LETTER FROM ENGLAND


| March/April 1958



Here is a letter from England. It was written personally to me but I am glad to share it with you. It is enjoyable and informative. Elmer

ROBERT G. PRATT, 'Wentlea' Capel St. Mary, Ipswich, Suffolk, England

IT HAS BEEN VERY much on my conscience that I have not written to you lately to thank you for continuing to send the IRON-MEN ALBUM MAGAZINE which I continue to distribute to your readers in this country. ***** We all enjoy reading of your 'doings' which are so very much in line with what we are doing on this side. Throughout our summer months, there is a 'Rally' (as we call them) for every Saturday in one part of the country or another, and sometimes two. As a result of these, enthusiastic owners get the chance of matching their steeds, getting in some practice at driving as we are still allowed to use the highway even on steels, so long as we have third party insurance, which is compulsory for ALL vehicles on our roads anyway, and some owners drive their engines many miles, even 70 or 80 miles in some cases, just to show their paces at a Rally and then face the long run home.

All this is good for the engines, as they have to be kept in fair order to undertake these long journeys and of course, various charities benefit. Our local Rally, that of the East Anglian Traction Engine Club was a great success, as for one thing, it was one of the few that was blessed with good weather and for another, it was well attended by both engines and people. My small steam road roller, 'Billy' was there, the smallest engine on the field but it had to go by low-loader truck, as it was a distance of 25 miles and it can only do about 4 miles on a filling of water. That is one of the big difficulties water. In the old days, every village had its pond and many small rivers had no bridges but the traffic went through the water, only foot passengers having small bridges to enable them to get across. So it was easy then for the owners of those early engines to get a 'fill,' now the village ponds have been filled in, the residents getting their drinking water through pipes which I suppose is better for their health and the bridges have high-walled sides you cannot get an engine's pick-up hose over (to keep small boys from falling in I suppose) all of this taking no account of the congestion that would be caused by a steam engine stopping for water. So next year I plan to take a trailer or truck behind by other engine as we will have some 50 miles to go, then we can take water and coal with us. This engines has no name at present. It is being repainted and when this has been done I will have to think up a name for it. It was built in 1911 and was later fitted with solid rubber pressed-on tyres which are still quite good. This helps to increase road speed and adds to the comfort of driving. The trailer is quite as old as the engine.

Your country is not alone in having ministers of religion who are interested in traction engines. The Road Locomotive Society, of which you may remember I was Librarian and of which I am now Chairman, has chosen as my successor the Revd. R. C. Stebbing of Tacolneston in Norfolk and the library is in good hands with him. He was a fully qualified engineer, designer and draughtsman before taking Holy Orders and still has a weakness for steam which is certainly nothing for anyone to be ashamed of. He is, I believe, going to write a book on the evolution of the steam plough and certainly knows as much about this subject as anyone I know. It is one thing to write a book in England and quite another to get a publisher to publish it, unless it is a 'thriller' or has a bit of scandal in it, which is a pity.

Writing of more general things, we over here were delighted with the wonderful reception you Americans gave our Queen on her recent visit to your great country and we were glad to know you took her to your hearts.