Alwyn Rogers enjoys displaying his five Fowler stationary engines together for the first time at a show in the Ribble Valley, in Lancashire.
Are Fowler stationary engines like buses? You don’t see one for ages then five turn up at once! This was the case at the 40th Anniversary Steam Rally that I attended last summer in the picturesque village of Slaidburn, which nestles in the Ribble Valley, in Lancashire.
Held in the Hark to Bounty pub’s car park and adjacent small field, this event always attracts a wide variety of exhibits; everything from full-size traction engines through the usual cars, tractors and stationary engines. This time there were 10 stationary engines, five of which were the Fowlers belonging to me. While I’ve had my Fowler family for sometime, this was the first time I’ve had the opportunity to show all of them together, plus their stable-mate, my three-inch scale Burrell traction engine, itself 57 years old.
Each of the Fowlers is slightly different. The first one is the machine that started my interest in stationary engines back in 1972, it’s a 1 PAL 1½hp with the small cooling hopper, originally fitted with a Wico magneto which got lost in the post while being sent for repair a number of years ago. I replaced it with an available Lucas-type until another suitable Wico turns up. The second engine is another 1½hp 1 PAL, this time with the larger cooling hopper and a Lucas magneto. I don’t know if this engine is a much older restoration or still in its original paintwork; it has a few scars from its working life which I intend to leave as they are part of its history.
Engine number three is 1 PPAM 2hp petrol/paraffin model, with the larger cooling hopper and, once again, a Lucas magneto. For some time I wanted an engine in what I termed ‘ex-farm’ condition to form a comparison with the previous three engines that are painted. Finally one such example became available in Herefordshire, where it had just been removed from an orchard crop-sprayer. It is a 1 PAL with the Wico magneto fitted. Where I bought it from was next door to the farm it had spent its entire working life on, so a nice slice of history came with it.
It was quite rusty all over with just very faint traces of its Fowler transfer visible. The main crank bearings were in a bad condition so they were replaced. The cylinder was honed, new piston rings were fitted and the valves were freed-off and ground in. A lot of very careful conservation work was carried out to enable the original Mazak inlet manifold to be re-used, as well as the Solex carburettor which had suffered quite badly, too. The crankcase door was badly warped but again, with careful conservation, this has been re-used. Once finished and back up and running, a truck was made out of old oily timber on rusty wheels to be in keeping with the rough external condition of the engine.
Still on the look-out for a Fowler with a difference, I came across a 3hp for sale near Glasgow. No other details were available, the seller had bought it with a job lot of engines and it hadn’t been run, so I took a chance and bought it. It’s a 1 PPBL petrol/paraffin with a Wico magneto, and is quite a big, heavy lump. It has a separate cooling drum of water. Restoration mainly involved having the magneto overhauled as it was in very bad shape internally, freeing-off the stuck valves, decarbonising the cylinder head, having a new head gasket made for it and just general tidying up. A new water cooling drum was made for it from an empty grease drum and suitable connecting pipework was made.
The weekend was a great success, with plenty of visitors despite the cold, strong wind that blew on both days. There’s no public admission charge to this event; at the entrance to the car park there are two honesty buckets and visitors contribute whatever they wish. The amount collected, which is usually in four figures, goes directly to benefit the local community or, as for the past pre-Covid rally, the money raised went to the Air Ambulance helicopter.
This feature comes from a recent issue of Stationary Engine, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE