on the restoration nearly every night and every
weekend, and I estimate that between four and five thousand
hours’ work have gone into it.

It has had new tubes, stays, smoke box and a few other parts
manufactured with the purchased parts as patterns.

However, when the marine inspector was due on Tuesday, 14th
February, 1978, Frank was suffering from nerves of the stomach, but
he need not have worried as it passed its hydraulic test with
flying colors and was granted 140 PSI.

We have all worked on the engine, cleaning, polishing, painting,
cutting tires, etc., with loving care: Our daughter, Barbara, and
sons Kerry and Garry, the boys still being at school. They also
have their model traction engine, steam truck and engines.

HISTORY OF ENGINE

Purchased by George G. Richards of Docherty Creek (now of
Hokitika) from Bowmans in Christchurch in 1948. Before that it is
believed to have come from the Gore area. It has Southland, Otago
and Canterbury Marine numbers.

Mr. Richards had it railed from Christchurch to Ross and then
drove it south with Bill Chapman steering. Owing to difficulties in
Fergusons Bush when they had to drive off the road to let cars go
by, they had it trucked to Franz Josef.

It was used by George Richards on his farm for stumping for
about 10 years. When it blew a tube, it was left in the corner of a
paddock. Following heavy floods, the river took a piece of Mr.
Richard’s farm, and traction with it. It was then sold to Gibb
Bros, for 10-0-0.

One brother took some of the gear off it 20 years ago, thinking
that he might use the steel on the farm some time. Some parts were
found in their garage and some on the farm.

We have made some wonderful friends, met many interesting people
who have also been very helpful, and I can’t say enough about
our local friends who have helped with parts, practical advice and
labor. Last but not least, the firm in Twizel who supply the
scraper tires at no cost for fitting on the wheels. We have had
many visitors from all over the world.’

  • Published on Jan 1, 1985
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