Simon Colbeck reports on a working weekend at Stotfold Mill, which saw the return of two very special steam engines to the ploughing field.
A field next to Stotfold water mill, in Bedfordshire, provided the perfect location as four Fowler ploughing engines were readied for a day’s work on October 6th, as part of this popular event. Regulars at the Stotfold working weekend – 1915 Fowler K7 pair Nos. 14247 and 14248, Sunrise and Sunset, from the Saunders collection – were joined by BB1s Nos. 15170 and 15171, Princess Caroline and Princess Jayne.
The two BB1s was formally part of the late Richard Vernon’s collection, and had been sold at auction in June this year. The new owner is Scott Hall of Wichita, Kansas, in the United States, and he’s agreed for the Saunders Collection to look after the engines before they’re shipped stateside.
No. 15170, Princess Caroline, had made a surprise appearance in steam at the Bedfordshire Steam Engine Preservation Society’s Turvey Rally in September, but this was the first time the two engines had been seen in steam together at a public event for many, many years.
To witness his engines’ first time ploughing since purchasing them, Scott Hall and his wife, Jennifer, made the trip over from America. Scott is no stranger to steam; the owner of an industrial services business that specialises in heavy transportation, repair and maintenance, he’s the owner of a large number of American traction engines.
His collection includes a mighty Avery undermount 70hp direct ploughing engine which he ran at the 2018 Great Dorset Steam Fair, and that’s what kindled his ambition to own a pair of cable ploughing engines.
The Saunders Collection team had worked hard getting Scott’s engines ready to work again after many years in storage, and the pair presented a fine sight as they raised steam on an unusually warm October morning, beside the pair of K7s.
All four engines were soon ready to position themselves and their respective ploughs, so that the action could commence. After some brief instruction from the Saunders team‘s Chris and Andy, Scott took his new purchases for a run around the field.
The two BB1s were paired with a 1921 Fowler four-furrow anti-balance plough, also purchased by Scott from the Vernon sale.
Once Scott has got both the BB1s over to his Wichita yard, he intends to re-boiler and box both engines. He’s intending to get both boilers fabricated in India by a company he’s used previously ND, to begin that process, two representatives from Thermal Engitech PVT accompanied John on his visit to the UK.
Chintan Parmar, a director of Thermal Engitech, explained that the company is one of India’s leading suppliers of industrial steam boilers and heating equipment. Its primary customers are chemical plants, distilleries, textiles mills and other industrial units, and the factory is based in one of the centres of Indian textile production, Ahmedabad, in Gujarat state.
The company has been producing full-size traction engine boilers for Scott for a number of years, and these units are of all-welded construction, and feature replica rivets to simulate the original appearance of the boilers. It will be most interesting to follow the progress of this project when the boilers have been delivered.
Both the team from India and Scott and Jennifer enjoyed a superb day ploughing at Stotfold, with all four engines performing faultlessly all day. With both the K7s and the BB1s on the plough, the sound of hard-working engines and steam whistles rang out across the fields on a beautiful autumn day.
At the end of a most successful day, both pairs of engines headed off into Stotfold village, for some well-earned rest for the crews and the engines.
I look forward to providing photographs of the restoration as it progresses, and can’t wait to see the BB1s working hard on the prairies of Kansas, with Scott and Jennifer, as those fine engines begin their new life in the USA.
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
British National Ploughing Championships