Part 1: The discovery and acquisition
During the second world war the wagon had been dismantled and a large Marshall stationery boiler was mounted on the chassis to make it mobile for use sterilising soil in market gardens in the Lee Valley. In 1976 John Butler was told of the existence of the remains of the wagon at Pritchard's Nursery in Loughton, Essex. At the time I was helping John with the restoration of his Garrett six wheeler and was interested in acquiring a steam wagon myself. John went to have a look at the wagon and reported that it appeared to be worth saving. The chassis had been cut behind the rear spring hangers to allow the boiler to rest on the chassis and the firebox to hang over the end. Negotiations were conducted with Mr Pritchard and a price was agreed, but one condition of the sale was that the chassis should be replaced with a trailer so that the boiler remained mobile.
The remains of the wagon as found.
On 28th August 1976 John and I set out with a pickup truck and a few tools to recover the chassis. On arrival we met Mr Pritchard and discussed the requirement that the boiler should be mounted on a trailer. Having seen the chassis and the location of the boiler it was obvious that it had not been moved or steamed for some considerable time. A shed had been constructed around it and the front wheels were on blocks. After some further negotiation and handing over a bit more money it was agreed that the boiler could be left on blocks.
The problem then became how to remove the chassis from under the boiler. There was only one way out of the shed and that was in the opposite direction to which the chassis was facing It appeared as though there would be sufficient room to roll the chassis forward and then shunt it sideways and then run back past the boiler and out of the shed. At this point it is worth mentioning that the first move was to be on a downward slope towards a glass house and when removed from the shed all further manouevres would be amongst glass houses.
We decided that the best way to remove the chassis would be to firstly block up the boiler and then lower the front end of the chassis and roll it forward clear of the boiler. All the original chassis cross members had been cut apart from the front one and one in front of the rear axle to which the brake cross shafts were attached. Two replacement chassis members made from RSJs had been installed to support the boiler barrel With much grazing of knuckles these were removed to reduce the number of times the blocks would have to be reset for the chassis to go past. The RSJ's were then used as part of the permanent blocking arrangement. Surprisingly, when we tried to move the chassis it was very easy to push proving the worth of the Timken Roller Bearings that Garretts had used so liberally in its construction. When the chassis was clear of the boiler and we were trying to reverse out of the shed we hit a snag where a roof support post at the centre of the shed obstructed a rear wheel. There was only one solution, temporarily remove the post. It was severed from its base by a hacksaw and pulled out of the way until the wheel was past the post. It was then pulled back into position and 'fixed' back in place. When the chassis was clear of the shed it was rolled down the nursery yard to a convenient location for collection at a later date.
The collection service was provided by Denis Brandt and Fred Tilbury who at short notice sacrificed a day working on Denis' Scammell Highwayman that he had acquired for his low loader. The Garrett chassis was retrieved from the nursery and taken to Kew Bridge Pumping Station for temporary storage.
The wagon remained in the yard at Kew Pumping Station until February 1977 when I went with Uncle Harry (Harry Parkin) and his son David to collect it and bring it to a new home in Castleford. The journey was made with a 1970 Leyland Super Comet artic unit with a Tasker low loader trailer. As far as I recall it was a long but relatively uneventful day.
Go to Part 2: Rebuilding
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