Affiliated to the National Traction Engine Club President: HIS
GRACE THE DUKE OF BEDFORD Hon. Secretary: J. CRAWLEY, Field House,
Having been a reader of your excellent magazine which I obtain
through my very good friend Bob Pratt of Ipswich, England, I was
wondering whether you could help me by giving a mention in the
Album of what we think is the largest Rally yet held. It was a
three day affair, the Saturday being devoted to the arrivals of the
Engines, many under their own steam, from all parts of the country.
In the evening we had the old fairground organs running making
electricity for their own coloured lights and driving the old time
(folding paper) organs, four of which we had present.
On the Sunday we had Engines giving demonstrations of the work
for which they were originally built –Steam Ploughing, Steam Mole
Draining, Steam Threshing, Steam Rolling and Showman’s Engines
again driving the organs.
On the Monday which was the main Rally Day, His Grace the Duke
of Bedford, on whose Estate the Rally was held, arrived on the
field steering the writer’s 7 n.h.p., 1920 Fowler Showman’s
Engine ‘Kitchener’ Immediately upon entering the ring he
was welcomed in the customary manner by every Engine blowing its
whistle, some noise, as there were 65 other Engines present. The
main event of the afternoon was a challenge race between His Grace
the Duke of Bedford and the Marquis of Tavistock, his son.
Immediately the race had started, the field was deluged with rain
causing the 21,000 odd spectators to seek shelter under the trees.
Meanwhile the contestants, much to their credit, continued the
race, His Grace being the ultimate winner.
Unfortunately the weather forecast for the weekend spoilt our
chances of realising anything like the anticipated attendance,
which is usual for these events, and consequently we have a very
large number of programmes available and I did think that perhaps
you would be so kind as to mention in the Album, that these might
be obtained from the writer at 25 cents post free.
I am also the Vice Chairman and Editor of the English National
Traction Engine Club and I enclose copies of the three issues of
the club magazine that have been published this year, which I think
might be of interest to you. Should any of your readers be
interested I can supply these at 25 cents post free for the
ordinary issues and 50 cents post free for the January special
edition. (s) John Crawley, Secretary
(Following is an account of the Rally as it appeared in the
Saturday, Aug. 6, 1960 issue of The World’s Fair newspaper in
WOBURN TRACTION ENGINE RALLY
By Ted Cooper
When I visited Woburn on Bank Holiday Monday, August 1, it
seemed that all the world and his wife had descended on the
spacious Park and the Traction Engine Rally Arena was already
thronged with people, intent on seeing everything and enjoying a
memorable day. I must, at the outset, extend my congratulations to
the organizers of the Rally, the Bedford Steam Engine Preservation
Society and to Mr. John Crawley, the tireless Secretary, in
particular — for the really excellent manner in which the entire
event was staged, for this Rally is the largest in Britain.
The Rally covered the three days of the holiday week-end, but
Monday was the Big Day in every respect –big crowds, big entries
and big enthusiasm! On the Saturday the engines were arriving
throughout the day and many were in steam for inspection purposes,
showman-type engines and organs were working during the afternoon
and evening, giving a real Showland atmosphere to the proceedings.
The organs present were H. Epton and Sons’ 89-key Marenghi
Scenic type, John Crawley’s 89-key Marenghi and W.
Chamberlain’s 89-key Limonaire. On Sunday, July 31, various
engines gave displays of mole draining, timber winching, threshing,
steam rolling and ploughing, and the crowds also enjoyed recitals
on the organ.
The engines were drawn up in line on three sides of the arena,
thus affording the steam fans ample opportunity to study their
details and take photographs, and this regimental lineup made
conditions much easier for the competitors to enter the arena in
A very efficient public address system enabled everyone on the
ground to hear the descriptive commentary that was given by Eric
Jelly a gentleman who knew his engines.
The official opening ceremony by His Grace the Duke of Bedford
was scheduled for 2 p.m., and some time before that hour John
Crawley’s showman type Burrell ‘William V’ moved off
towards the Abbey, driven by its owner, to meet the Duke who was to
steer it on its journey back to the arena. As the hands of the
clock neared 2 p.m. all necks were craned in the direction of the
Abbey and as the majestic engine slowly came into view over the
brow of the hill there was a deafening chorus from the whistles of
the engines around the arena. As the engine entered the arena the
assembled crowd gave the white-clad Duke a terrific welcome.
Climbing down from his lofty perch the Duke moved across towards
the Secretary’s tent and was introduced by Mr. Crawley.
In his usual lighthearted manner the Duke opened his remarks by
saying how much pleasure he derived from being associated with the
Traction Engine Rallies at Woburn Park and he welcomed ‘these
hard-working men and women’ to Woburn. ‘Many of them,’
he said, ‘came long distances to attend and I hope they will
come again and again and always have full steam. That is enough
steam from me, as I am here to open the Rally. I have pleasure in
declaring the Rally open. I would, however, like to add a few
words. It was previously arranged that I was to have a race with
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu — but you all know what happened to Lord
Montagu! To avoid disappointment I have been challenged by my son
and I only hope that he lets the ‘Old Man’ win! I will now
hand you over to our hardworking Secretary, Mr. John Crawley, in
whose hands the events will be capably presented to you.’
The Grand Parade of engines then took place, each engine as it
passed the commentator’s box being fully described, and after
passing the special enclosure the engines were marshalled into rows
along the length of the arena. When the last engine was finally in
position the arena made a wonderful sight and it was hard to
realize that many of the engines had been built at the turn of the
century thanks to the hard work put in by their owners to preserve
them. As soon as the engines had left the arena the challenge Race
between the Duke of Bedford and his son, the Marquis of Tavistock,
was announced, and the two contestants moved into the arena to
mount their engines. The Duke took the wheel of T. C. Fensome’s
Marshall traction engine, No. 43560, and the Marquis climbed aboard
Messrs. A. and G. Fensom’s Burrell traction, No. 4055. The
green Burrell, No. 4094, owned and driven by L. C. W. Parris, acted
At the starter’s signal the pacemaker set off at a lively
speed, closely followed by the Duke the self-styled ‘Prince of
Steam’ — and despite valiant efforts on the part of his son he
romped home an easy winner, thus upholding his proud title. At the
end of the race the contestants made a circuit of the arena in the
Serpollet steam car, receiving the well-deserved plaudits of the
crowd. Space forbids a detailed account of the ensuing items in the
long programme but these included an obstacle relay race, steam
roller balloon race, egg and spoon race, traction engine sack race,
traction engine polo race, Sentinel obstacle race, ladies’
steering race and musical chairs. The commentator, in passing,
mentioned the high speeds attained by the Sentinel steam wagons,
instancing Sentinel S.4 owned by A. M. Stafford. ‘This
engine,’ he said, ‘has done 66 m.p.h. — and the Police
said so!’ There was a grand total of 64 engines in steam, with
two of the show man type engines driving the organs of H. Epton and
Son and W. Chamberlain.
A recent addition to the attractions at Woburn Abbey is the
Amusement Park, adjoining the Children’s Playground, with
Raymond Beardow as concessionaire. In addition to the amusements on
this site Raymond also operates the Crazy Golf course, Putting
Green, adult boating lake, Kiddies’ paddle boats and automatic
machines. In the Amusement Park stands Raymond Beardow and
Sons’ Galloping Horses, a Walker-built machine that came to
Woburn from Kings of Lickey Hills. A Peter Pan railway is operated
by the Supercar Company and nearby Jimmy Wheatley has his Sand
Train, a Bingo stall and roll-ups.
Raymond Beardow also features a smart Kiddie’s Yacht ride,
swings, wheel’em-in, pick-a-straw and automatics, and Mrs.
Bailey completes the games with her large ring hoopla stall. It was
good to meet these Notts and Derby travellers and have a chat about
events on their ‘home ground’ Quite a happy little family,
and all spoke very highly of the Duke of Bedford and the managerial
staff at Woburn Abbey.