Stourpaine steam gathering

Posted by Chris Graham on 7th December 2020

The Farwell family, from Dorset, hosted the well-attended Stourpaine steam gathering early in September, as Paul Ritchie reports.

Stourpaine steam gathering

Stourpaine steam gathering: McLaren Hercules attacks the gradient, pulling the ‘spaceship’.

Sadly, Covid-19 restrictions limited the number of people that could attend the Stourpaine steam gathering, but those fortunate enough to be there were able to enjoy a good dose of the rally experience that’s been so lacking during 2020.

Several owners took the opportunity to road across a week early to the venue, which was on land formerly used by the Great Dorset Steam Fair, before its move to Tarrant Hinton. From their base in Huish Champflower, on Exmoor, Mike White oversaw the movement of Royal Chester and Hercules to the site, travelling along Somerset and Dorset lanes. While, from the east, Burrell Gold Medal Tractor No. 3497 May Queen with Tom Mayhew, drove from Southampton. Once there they were joined by a dozen or so local engines, including those owned by Mark and Matt Farwell.

Stourpaine steam gathering

Robin Marshman takes the reigns of the Gold Medal.

The weekend itself was a very relaxed affair, with everyone enjoying the late summer sun and steam, hauling loads, doing some direct ploughing or simply steaming-up with friends and having a convivial chat over a drink.

An engine that caused much interest was Mike White’s 8nhp McLaren No.1148, now named Hercules.Imported new to McLaren agents Caccialanza & Bronzini in 1910, this model 60p1 came with a direct ploughing and upper haulage hitches. In the 1920s, it was converted into a colossal, 23-ton roller, with nine-foot roll widths for use on Italian roads. Then, in 1937 it was commandeered by Mussolini for road-making duties in Ethiopia, finally returning to Italy to finish its working days.

Stourpaine steam gathering

Foster Little Atom out for a trundle in the stubble.

Mike has managed a brilliant overhaul, returned the vehicle to traction engine status, and this was one its first proper outings. During the day, it was busy with the loads including the one nicknamed ‘spaceship’ and the six-wheel pole log carriage – owned by the Great Dorset Steam Fair and kindly loaned to the event by Martin Oliver. It also did some direct ploughing. In the evening, Hercules made an appearance on the electronic dynamometer, reading 70hp on full regulator and 108hp on double-high but, with a slipping belt hindering performance and with the dyno glowing red and in danger of burning out, it was thought best to ease off!

From Manor Farm in Berwick St John, near Shaftesbury, Marcus Bailey and members of ‘Team Pocock’ roaded Richard Pocock’s 5nhp Foster general-purpose engine No. 14638 The Little Gem, to the event. It was built in 1933 and was possibly one of the last, single-cylinder traction engines built in the UK. Richard, who is renowned in the tractor world for his knowledge and expertise with vintage tractors, and his tractor supplies company, purchased the Foster in 2002.

Marshall 6nhp 10-ton roller on the log carriage.

The following weekend Mike and his team roaded Hercules and stablemate Allchin 7nhp No. 3251 Royal Chester; the engine that launched so many miniatures when Bill Hughes featured it in his book Traction Engines worth Modelling, on their onward journey to Huish Champflower. Joined by the Farwells, with Matt in charge of his 7nhp Marshall No.68632 Ben Lomond, and Mark at the helm of his 7nhp Fowler No.11814 Berkshire Tariff Queen, they left the Stourpaine site and made their way to The Green Man at Kings Stag, where they overnighted.

Early on the Sunday morning, Mike and team set off for the next stage of their run, heading first to Yeovil, then on to Taunton and finally home, while the Farwells drove back to their yard. Mike’s daughter Lorna and Abi Hoyle did an outstanding job crewing Royal Chester from Yeovil to home themselves – a distance of about 40 miles!

Stourpaine steam gathering

Tom Antell lines up 1910 Robey No. 29333 Wally on the dyno.

Matt Farwell told Old Glory magazine: “It was a great weekend, and it was good to raise over £600 for the Dorset & Somerset Air Ambulance, but it was a shame we had to restrict attendance to stay within the rules.”

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