SEAMS News Archives

My time with Stationary Engines

By Ian Sampson

My interest in stationary engines started many years ago way back in the mid 1960’s. At the time I was interested in slot car model racing, I was in a club and we had a big track with six lanes and in a sweeping figure of eight situated in the top room of a pub in Cuckfield. There I met up with a chap who lived locally who became a good friend. He mentioned one day that he was going to a steam rally and said would I like to go along with him and his parents. I can’t remember where it was, anyway we went a good display of old vehicles and in one corner there was a few old engines popping away and I took a look. A couple of years later we went to Hadlow Down Rally, it was 1968, again a number of engines on display.

The interest perked up and at the time I was working as a mechanic at Caffyns in Haywards Heath where I had an lad I was training up as an apprentice car mechanic. Later in that year I mentioned to him about my interest in getting a stationary engine, he then said that his brother had just finished with one and wanted to sell it. Off we went one evening to see it and a deal struck for £5. Next problem was how to get it from Warninglid to Burgess Hill where I lived as at the time I only had a Morris 1100. this was not good for carting an engine, by the way it was a Lister D, so I asked the Caffyns manager if I could borrow one of there vans to which he said OK. A few days later it was loaded into a Morris Minor Van and taken home. It did not take too long to get it painted as it was already a runner. It turned out to be a 1929 Lister D shaft drive mag but fitted up with a wrong fuel tank and a float chamber on the carb. I found out later that this was wrong and soon found the correct parts for it. The engine I mounted on a wooden framework, we did not mount engines on wheels in those days. Next thing was how was I going to get it to shows as my only mode of transport was the Morris 1100, so what I did was to take out the passenger seat and by taking it off the wooden framework, I could lift it into the space where the seat used to be. This way I went to about six or seven shows in 1969.

At the end of that year I had to get another vehicle and along came a Morris half ton van which was ideal for the job. Soon another engine came onto the scene, a good friend of mine Pat said he had seen one lying in a ditch on a back road near Mannings Heath so one dark evening he picked me up and we went to the scene! Yes it was there, lying on its side. It did not take too long to load it. Another Lister D with a few bits missing, but it was restored and rallied. After that a Petter A was added to the collection, a Lister Domestic water pump was next and was soon teamed up with my Lister.

By then I had changed jobs and was working in Brighton mending police cars, they had a police magazine called Patrol. One day I noticed an advert that said for sale Fairbanks Bulldog £10. I soon rang the chap up who was a village bobby at Hailsham. I went down that week and tried to buy it for £5 but he said no so as I did not have any more money on me, I had to go back the next week to pick it up. I got it home and restored it and rallied for a good number of years. Still we did not put engines on wheels and as the Bulldog’s weight was 4cwt I used to take off the flywheels to load into the van. This same bobby rang up a few weeks later to say he had some more engines and was I interested? Off I went with a friend and came back with a 1924 Lister A type single flywheel, a 3hp open crank Powell, and a twin flywheel Lister A type and a saw bench all for £30!

To be continued.