Simon Colbeck reports on this year’s Welland Steam & Country Rally. which provided a fabulous festival of working steam and much else besides.
All photographs: Simon Colbeck
The Ross-on-Wye Steam Engine Society put on a magnificent show for their 57th Annual Steam & Country Rally. A week of heavy rain preceding the event made ground conditions difficult for the show set-up but, thanks to a superb effort by all involved, the rally site came together ready for the three-day weekend of non-stop steam action.
Prior to the opening of the show a road run was held on the Thursday with over 30 engines heading off on various routes through a number of delightful Malvern villages.
One of many engines visiting for the first time and out on the road on Thursday was the Foley family’s giant McLaren No. 897 of 1905 Colossus here on a visit over from Ireland. It was one of a fine selection of McLaren engines to attend Welland this year.
The road run was also the first chance to see the superb restoration of New Zealand Burrell No. 3229 of 1910 Duke of Canterbury. This magnificent engine had just completed a mammoth restoration at the hands of Neil Gough at Sussex Steam Restorations. Having been in the UK for the Dorset 2018 show the engine returned to New Zealand where after just a few subsequent steamings it was found to be in need of major boiler and firebox work. Owner Phil Kerr took the difficult decision to ship 3229 back halfway around the world again for it to begin what was to become a major restoration job at Sussex Steam Restorations.
With the work completed just a week before Welland, a proud Neil Gough was on hand at the show to keep an eye on his latest masterpiece. Neil explained that the engine had needed a new firebox, boiler barrel and throat plate from Mervyn Mayes’ boiler works. In addition Supergears, using Neil’s specifications, had cut a full set of new gears and the engine had been fitted with a new set of rubber tyres amongst many other things!
To complete the job, a full repaint and sign writing by Adam Meredith, including the original Reid & Grey importing agents motif on the tender, meant the engine was presented at Welland in ‘out-of-the-box’ condition.
A nice touch was the addition of some New Zealand-specific items carefully brought over in the hand luggage of the team that came over to receive the completed engine. These included the very distinctive headlight bracket and oil lamp attached to the chimney base. After its display at Welland, the engine was scheduled to go to the Searle’s yard at Horsham to be disassembled and containerised ready for its six to eight-week voyage back ‘down under’.
In addition to the 30 or so steam engines out on the road, a fine selection of tractors and commercials joined in the pre-rally fun. The four Scammells parked up outside the Green Dragon inn in Malvern made a particularly fine sight on Thursday afternoon.
The first day of the rally on Friday included an auction by HJ Pugh. Of particular steam interest was the enormous Clayton & Shuttleworth direct ploughing and threshing export engine, No. 40582 of 1908 The King. This giant engine is 9ft 6 inches wide and stands 15ft to the top of the chimney. The 80nhp engine was originally delivered to Uruguay,and was repatriated, via a Dutch tractor dealer, in 2003.
Offered for sale in totally ‘barn find’ condition, sadly the engine didn’t go off to a new home after the auction and at the time of writing remains unsold.
The rally has always prided itself in being very much a working event demonstrating the many facets of steam and other vintage vehicles hard at work. A highlight for many would be the heavy haulage arena where during the three days there was a constant procession of steam and other forms of vintage transport tackling the hill with various loads in tow.
Reminiscent of the amalgamated heavy haulage team back in the days of a wet Great Dorset Steam Fair, the wet conditions on the Friday provided the opportunity to witness heavy loads being winched up the arena, not something the author has seen for many years. The team from the Horsham Traction company certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves as Burrells Nos. 3829 and 3847 His Majesty and Princess Marina respectively, both of 1920, slowly edged their load up the hill.
With five McLaren engines together at the show the opportunity was taken to line them up in the haulage arena and what a fine sight they were indeed, all resplendent in their lined black livery.
Adding a touch of excitement to the heavy haulage arena was the welcome presence of a 1905-built Fiat Isotta Fraschini racing car storming up and down the hill. This remarkable 16.5-litre-engined beast made an incredible sound from its huge airship engine.
A little more sedate in the wood sawing enclosure, the 1950s Smith & Rodley rail-mounted steam crane kept the saw benches fed with timber for the engines to cut.
The other railway steam interest had a distinctly Kerr Stuart of Stoke on Trent theme this year. On the standard gauge Great Welland railway, Jack Dibnah’s 1926-built Kerr Stuart No. 4388 was used to haul a brake van up and down the line. Jack completed the restoration of the tiny standard gauge loco in 2022 when it ran for the first time last September at its usual home, the Foxfield Railway in Staffordshire.
On the 2ft gauge railway operating with the road making team the Statfold Barn Railway had kindly provided another Kerr Stuart locomotive. Wren class No. 3128 of 1918 was happily employed running trains of skip wagons up to the rollers preparing the road. Aveling & Porter No. 11448 of 1926 Alfie was kept busy compacting the road surface.
Foden No. 10320 of 1920 was one of four Foden wagons to attend this year and extremely fine too it looked in its lined green Isle of Man Highways Board livery. It certainly would be delightful to see this fine engine on the Isle of Man again one year next to an Isle of Man Steam Railway Beyer Peacock loco!
Another engine making the journey over from Ireland and having much fun in the haulage arena was ex-Kays of Horsham Fowler single-cylinder roller 17583 of 1929.
Up in the living history field steam was well represented with a demonstration of steam ploughing. Veteran former Beeby Brothers Fowler single, 2528 of 1975 The Chief was paired with Fowler K7 14257 of 1916 Linkey.
The living history field contained a superb selection of vintage tractors along with a fantastic display of heavy earth moving machinery and specialist agricultural plant. A particular favourite was local boys Derek and Reg Philpotts’ 1980 Barth Holland trencher. Powered with a Deutz V8 engine it was new to Gammond’s and has been used on drainage contracts all over the country. Still commercially employed by Derek and Reg, the impressive machine gave demonstrations of pipe-laying at the top of the field.
Welland is well known for its impressive line up of showman’s engines in front of the vintage funfair and this year was no exception. One highlight was the return to the rally field of Burrell No. 2879 of 1907 Lord Nelson. Rebuilt by George Balsdon and David Nicholson of Exeter, the 7nhp engine looked stunning generating in front of the fair at night.
Working very hard powering the Skid all weekend was Burrell Scenic showman’s engine 3888 of 1921 General Gough. Andrew Myers continues in his quest to return the engine to original showland condition with much of the preservatio- era brass work being removed in recent years. The engine now carries the subtle Bolesworth Amusements canopy boards and very fine indeed it looked, generating well into the night on both evenings.
With over 1,000 exhibits at this years show and all the working sections going from strength to strength, the 2023 rally will certainly be one to remember. The constant sound of engines hard at work all around the site create an unforgettable atmosphere, making Welland a real highlight of the rally season. In spite of the weather’s best efforts to disrupt this year’s proceedings, the organising team and the exhibit owners did a sterling effort to pull off a fantastic show. Let’s hope the 58th event next year is a repeat performance of this year’s success.
This feature comes from the latest issue of Old Glory, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE
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