Peter Love meets Fred and Steve Jenkinson, and their just-back-in-steam 1905 Allchin 8hp engine, Lena, in County Carlow.
If you ever want a reliable traction engine, well 12 August 1905 Allchin 8hp engine, Lena (No. 1311), is just that and has always been the case, say the three former owners of No. 1311 that the editor has known over the years.The engine started life in Allington near Chippenham, Wiltshire with William Jennings before moving to Oakbridge near Stroud, Gloucestershire. Later it was with AC Canton of Sheepscombe, Gloucestershire, before being bought up by dealer Jessie Vines of Hardwick, Gloucestershire in 1952, 69 years ago now. It then moved to Edwards of Swindon and from there in 1958 to Valentine Dunnett (died 1986) who at the time was based at Hadlow, Kent. He sold it in possibly 1968 to Peter Page, one of Roland Page’s three sons.
The engine was tidied up and rallied on a few occasions in a lovely chocolate brown colour. However it was to be sold with the famous Fowell No. 98 that came from Phillip Yorke of Midhurst to Gerry Crosse at County Tipperary after the NTET Jubilee rally at Clapham Common, where it was part of the show, and it was shipped to Republic of Ireland soon after. In 1984 Lena received a new welded firebox.
Why is Lena special?
So, what’s so special about Lena? Well, everyone says it’s a very powerful engine for its overall size, always having a good cylinder bore and piston rings to give you the full 8hp power when needed for the many Gloucester and East Sussex hills.
The Jenkinsons have been in the motor trade from 1903 as Fred’s grandfather was a Renault agent, but they were also farmers (and still are) using Fordsons and later Fords in the fleet. Today they have a fine preservation fleet of this make and other tractors. But the lure of steam was quite natural. When Gerry Crosse was possibly going to sell either the Allchin or the Fowell in 1988 Fred was persuaded by his son Steve to go and have a look at the engines, particularly Lena.
County Carlow move
The deal was eventually done and Lena moved to Bagenalstown, County Carlow. It was to be a regular at the Upton Rally and Stradbally of course. After four years of ownership the tender was replaced and as time went on a new set of tubes went in. The Jenkinsons are not afraid of using the engine on the sawbench or threshing drum, where it performs so well. The Allchin attended the GDSF in 2005 where it worked on the saw bench in the sawing area and it has also been back a few more times since, even meeting the family of the original owners. Lena is good for 20 miles per day and does not use too much coal and water.
Major boiler rebuild
It was 2016 when the engine made its last appearance at the Innishannon Rally (previously Upton Rally) to be followed by a tube blowing and when the inspector came in the boiler unit was condemned – that was it!
The engine came back to the UK on 19 December 2016 to James Dunscombe’s boiler works at Shaftesbury, Dorset where it was to get a full strip-down and major repairs.
The hard-to-fit two-piece boiler barrel was removed, replaced and riveted on with a new flanged backhead and throatplate, very much hand-made in Allchin fashion but to a rather archaic design even in 1905. As we know Allchin’s made good engines at the Globe Works in Northampton, eventually producing some 220 traction engines before production came to a sad end in 1925 when the talent ran out in the Allchin family.
As time went on Lena had a new flanged and riveted firebox fitted along with a new foundation ring, a tubeplate, smokebox and more, with some parts supplied by Mendip Steam. The hornplates were found to be in very good order. This was not an easy job for any boiler maker and very time-consuming, but James Dunscombe and his team coped with it very well and Fred Jenkinson says he was very pleased with the service and quality of work that was carried out here in Dorset. The hospitality he received from the Coles family on his many visits was second-to-none, Fred says.
With the unit all together with its new smokebox and filler plug the hydraulic test was done with much of the auxiliary work also completed. This can take as long to sort out as the boiler unit! The engine came together well with a new front axle and spud pan completing that stage of the job. The tender had been painted separately by Craig Morris with the lining by Adam Meredith and looks superb.
Back on the road
The engine was all completed by the end of June 2020 with its lagging all painted after various road tests. In late July the outfit plus the rack sawbench headed home to County Carlow, the capital of the steam world in the Republic of Ireland and where the first steam rally took place at Stradbally of course. With no rally to attend and nowhere to go after the Irish August clampdown over Covid-19 it would be late September before Lena made its debut around the local roads of Bagenalstown, that brings the story of this well respected engine up-to-date.
After 33 years of ownership Fred and Steve are the longest owners of this engine. It has given them so much pleasure and they’re still in love with this neat, stocky and powerful 8hp Allchin, which is set for a clean bill of health for decades to come when the Covid-19 lockdown is all over.
The editor would like to thank Fred and Steve Jenkinson for all their help in compiling this article and to their continued friendship over many years, and to Lena, an engine I first saw over 60 years ago now.
For a money-saving subscription to Old Glory magazine, simply click here