1916 Ransomes traction engine visits home

Posted by Chris Graham on 30th January 2022

Colin Tyson reports on a return home for a 1916 Ransomes traction engine that was originally built for British Army’s Forage Department.

1916 Ransomes traction engine

1916 Ransomes traction engine returns home: No. 26995 in front of the Old Custom House in Ipswich.

Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies 7nhp agricultural traction engine No. 26995, erstwhile Mendip Lady (see OG August 2021), recently spent several weeks based at the excellent Ipswich Transport Museum. The museum is home to many Ransomes products including ‘Electric Lorry No1’ which, built in 1914, is actually two years older than No. 26995. The engine was steamed the 20 miles back to its home near Colchester with owner Richard Hemington, but not without a detour first to visit Ipswich waterfront, and the site of Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies’ original Orwell Works, where the engine was built in 1916, as part of a large order for the British Army’s Forage Department.

1916 Ransomes traction engine

On Ipswich waterfront, and approaching the University of Suffolk buildings which sit on the site of Ransomes’ Orwell Works.

The Orwell Iron Works was established in 1845, and eventually covered a large area along Ransomes Wharf and the Wet Dock. Ransomes moved to a new site and closed the Orwell Works in the late 1960s. Despite much new development, several buildings survive from the old works, including two where the ’ghost writing’ of Ransomes’ name can still be discerned in the brickwork.

Alongside what remains of the old Orwell Works, with the Ransomes’ ‘ghost lettering’ above.

Part of the site of Orwell Works is now occupied by the University of Suffolk. By happy coincidence, the university runs a course with a module on ‘Suffolk at War,’ covering how local industry contributed to the war effort during the First World War. It is hoped to return No. 26995 to the site of Ransomes’ works in 2022, to give students a first-hand example of such WW1 manufacturing.

Passing the former Steam Packet Inn. (All pics: Richard Hemington/Lawrie Rose)

With some shunting around of exhibits at Ipswich Transport Museum, it would also be good to display No. 26995 alongside ‘Electric Lorry No1’ and other Ransomes exhibits.

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