by alan

The Perils of Collecting…..

November 22, 2020 in Articles, Machinery

Whatever you are collecting the machine may be out there!

We are possibly all guilty of wasting time looking through classified adverts in the tractor or vintage magazines or browsing online auctions, this is usually done under the guise of ‘research purposes’ even if we sometimes just accidentally end up purchasing the item. The purchase can then be further justified as saving another piece of history and the item joins the ever expanding collection without any sin being committed.

These are my personal thoughts on collecting all things horticultural. Easy and from the comfort of one’s own home, one of the best places to find things is online. But I find online auctions can sometimes be a complete muddle of contradictory statements. For instance a heap of rust for sale doesn’t correlate with its dubious glowing description of a machine needing nothing more than a bit of TLC, or the fact that the engine is scattered between several Tupperware boxes doesn’t necessarily constitute an ‘easy DIY repair’. Other adverts can bring a smile to the face of the people who know the seller is trying to big up their merchandise like a street trader hustling items from a suitcase, making it sound like it’s a once in a life-time opportunity, which it rarely is. Conversely, some rare or unusual machines have passed under the radar, sadly their sales description letting down the unknowing seller from getting a better price or a potential buyer missing out on finding that desired machine.

My favourite online auction machinery description to justify the potential that a machine is still in working order is: “Was working when last used”. Quite frankly, I hope it was working when last used! I often wonder if the rest of the selling statement could be ‘…but not working now’ or possibly ‘…but we cannot get it to start/run/move since it’s been sitting in the shed for thirty years’, which rather puts a damper on the auction.

There’s a huge range of machines out there – but will they run and work as intended once they’ve been brought home?

In this Northern household we take the view that anything with a petrol engine isn’t going to run when purchased, accordingly “Was working when last used” is taken with a pinch of salt. If it does run then it’s a complete bonus and we celebrate by taking the whippet for a pint down’t pub.

I’ve also been dismayed when clicking on a garden tractor advert that’s still at its 99p starting bid only to find that the seller is actually selling the machine for spares. Acting like Arthur Daley of the mower world the seller cunningly announces one is bidding “for a wheel nut only”. I’m always tempted to ask to buy all the wheel nuts, thus hopefully leaving the buyer with a wheel-less and immovable machine in the middle of his garage floor that he can fall over for the foreseeable future.

Having a machine that is moveable is pretty important. It reminds me of a trip one spring to somewhere south of a great metropolis to collect a non-running garden tractor that turned out to also have a couple of flat tyres. Google Street View did a tragically poor job of warning us of the front-garden-cum-municipal-tip-devastation we had to extract the tractor from. We knew we were in trouble when even the owner went out for the day and left us to sort it out for ourselves. A challenge wading through a sea of pizza boxes, beer cans and half a scrap yard, including the ubiquitous car up on bricks and a safe with the door jemmied open, and all at the front of a semi-detached house. I’m told it’s called character building but I’d call it unfortunate; yet we did rescue a tractor and that means it’s another guilt-free purchase.  

The tractor we rescued had one additional label, it was that of an auction. Over the years we have had a few machines that have obviously been bought for tuppence at a local sale and then put online in the hope of bagging a magnificent profit. I’m all for enterprise and if people can find a bargain then sell it on for a profit then good for them and I wish them every success. It’s possible that many machines that are now in collectors hands may have been sourced from agricultural sales, house clearances or free-ads before filtering down through online auctions. I wonder how many machines and tools have been saved from the scrap man because they ended up on online auctions, their last chance of rescue before being dismembered or going to the crusher?

Perhaps collecting hand tools would be an easier option?

But this collecting lark is not without perils. If you are into collecting hand tools with no moving parts then you are very sensible and on to a winner, probably spotting all the bargains I blindly overlook. The most problematic that simple hand tools can get is rust, broken welds or woodworm. However, if any collectable has an engine, gearbox or anything of mechanical importance to the machine actually working as intended, then the money can start flowing and all hopes of saving up for that holiday in the Maldives vanishes. Who needs a foreign holiday anyway? Hours wasted whilst sat idly at an airport when instead one could be back at home trying to source no-longer-available parts for a knackered Tecumseh engine!

Of course the machines we collect are getting older and for some the original spares are getting rarer and some aftermarket reproduction parts can be a potential gamble. Sometimes this can mean turning to the lucky dip put forth by the internet and sticking our oily hands into the digital bran barrel of parts that may or may not fit. I’ve found that cross-referencing part numbers between different machines and manufacturers is a skill, it’s almost an art form; I’m getting good at it.

Once parts have been identified and ordered it’s at this point that doubt could set in, especially if the confirmation email says that the parts aren’t located in the UK after all, the website plainly lied. Imagine if Google Street View comes up trumps this time and, with glee, informs the buyer that indeed the heavy crankshaft for the twin cylinder engine isn’t coming from a seller in a picturesque Cotswold village, instead it’s coming from a bedsit in a backstreet in China that looks scary even in daylight. Will the purchase turn up? Estimated delivery time: Eventually. Plus the frightening thought of import duty and VAT. But that’s a story for another day.

by alan

Engine Replacement Guide

October 25, 2020 in Machinery

Sometimes it’s necessary to change the engine on a machine, usually this is because the existing one, often the original, has come to the end of it’s life and parts are no longer available or it’s just not cost effective. A new replacement engine is the obvious choice and there’s many brands to choose from including the ‘knock-off’ copies of many. Also as important is if the machine in question; a garden tractor, ride-on mower, lawnmower, tiller, etc is required to still look the part and have an age-related engine rather than new in which case a second-hand engine is an option.

From 1985 I have a useful brochure detailing a replacement engine guide from the Engine Division of ‘Autocar Electrical Equipment Co. Ltd’ at the time based in Barking Essex. This guide, which is actually a piece of marketing, details both vertical and horizontal engines between 2hp and 11hp from Briggs & Stratton which can be used in place of Honda, Kawasaki, Kohler, Robin, Suzuki, Aspera, Tecumseh, Villiers, Mag and Kubota.

It is interesting to see across the board how different engine specs relate between differing manufacturers. I’m sure there will many other engine replacement guides available.

For research purposes, this guide can be downloaded or opened on your computer as an A4 or A3 PDF, you can use the PDF controls to zoom in, often in the bottom right of the PDF screen, on the data.

Download A4 Replacement Engine Brochure

Download A3 Replacement Engine Sheet


by alan

Around The Country With Atco

August 23, 2020 in Club News

An Atco mower at the Hereford Bowling Club in 1929. The bowling green still exists.

Successful advertising can make all the difference to a brand. Displaying a product to the public can aspire them to owning one as well as convincing them they deserve something better than bog standard. Just think how cunning  the newspapers, magazines, TV or internet adverts are at convincing us to upgrade our ideas and our spending power, too.  Joe Bloggs may only have a patch of grass big enough for a 12″ push mower but advertising will do it’s hardest to convince him that a 14″ model would make more sense, no, perhaps a 16″, or even 18″ would be better and have (unneeded) added features too, how about petrol instead of electric, and self propelled would be an advantage. Eventually that £49.99 purchase becomes £349.99 and the newly acquired mower spends several weeks being hidden in the shed, hiding from the family, like the guilty secret it is. 

The better the advert then potentially the better the merchandise will be presented to the public. That’s the theory, anyway. Paying an advertising company to create convincing sales material to sell ones horticultural machinery should be a wise move. A good advert is easy to spot, advertising boffins have obviously spent time, considered how a range of adverts look and been compiled and the resulting consistency makes the public feel reassured. 

A new fleet of Atco liveried Morris vans outside the Morris premises at Foundry Lane, Soho, Birmingham, in 1932.

As an example, in 1967 Mountfield hired the services of Robinson, Scotland and Partners to create consistent adverts for their Mountfield and Wheel Horse machinery. Additionally, manufacturers did provide copy (text), images, incentives and assist franchised dealerships with advertising. I even have a set of Flymo printing plates for dealerships to use. 

Atco was another manufacturer who, from the following adverts, hired professionals to carefully craft adverts. From around the country they used photographs of well known landmarks, pristine properties and testimonials to create the ambiance that their mowers were far superior to any other make. Have a look at the six adverts below from the likes of The Crystal Palace and the Italian garden of Lord Birkenhead and see if the adverts convince you that their machines are the very best. 


1930 Atco advert. Trent Bridge, Nottingham, scene of the first test match beginning June 13th. Also the Oval, Brisbane, Australia. Both maintained by Atco lawnmowers.

Atco lawnmower used at the Crystal Palace, London, since 1924. As shown in this 1930 advert.



Battle Abbey, Sussex, had been using Atco lawnmowers since 1922.  Advert from 1930.


An Atco lawnmower was used by Sir Algernon Guiness at his home in Henfield. The property still exists but the pristine lawn does not.

Atco mowers were used at Hawarden Castle, Flint since 1926.


Lord Birkenhead used (or rather his gardener did) an Atco mower at the Italian gardens of his residence at Charlton, Banbury.

by alan

1951 Exhibitions

July 21, 2020 in Articles, Machinery

Pickfords transporting a locomotive to the Festival of Britain

On the 4th May 1951 the Festival of Britain opened to the public. Newspaper reports say that the idea first began to mark the centenary of the Great Exhibition in London in 1851. The main 1951 Festival was located on a 27 acre site on the South Bank, London, and promoted industry, arts and science and inspired a vision of Britain in the future. Other locations included Belfast, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham, Canterbury etc. and events took place in numerous cities, towns and villages bringing the country together.

A vast array of exhibitors, events, crafts and craftsmen took part. The picture shows Pickfords negotiating the streets of St. Albans as they transported a locomotive from Lancashire to London as an exhibit for the Festival. 

Find out more about the Festival on Wikipedia: Wikipedia Link

The Council of Industrial Design compiled a list of items for display at the Festival of Britain, these included furniture with a preoccupation of plywood and brightly coloured fabrics. Household items, artwork, science, agriculture, industry and machinery right up to locomotives as we have seen. But I cannot find if any of the well known manufacturers of horticultural, grounds or garden machinery took part. Does anyone know? 

Allen Scythe Saw Bench

However I have report from the same year of 1951 for the National Association of Groundsmans Exhibition in October 1951. This was held at the Hurlingham Club, London; on, it would seem, perfectly manicured lawns. Fifty-two companies took part showing their products.

We can see that in 1951 a large number of interesting items were being displayed. These included the latest attachment for the Allen Scythe. It was a saw bench with a 16″ diameter blade capable of cutting to 6″, it has an adjustable guard. Other equipment were a power sprayer, electric generator and a front-mounted rotary brush which can be seen in the image behind the saw bench. 

Ransomes-Sisis Aero Main

Items from Sisis also appear. The advertised “Ransomes-Sisis Aero Main” with attached turf aerator could work at a claimed 4mph and put 250,000 holes into two acres per hour. Rakes, rollers and brushes were available as attachments. Available from Hargreaves Ltd, Sisis Works, Cheadle, and Ransomes, Sims and Jefferies Ltd, Ipswich. 

1hp Dorman Sprayer

The Dorman Sprayer Co. from Cambridge had a power-driven sprayer suitable for fields, orchards or gardens. It had a 15 gallons tank, treated against corrosion and a 1hp engine. Are there any of these sprayers still in existence? 

Gravely Estate Power Unit

Another machine that looks mighty interesting was the Estate Power Unit from Gravely Overseas Ltd, Buckfastleigh, Devon. This two-wheeled unit had a 2.5hp four stroke engine with forward and reverse gears and a speed of up to 3mph. It could be fitted with a 42″ cutter bar mower, a 24″ cylinder mower, hedge trimmer, pump, generator, compressor, 8″ plough, cultivating tool frame and a cart. Is this Estate Power Unit another machine that has vanished or has someone got an example in their shed? 

Two intriguing photographs to finish. The first is the plant protection stand at the Groundsmans Exhibition. It was housed in a caravan which was described as ‘gleaming in chromium plate and perspex’ which sums up the modern and bright future that may lay ahead. The second photograph is a general view, showing the stands of T. Parker & Sons and John Allen & Sons. I wonder what all the machinery on display was? Can you name the tractor on the right-hand side? 

If anyone knows any machinery that was at the Festival of Britain in 1951 then we’d be pleased to hear. 

The Plant Protection stand at the Groundsmans Exhibition. A caravan in chromium plate and perspex.

T. Parker & Sons and John Allen & Sons stands, 1951.


Note: Images/media are used for research/illustration purposes for non-profit only with copyright held by respective publishers where and as applicable. 

by alan

Build a DIY Tractor

May 17, 2020 in Articles

There are plans for many machines, including this petrol-powered shredder in 1966

I’ve found many references in various online archives referring to home made garden machinery. Interestingly there’s many plans for garden tractors including both the two and four wheel variety. I suppose this should be no surprise as with a bit of inginuity, some workshop skills and a pile of parts, namely an engine, gearbox, wheels, and some means of steering or control, then anything is possible. 

I’ve also found a book from 1951 which looks like it could be of use….

….But before getting excited about sticking mechanical parts together in some sort of over sized Meccano kit experiment, lets  scrutinize carefully the advice given decades ago about concocting a tractor from bits…

1: The 1951 book advises that  the parts required may actually be a greater cost than buying a second hand machine, it quotes that a home made four wheel machine should cost no more than £25.0.0 and a two wheel machine about £5.0.0. Considering that at the time a new two wheel Farmers Boy started around £58 and a Gunsmith about £178, a considerable saving could be made. 

2: Spare parts may not be available in the future for the parts that the home made machine is compiled from. It was advised that it would be prudent to keep a stash of spares for when (not if) the home made machine breaks down. A spare engine and gearbox was suggested.

3: The home made machine may not (probably not) have the equipment and devices to keep the operator safe, like guards and easily accessible controls. This is referred to nowadays as an accident waiting to happen. 

Having satisfied ourselves that the project may be possible, we next need to have a suitable workshop. I’m reminded of a family story where a young person in the 60’s decided to overhaul his motorbike. Having nowhere suitable he decided the spare bedroom would be a solution. Revving the engine and attempting to drive upstairs was not a happy outcome when, in cartoon fashion, the stair carpet was ripped from it’s mountings whilst the motorbike remained at the foot of the stairs. The calamities did not end there as the eventually bedroom’ed motorbike was treated to a through clean, the result being spilled oil and petrol seeping through to the ceiling below. Outdoor space is therefore advised, plenty of room being a must for the intended project, unlike a long ago neighbour who had to remove the end of his garage in order to extract the trailer he had made.

Just like a cookery book, the 1951 book gives a list of ingredients but in mechanical form, yet doesn’t divulge any way of attaching one to another.

But if we want to jump in at the deep end and proceed with our 1951 book and muddle a machine together in an ad-hoc manner then it recommends the following parts for a four-wheel tractor, but no instructions:

An engine (7hp), gearbox, clutch, radiator, steering (modified), front axle (inverted), and a shortened chassis (4′ 8″) all from an Austin 7. A rear axle and differential from a Wolseley Hornet, 19″ rear wheels from a Trojan, and two 8″ wheel barrow wheels for the front. This would create a 6′ 5″ long tractor. 

A two-wheel tractor would again require scavenging parts from an Austin 7, these would be the engine, gearbox and clutch. The chassis would be home-made from angle-iron. The wheels would be 19″. This would give an 8′ long by 3′ wide machine. 

Without plans this may turn out to be a big challenge, but help is at hand to help us achieve a home-made machine, at least in the USA anyway….

1944 Shaw tractor advert

….Through the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and beyond In the USA many adverts appear ( try Popular Mechanics magazines) providing plans and diagrams to build a garden tractor, these would be a great idea as, presumably, many others have followed the plans with great success. 

The Shaw MFG. Co. of Kansas (image on the right) were offering plans for their tractors at $1 in 1944. This was due to the war limiting production of their own machines and therefore you could follow their plans and build your own using old car parts, and powered by a 3hp Briggs and Stratton engine. A two wheel garden tractor that was powered by a 1/2hp to 3hp engine could also be made. Apparently a machine could be constructed in a few hours, that is if the parts were readily available. 

Build your own battery lawnmower in 1947

Or how about creating something futuristic from 1947 and building a battery powered lawnmower? Advertised as an ultra-modern rotary mower it could be made from inexpensive parts and an old motor, it looks interesting, and at just 35c I may enquire. 

We could also make something even more amazing like  the tracked Mini-Dozer or Mini-Beep lawn tractor in the style of a Jeep from Struck in the USA in the 1960’s. I know I’ve caught several peoples attention with the Mini-Beep pictured in the advert, below!

The Mini-Beep was a 4/5 scale, DIY kit of a WWII Willy’s Jeep. It was made out of plywood and had a mechanical 2wd or 4wd system. More impressive is that the Mini-Beep plans are still available to buy from the company today and the Mini-Dozer is available in kit form, too. The Mini-Beep would be a great project to undertake, especially as it can be fitted with a dozer blade or have a trailed mower for cutting the paddocks. Without a doubt, for me, I’d end up with a superior result rather than hacking an old Austin 7 to pieces!


Note: Images/media are used for research/illustration purposes for non-profit only with copyright held by respective publishers where and as applicable.  

by alan

10 Machinery Questions

April 6, 2020 in Articles

Would you like to test your knowledge on vintage garden machinery? Here are ten general questions to pass five minutes, the answers are at the bottom of the page. 

If you missed the Christmas questions – they are much harder – then they can be found here: Christmas machinery quiz.


Questions:

Q1: This is a Brott ride-on, but what was their pedestrian machine called?

1. Brott mowers (see gallery) are interesting machines from the 1960’s and 1970’s. They are ride-on mowers with a flail cutting action. Brott also introduced a pedestrian controlled flail mower to their range in 1972, what descriptive name did they give this mower? 

A: Cuttit
B: Cropet
C: Choppit

—————-

Q2: What other manufacturer’s mower looks like this?

2. The Dynamark 10/36 ride-on-mower was available in the UK, image right (or larger image). It looks familiar to other ride-on-mowers of the 70’s and 80’s but which other manufacturer had an almost identical machine?

A: Mountfield
B: Lawnflite
C: Westwood



—————–

Q3: What attachment could the Merry Tiller have?

3. The Merry Tiller was a versatile machine with many attachments. Which of the following was a genuine attachment for some of the machines? 

A: Cement Mixer
B: Paint Sprayer
C: Elevator


——————

Q4: Not all MF tractors were painted red.

4. Massey Ferguson retailed a range of their MF badged machinery. Although most were painted red, which other colour were some of their early tractors painted?

A: Blue
B: Yellow
C: Green

——————–

Q5: Which manufacturer is associated with the 2WD Scout quad bike?

5. A yellow painted two-wheel drive quad-bike called the ‘Scout’ with an air-cooled Piaggio engine was produced by a well known machinery manufacturer in the 1980’s, but who was it? 

A: Marshall
B: Sisis
C: Massey Ferguson

———————-


Q6: What does O.T.A. stand for?

6. The company called O.T.A. made tractors that  started to appear in the late 1940’s. In 1953 the rights were sold to the Singer Motor Co. But what does O.T.A. stand for? 

A: Opperman Tractor Assembly 
B: Oak Tree Appliances
C: Oxford Trading Association

———————

7. An attachment was available to make some Flymo motorised cultivators more useful for the gardener, but which of the three listed attachments was it?

A: A wheelbarrow 
B: A chainsaw
C: A trailer

——————–

Q8: What else could the Gardenmaster do? 

8. Another attachment question:  In 1964 Landmaster Ltd was advertising the Gardenmaster tiller. It was a very useful piece of equipment and versatile, too. Advertised as being able to use various attachments it could be used for digging, weeding, lawn raking, grass cutting and which other task? 

A: Edging lawns
B: Sweeping paths
C: Hedge trimming

——————–

9. Around 1960 Lea Francis Cars based in Coventry were struggling with sales of  their new Lynx motor car and to try to fill the gap they produced which type of horticultural machine for a very short time?

A: A pedestrian mower with optional seat 
B: A garden tiller with flexi-drive tools
C: A tractor with optional attachments

————————-

Q10: What snack can sometimes be found here?

10. A certain food product can sometimes be found on VHGMC show stands if the Chairman is in attendance. What food item does he take along to share with everyone?

A: Pick & Mix
B: Luxury Belgian chocolate selection
C: Pork Pie

————

Answers:

1: B: The pedestrian controlled Brott flail mower was called the Cropet, it had an 80cm cut and featured hydrostatic drive.

2: C: The Westwood range of ride-on-mowers with the plastic front end are much the same machines as the Dynamark. 

Q3: Merry Tiller Cement Mixer

3: A: A Baromix cement mixer was available for some of the Merry Tillers

4: B: Yellow. Some of the early MF tractors such as the MF Elf were painted bright yellow and were based on Gutbrod tractors. 

5: A: Marshall had a couple of ‘Scout’ quad bikes produced and brought to the UK. After assessment they were dropped and never went on sale. 

6: B: The initials stand for Oak Tree Appliances. 

Q7: A wheelbarrow attachment was available for the Flymo cultivators.

7: A: A wheelbarrow attachment was available for some Flymo cultivators. It attached to the front of the machine. 

8: C: The Gardenmaster (as in Q8 image) could be equipped with a hedge trimming attachment that enabled hedges to be cut ten times faster than with hand shears. 

9: C: A tractor. Lea Francis produced the Uni-Horse tractor for about a year before they ceased trading. Manufacturing of the tractors was taken over by another company.

10:C: Pork pie.

by alan

Then & Now, Locations Home & Abroad

March 9, 2020 in Articles

This months meanderings is generally about one particular manufacturer, but also crosses the paths of Farmfitters, Kubota, Countax, Husqvarna and Wheel Horse. Initially taking us into the 1960’s on a short trip abroad and then a trip back over to the UK all thanks to Google Earth and Street View. However, having researched this I think I need a real holiday. 

This article is also partly about looking up places on Earth and Street View and seeing if the location of your machines manufacture is still there. Suprisingly many factories still exist, we have found five relating to one company and they exist on Google Earth, read on to find out more….

An article from 1969 informs us that a new but small enterprise had just been established alongside the King Baudouin Motorway in Belgium and one of the two parties involved was Norsk Lettmetall of Askin, Norway. This new setup (that is at this location) which was employing about 100 people was ‘to assemble lawn-mowers, light agricultural tractors and similar machines’, in fact their trade is listed as ‘Lawn & Garden Tractors & Attaching Tools’. Even more impressive is that Crown Prince Harald and Crown Princess Sonja of Norway participated in the inauguration of this new factory (source).

Who would work out of a factory like this? ((C)2020 Google)

Any idea which manufacturer this small enterprise could be, busy working in the factory as in the picture? 

It’s a little bit of a trick question as there’s more than one company name associated with this factory. To start it is Amnor with this location being in Oevel, Belgium. One reason you may know this is as an outpost for the American Wheel Horse tractors and equipment with many UK Wheel Horse machines having the ‘Amnor NV B-2431 Oevel, Belgium’ identification attached to them. But there is another important name here….

Norlett 8hp Tractor (Image: VHGMC)

The main company involved was Norsk Lettmetall, shortened this gives us the name Norlett which we’ve seen on countless machines in the UK. Amongst other machines, coming from the same Oevel assembly plant in Belgium some Wheel Horse tractors were badged as Norlett and painted gold. These were Norsk Lettmetall’s ‘Golden Blades’ range of horticultural and domestic gardening equipment. The three ride-on mowers they made out of Wheel Horses were the Scout, Ranger and Commander, all painted gold.

If you have a Norlett machine then the  factory pictured above might be where it came from, or it just might not. The reason is that the Norlett group had manufacturing units in England, Belgium, Denmark and Norway. 

Norlett Versatiller 1000 and a Norlett tiller.


Perhaps, since the Oevel factory was sandwiched between the motorway and with the 25 mile long navigable Albert canal at the back of the factory, maybe many a Norlett or Wheel Horse made it’s way down the waterway (pictured below) to the great port of Antwerp before heading across the sea to this country? Who knows, but it’s an interesting thought!

The navigable waterway, which can handle vessels up to 9000 tons and servicing a highly industrialized area leads through Oevel to Antwerp. Did the factory use this method of transportation? Or did they just use good old lorries and the motorway? ((C)2020 Google)

A few years later in the 1970’s and over in the UK, Norlett had been working out of a factory and distribution point (perhaps one of many) at Stadhampton Road, Great Milton, Oxford. The factory still exists, image below, although the road layout has changed. It is now home to Countax. 

The Norlett, Stadhampton Road premises, until 1975. Now occupied by Countax mowers and tractors. ((C)2020 Google)

In 1972 it’s reported that the Norlett Versatiller (tiller, pictured way above), Bushwacker (wheeled grass scythe) and Rapier (lawnmower) models were being assembled by Farmfitters LTD, their address being the above factory in Stadhampton Road before being taken over by Norlett in 1973. Up to 1973 Norlett owned 50% of Farmfitters. (see source 1973). 

Gold-painted Norlett Scout, it’s a Wheel Horse in disguise. (Image: VHGMC)

One of the 1975 machines that Norlett was distributing from it’s Stadhampton Road address was the Norlett Scout electric-start rider mower with 5hp Tecumseh engine, pictured right, this became a discontinued model by late 1975 and was not a big seller. The Scout retailed at £299 + vat, was ex-stock and dealers were being sought in some areas to sell this machine. Can we assume that the gold-painted ‘Golden Blades’ ride-on machines were therefore brought in to the Stadhampton Road premises from Oevel in Belgium before distribution or were they assembled at the Stadhampton Road premises? It’s often assumed that they were all built in Oevel in Belgium purely because they have an Oevel label attached. Anyone?

From 1975, bigger works, warehousing and assembly line were required for Norlett. It’s interesting that there is mention of an ‘assembly line’. These new premises were at Dormer Road, Thame, Oxfordshire, which is now home to Kubota, image below. In 1979 they were detailed as being ‘Distribution & assembly of horticultural machinery’ with their company as ‘Norlett (Norway)’. Two years later in 1981 Norlett was again expanding by creating new assembly lines in England (Dormer Road), Belgium, Denmark and Norway and had a total workforce of 340 employees. Lawnmowers were Norlett’s main machine and 90,000 units were being assembled each year across all plants.

Amazingly in 1980 it was reported that an order had been placed with Norlett of Dormer Road, Thame for 3000 rotary lawnmowers worth £250,000 to be exported to France. One thing I have found is that a lot more Norlett machines such as mowers and tillers were actually built in this country rather than being imported, in fact Norlett appeared to be exporting from here! 

The site of the Norlett factory and distribution depot. Dormer Road, Thame, Oxfordshire. ((C)2020 Google)

Norlett Professional Range Advert. A presumably original design but with input from Yazoo.  (Image: VHGMC)

Advertised in 1974 with the Norlett Professional logo as in the image,right, was an out-front mower created with input from Yazoo ZTR mowers.

We also end up with Flymo being involved with Norlett, this is after being acquired by the Electrolux Group in 1981. This created the company of  ‘Flymo-Norlett Commercial Products LTD’ in the UK.

This was headed by a Norlett Sales Team and the division formed at Flymo’s Newton Aycliffe, County Durham premises. The image below shows the 1990’s Flymo factory location today which is now Husqvarna, an earlier address gives a factory up the road at Redworth Way.



The 1990s Flymo factory location, now Husqvarna, later incorporating in 1981 Flymo-Norlett Commercial products Ltd with the ‘Professional’ range of equipment. Note there is an earlier location detailed as Redworth Way a short distance away. ((C)2020 Google)

There we have it a trip abroad and then through a few counties to find where Norlett worked from. And all from the comfort of ones own home.

It is surprising how many locations can be found online, either through maps, old photograph or archives. Do you have any images of old factories or locations? 

Additional: There’s an advert from Murdochs in ‘The Wicklow People’ May 14, 1960. This advertises newly introduced Norlett Rotary mowers; 2 stoke at £25; 4 stroke at £33. Norlett machines existed in the UK (and Ireland) from at least 1960. Reports state such as ‘tremendous sales’ for the mowers due to them being economical as well as their robust build quality. 



Note: Images/media are used for research/illustration purposes for non-profit only with copyright held by respective publishers where and as applicable.  


by alan

1967 Book Review

February 10, 2020 in Articles

The Terrex spade, still available today as the Autospade

It’s not often, if ever, that a book review for horticultural machinery and tools for the garden appears. But here it is, a very short review, albeit fifty three years late, because this particular gem of a book I hold within my hands was published in 1967. It’s a small hardback book of just 80 pages and is a guide to buying and using machines, tools and an array of equipment for the garden. A recent purchase for 10p from a second-hand book shop, it’s price already reduced from 70p, but it’s got a few dozen photos of machinery from the time upon it’s pages and on the back pages is an extensive list of manufacturers and their addresses, for 10p it was a bit of a steal. 

Would such a book be published today? A helpful guide to the homeowner wishing to buy and use tools and machinery in a most efficient manner? I’ve had a look on Amazon and nothing in book form appears to exist. This format is generally now superceded by blogs, websites and some consumer magazines testing and comparing machines and giving (hopefully) unbiased views on what to buy. Sadly numerous adverts for modern domestic machines are selling their wares on low price points and as long as the advertised machine does the job then little else matters, it’s perceived as a bargain!

Lay your decorative driveway and garden paths the easy way with the Temple Pavex in the 1970’s. I’d swear that’s Tom & Barbara from ‘The Good Life’.

Also, times and fashion change with smaller and more suburban gardens tending to have also gone through a transition of being more decorative and reflecting the inside of a home than being horticultural, the result being that they just don’t need as many tools, or indeed the people to recommend what they should be buying. Social media showing a growing trend for the removal of herbaceous borders, shrubberies and the veg patch at the bottom of the garden, to be replaced in some places by short-term items such as decking, artificial turf and unnecessary lighting. The modern plastic throwaway garden, with plastic tools, anyone?

Anyway, back to the book, a publication that was ahead of it’s time and was the equivalent of a blog but in book form. The sad fact is this book, which was published just once, is that it was rapidly out of date regarding the lists of manufacturers and machines it contains. It needed constant updating. But the extensive list of those manufacturers, all existing in 1967 at the same time, is a fascinating snapshot of what was about.

The list of manufacturers on the back pages of this book along with their 1967 addresses are listed at the bottom of this article. It would be interesting to see if these addresses and premises exist today. Have a look through the list and see if any are local to you. 

The book begins: ..Dreary weekends spent digging, weeding, and lawn maintenance are often regarded as the inescapable cost of a presentable garden”, and this is why folk today consider opting for the (perceived) easy artificial turf and minimal planting schemes. “The battle to trim fast growing hedges, keeping the lawns in order, or fighting with perennial weeds. These are jobs bad enough when one is young and fit…”…Ok, where’s the phone number for the astro-turf and decking people? I’m only on the first page and it’s already putting me off gardening. It does redeem itself with “The purpose of this book is to suggest how the use of modern machines, chemicals and other aids can reduce this hard labour”. I hear the thoughts of a young generation in 1967, sat in their gardens and flicking through the pages of this book, marvelling at how chemicals and modern machinery can make their lives easier, whilst tucking into a bowl of newly introduced pink ‘Angel Delight’. The future had arrived.

The book is full of useful advice and ‘Getting The Best From Your Machines’ is a useful chapter. It details that six months storage in a damp shed can cause greater depreciation than many hours spent cultivating or working. It’s very true. How many of us have prized machines (restored or otherwise) which after a few months winter storage have shown slight corrosion or fading of once shiny parts! Making sure that machines are in good, clean condition before being put away is always time well spent.

A Mountfield rotary mower with rear roller for that stripey lawn

On lawnmowers it says that caked on mowings are the chief menace, it’s true they rot steel decks, perhaps labels should be attached to mowers in the DIY chains? This reminds me of one place I worked which asked TV viewers to send in their gardening tips, the best ever received was a gentleman who said that a plastic kitchen spatula was ideal for scraping grass clippings from a mower deck – a second-hand brilliant tip from the VHGMC there! Again with cultivator blades they should be kept clean after use and hedge trimmer blades should be clean, dry and lubricated before storage, these are all standard pieces of advice and I’m thinking a book on garden tools such as this one from 1967 would actually be a good idea once again. 

The chapter on ‘Hoes & Hand Cultivators’ tells us that ‘conventional gardening tools, evolved over many years, are not easily bettered but many modern tools contribute towards saving time and effort’. Two items mentioned are the Wilkinson Swoe (a long handled hoe) of which millions of that design must be in use today, and also the Wolf range of garden tools which from experience have been fantastic. I notice that many vintage Wolf tools are appearing upon online auctions, still capable of a good days work and built to last too. 

Mention of the Dennis Swift in the ‘Flexible Drive Systems’ chapter. I have never heard of this, I may need to do further research but appears to be a trolley mounted engine unit. It was detachable for use with a flexible drive in places where it was not convenient to push the engine. Much like the Tarpen system it could be used for jobs such as hedge trimming and log sawing.
 
Lets move on from the text and to the important bit of having a look at a few items recommended for the domestic garden at this time, these machines seem quite common now, but were probably prized machines on some very tidy gardens. What is great is that examples are still around today and working too! 

 

The Jalo Gardener, a useful time-saving tools which can be equipped with many attachments.

The brilliant British Anzani Lawnrider, and the Tarpen Raser rotary electric lawnmower.

Three machines for looking after the vegetable garden: The Howard 300, Merry Tiller Major, Landmaster 100.


hhhh

Spraygen made the Wunda Spray for keeping the garden bug free. Everain made a clever adjustable garden sprinkler.


Sheen made a lawn and driveway sweeper. Centre is the 34cc lawn edge trimmer from Andrews. Right is the Tudor Newington push lawn aerator.


Do you know if any of these 1960’s premises and factories still exist where you live?

Advon Engineering Ltd, St. John’s Road, Hampton Wick, Surrey
Andrews Lawn-Edgers Ltd, Sunningdale, Berks.
John Allen & Sons (Oxford) Ltd, Cowley Oxford
Associated Sprayers Ltd, Elliot St, Birmingham 7
Auto-Culto International Ltd, Reading Bridge House, Reading.
Autogrow Ltd, 9 Station Road, Cullercoats, North Shields, Northumberland.
E.P.Barrus (Concessionaires) Ltd, 12-16 Brunel Road, Acton, London, W3.
Bayliss Chemicals Ltd, 37 Bedford Row, London, WC1. Berk (Retail) Ltd, 8 Baker Street London, W1.
Bering Engineering Ltd, Doman Road, Camberley, Surrey.
Black and Decker Ltd, Cannon Lane, Maidenhead, Berks.
British Anzani Eng. Co. Ltd. Upper Halliford, Shepperton, Middlesex.
Broadbent and Co. (Rochdale) Ltd. Grove Spring Works, Lincoln Street, Rochdale, Lancs.
Joseph Bryant Ltd, PO Box 111, Bristol 2.
Butlymade Ltd, Haywards Yard, Brockley Rd, Crofton Park, London, SE4. 
Calidec Ltd, Station Approach, Solihull, Warwickshire.
Cooper,Peglar and Co, Ltd, Burgess Hill, Sussex.
Thomas Cowley and Sons Ltd, Quadrant Works, Leamington Road, Gravelly Hill, Birmingham.
Cultivex Ltd, 2-3 Norfolk Street, London, WC2.
Delfa Associates Ltd, Westminster Works, Victoria Road, London.Dennis Bros.Ltd. Guildford, Surrey
Dorman Sprayer Co. Ltd. Ditton Walk, Cambridge
Doxams Ltd, Kates Bridge, Thurlby, Bourne, Lincs
Drivall Ltd, 207 Crescent Road, New Barnet, Herts
P. J. Edmonds Ltd, Itchen Abbas, Winchester, Hants
Eclipse Sprayers Ltd, Rawlings Road, Smethwick, 41, Staffs. 
Donald Edwards (B’ham) Ltd, 22 Grove Road, Harpenden, herts
Edward Elwell Ltd, Wednesbury, Staff.
Farmfitters Ltd, Gerrards Cross, Bucks.
Findlay, Irvine Ltd, Bog Rd, Penicuik, Midlothian
Richmond Gibson Ltd, Bishops Stortford, herts
J.D.Gillet & sons, Old Market, Wisbech, Cambs.
Gilliam & Co. Ltd, Purley way, Purley, Surrey.
Thomas Green & Sons Ltd., P.O.Box 45, North Street, Leeds. 
Hayters (Sales) Ltd., Spellbrook, Bishops Stortford, Herts
Heli-Strand Tools Ltd, Winchelsea Road, Rye.
Highlands water Gardens, Rickmansworth, Herts.
Honda (UK) Ltd, Power Road, Chiswick, London, W4
Howard Rotavator Co, Ltd, west Horndon, Essex
Hozelock Ltd, 5 High Road, Byfleet, weybridge, Surrey
Industrial & Agricultural Improvements Ltd, 5 St.Andrews Rd, Malvern, Worcs.
Jalo Products Ltd, Longham, Wimborne, Dorset
J.P.Engineering Co. Ltd, Meynell Road, Leicester
Ladybird Appliances Ltd, Molly Millars Lane, Wokingham, Berks
Landmaster Ltd, Hucknall, Notts
Lloyds & Co, Letchworth, Herts
Loheat Ltd, Everlands Road, Hungerford, Berks
G.D. Mountfield Ltd, East Street, Maidenhead, Berks.
Mow-Rite Engineering Co. Ltd. 8-12 Queens Road, Reading , Berks.
Murphy Chemical Co, Ltd, Wheathampstead, St.Albans, Herts
Mytaz Flame Co, Bridge works, Alfreton Road, Derby.
H.R.Nash Ltd, Nash’s Corner, Ashstead, Surrey.
Nutt Engineering Co .Ltd, Stapleford, Cambridge
Charles H. Pugh Ltd, Atco Works, Tilton Road, Birmingham 9. 
Qualcast Ltd, Sunnyhill Avenue, derby.
Ransomes, Simms and Jefferies Ltd, Orwell Works, Ipswich, Suffolk
B.A.Rolfe and Sons Ltd, Mile Hill, Romsey, Hants
Ryland Works Ltd, Chesterfield, Derbyshire.
Sheen (Nottingham) Ltd, Greasley Street, Bulwell, Nottingham
Simplex of Cambridge, Sawston, Cambridge
Sisis equipment (Macclesfield) Ltd, Hurdsfield Industrial Estate, Macclesfield, Cheshire.
Smith & Davis Ltd, Beacon Works, Friar Park Road, Wednesbury, Staffs. 
Solo Sprayers Ltd, Solo Works, Progress Road, Southend-on-Sea, essex
Spear & Jackson Ltd, Aetna Works, Savile Street, Sheffield
Spicers Ltd, Langston Rd, Loughton, Essex
Spraygen Sprayers Ltd, 10-12 Carver St, Birmingham
Stanley-Bridges Ltd, York Road, London, SW11
Suffolk iron Foundry (1920) Ltd, Sunnyhill Avenue, Derby
Tarpen engineering Co. Ltd. Coronation Road, Park Royal, London, NW10
Temple Pavex, Temple Mill, Passfield, Liphook, Hants
Tudor Accessories Ltd, Beaconsfield Road, Hayes, Middlesex
Victa (UK) Ltd, Victa House, 16 North Pallant, Chichester
Philip B Waldron Co. Kings Road, Tyseley, Birmingham
H.C.Webb & Co. Tame Road, Witton, Birmingham
Wolf Electric Tools LTD, Pioneer Works, Hanger Lane, London W3
Wolf Tools for Garden and Lawn Co, Ross-on-Wye, Hereforshire
Wolseley Engineering Ltd, Wolseley Works, Electric Avenue, Witton, Birmingham 6

Note: Images/media are used for research/illustration purposes for non-profit only with copyright held by respective publishers where and as applicable.  


by alan

Fifty Years Ago…..

January 9, 2020 in Articles, Machinery

The mower of the future, but from the past.

The year is Two Thousand and Twenty. Sounds futuristic, doesn’t it? It resonates as one of those dates plucked out of thin air by black and white sci-fi movies from the 1950’s and 60’s trying to convince us that we’d have ditched the humble motor car and all have personal flying machines by now. Little did they foresee that in 2020 the average motorist wouldn’t be zipping about the skies but instead would be stuck in traffic on the M25, cursing the roadworks on the M6 or negotiating average speed cameras countrywide (other traffic issues are available). 

Horticultural machinery hasn’t, on the whole, faired much better; mowers, tillers and rotavators etc are much the same as they’ve always been, with just minor tweaks and amendments to make them better to operate. But where could we have been if madcap designers had pushed through their ideas and the general public had clambered aboard? Take the 1960’s prototype mowing machine as pictured above. This glass-domed futuristic machine encased the operator in an air-conditioned capsule from where they could mow the lawn, apply fertilizer, or according to adverts even go to the shops. In our health-conscious era the ideal solution for mowing the lawn is to use a pedestrian mower and get some exercise and fresh air rather than ride around getting sunstroke in a goldfish bowl – but a push mower wouldn’t be as much fun as that 1960’s Jetson inspired machine would it? 

Remploy Mowmaster, a very clever and advanced version of the ‘mower tied to stick’ principle. The beginning of the robot lawnmower, perhaps?

Progress, though, has been made with autonomous mowing, with professional stuff gaining ground all the time. Labour saving ideas and devices have always been of interest to inventors. In the 1960’s and 70’s there were many rather bumbling attempts documented (mostly amateur) to get unattended mowers to cut the grass by Heath Robinson type contraptions. These were mostly where a tethered mower would work in ever increasing circles by unwrapping itself from around a central post. All these early attempts have now been superseded in domestic gardens with robot mowers. Apart from a couple of exceptions and some golf course mowers, the domestic robots still haven’t mastered mowing in nice stripey lines for Mr & Mrs Suburbia, instead these robot mowers spend their hours haphazardly crossing lawns in random directions as if looking for an exit to escape through; they remind me of someone trapped in a revolving door and constantly failing to find their way out. 

If you’d like to see how far robot mowers have progressed, and witness their potential for the domestic garden, have a look at this Cub Cadet mower on Youtube, it is brilliant. https://youtu.be/kPibtLfYEWQ?t=48

For now though, lets head back in time 50 years and see what the clever people designing horticultural equipment were busying themselves with. More importantly what has happened to these machines introduced in 1970? For some of them there is no trace left. 

Sisis Auto-Cutter and Turfman

The first machine under scrutiny is the 1970 Sisis Auto-Cutter and Turfman. An ingenious and interesting machine, it is a combined turf cutter and ground management machine. Useful for sports grounds as when not used as a turf cutter it could be used for other duties by using the standard range of Sisis Turfman implements such as the lawn spiker. Powered by a 5hp Briggs and Stratton engine the transmission was by v-belt and roller chains. Using the turf cutter with it’s fitted and driven horizontal cutting blade it could muster an impressive cut speed of 90ft (approx 27m) per minute. The cost was £285 with the implements to expand the unit being extra cost. 

John Allen & Sons 5-26 ride-on mower

Next is the John Allen & Sons 5-26 ride on mower, an elusive machine. Looking at the design I’m guessing that once the mower deck rotted through then there’d be a rather large void left in the machine, by which time the whole machine was perhaps showing fatigue. It did have some good features including a differential on the rear axle and a suspension system that enabled the mower to closely follow the ground contours. The power department was 5hp and a top speed of three and a half miles per hour. Claimed mowing potential was 3/4 acre per hour which is easily achievable. Price to you: £185. 

In 1970 John Allen also introduced three models of 19″ push rotary mowers called the ‘Export’ (2.5hp Aspera 2-stroke engine), ‘Special’ (4-stroke, 3hp engine) and ‘Professional’ (2-stroke Aspera Longlife 4hp engine). The Professional model had four “Inox” swinging steel blades for mowing the grass and all models had optional side-mounted grass collection kits available for £3. I have yet to come across these three mowers.

During the 1960’s and 70’s several horticultural machinery manufacturers had their technical boffins in deep thought and serious contemplation, probably over cups of tea and newly introduced Mr Kipling’s cakes; they were designing, creating and producing battery powered machinery. As we hit the 1980’s most gave up on battery-powered stuff and the items that remained being produced were mostly novelties such as shrub trimmers and low-powered items. 1970 was when the brilliantly named Ladybird Appliances LTD of Reading, Berkshire, introduced a new dual purpose lawn edger called the Mowtrim. It was powered by two 6 volt Lucas long life batteries providing power to a 12 volt D.C. SIBA motor. It’s main use was as a lawn edger where it’d do a splendid job, or clutching at straws it was a “rotary mower with a 7 inch width of cut” for those with small lawns or immense patience. Price: £18 17s. 

Toro Teesmaster which was distributed by Flymo Ltd

The next machine is the Toro Teesmaster. It was disributed by Flymo Ltd and was a modified version of the Toro 70 inch Professional machine. These Toro machines do appear occasionally. 

The machine pictured was newly on sale for 1970. It’s claim to fame being that it was believed to be the first power-driven gang mower that could also collect grass with it’s attached grassboxes. The grassboxes are fitted at the front of the front two cutter reels and the back grassbox is fitted to the rear of that cutter. Price: £640.

Masport 18″ Premier mower with Johnson Iron Horse engine

I’m currently mulling over the mention of a ‘Johnson Iron Horse 3.5hp, 2 stroke engine’, it could be different and interesting. This was fitted to a Masport 18″ Premier mower made by Mason & Porter, New Zealand and distributed by Stemport Marketing Co, Aylesbury. The mower had a novel design of ‘one-piece cutter blade where only the cutting edges touched the grass‘ – guess it was bent at both ends – this reduced friction. It also featured a counter-balanced adjuster on the height selector, actually a good idea after some of the mowers I’ve had. Price: £55. 

Other items of interest in 1970 include a new version of the 18″ Hayterette mower by Hayter Ltd, Bishop’s Stortford. It had a new deck design incorporating a wide rear flap to give even distribution of grass clippings. Marketing says it was available with a 4-stroke Briggs and Stratton with 147cc (£41), or the Professional models with J.L.O 2-stroke engine or a 205cc Briggs and Stratton (both £52). 

One item that I cannot find at present is the Wolf Car Mower. This was a new machine introduced by Wolf Tools for Garden and Lawn Ltd of Ross-on-Wye, Hertfordshire. It is a ride-on, 26″ rotary grass cutter and could have basic attachments like a grass collector, sweeper, roller, and interestingly could be fitted with trailed cylinder gang mowers, This 5hp Briggs and Stratton machine had two forward and one reverse gears. The Wolf Car Mower was of a flexible design which helped it’s ability on uneven ground. I thought this might have had something to do with the Wolf Garden Kart which is like a go-cart, but this was much later than the Wolf Car Mower and had a smaller cut of 22″. 

The question nowadays is how will the future designers develop machines in the coming decade? Will we have a multitude of powerful, efficient and long lasting battery machines by 2030.

Or… perhaps decades from now the petrol machines of yesterday may be sought after, and considered as well built machines capable of a days work with ease? We may already be living in the future by using machines of the past…but just not aware of it!

by alan

10 Vintage Equipment Questions

December 4, 2019 in Articles

Since it’s December and the nights are long and dark, a short quiz on vintage horticultural stuff might pass 5 minutes. Here are ten general questions, the answers and explanations are at the bottom of the page. Each question & answer is like a mini-piece of interesting information. 

Questions:

Q1: What is this machine based on?

1. From the 1990s onwards Karcher (of power-washer fame) was selling the Briggs and Stratton powered KMR1000 ride-on sweeper and vacuum which was like a mini road sweeper. Which small, green & yellow ride-on-mower aimed at the domestic market was this Karcher machine based on?  

A: MTD Yardman DX70
B: Al-Ko 620 rider
C: John Deere R70

—————-

Q2: Was it the Rotoscythe that should be free of purchase tax?

2. Which grass cutting machine caused a debate in Parliament in 1959 because it couldn’t be decided if it should not be classed as a proper lawnmower and therefore be free of purchase tax at 25% ?

A: Tarpen Grassmaster
B: Shay Rotoscythe (as illustrated, right)
C: Barford Atom mower attachments



—————–

Q3: A million satisfied users by 1938, but how many did Qualcst have by 1951?

3. In 1951 the Qualcast Panther ball-bearing mower was advertised at £7.2.6 complete with grass box and 10 years guarantee. Considering that Qualcast had one million customers by 1938, how many satisfied customers did they claim to have 12 years later in 1951?

A: More than 1,500,000
B: More than 3,000,000
C: More than 4,500,000


——————

Q4: How much was the Nash tractor in 1950?

4. In 1950 the Nash Roller Tractor, by H. R. Nash Ltd, Dorking, was being exhibited at the Dairy Show, Olympia and advertised as a ‘Remarkable Machine’. It was exhibited as a general purpose 3-wheeled tractor designed to cover all types of business and available as a chassis only model or could be had with a flat truck body or tipper body both being £5 extra, but how much was the basic chassis price for this ‘Remarkable Machine’ in 1950?

A: £97
B: £170
C: £227

——————–

Q5: What was a lot less bovver than a hover in the 1980’s?

5. Flymo used the catchphrase ‘It’s a lot less bovver with a hover’ to sell their air-cushioned range of mowers. But which of their wealthy and popular rivals counteracted this by using the similar phrase ‘It’s a lot less bovver than a hover’, image on the right,  in their own TV advert?

A: Black & Decker – advertising the RM1 rotary electric mower
B: Spear & Jackson – advertising the Dino 18 rotary electric mower
C: Qualcast – advertising the Concorde cylinder electric mower

———————-

Q6: How many minutes to get the Sumners Patent Steam Lawn mower up to steam?

6. Steam was a popular method of powering machinery in the 1800’s and attempts were made to harness the power for all sorts of factory applications, propulsion and machinery. The Lancashire Steam Motor Co introduced the pedestrian controlled 1.5 ton ‘Sumners Patent Steam Lawn Mower’ in 1893. Time is a valuable resource and the quicker the better, so according to their adverts, approximately how long would it take to raise steam from cold water and get the machine moving?

A: 10 minutes
B: 30 minutes
C: 45 minutes

———————

Q7: Which cultivator did Danarm import?

7. Danarm of Stroud, Gloucestershire are well known and respected for their chainsaws. They also had interests in other machines and from the 1970’s Danarm started importing and selling a make of brightly-coloured garden cultivators starting with a 3hp engine model. But what was the cultivator and country of origin?

A: The green and white painted Ferrari cultivators made in Spain
B: The yellow painted Texas cultivators made in Denmark
C: The orange painted Kubota cultivators made in Japan

——————–

Q8: Did they sell the Tudor lawn aerator?

8. Bob Andrews of Sunningdale, Berkshire, manufactured, retailed and distributed a large range of horticultural equipment through the 1970’s, 80’s and onwards. Some of the popular equipment included the Billy Goat vacuum, Andrew’s portable generator, Cyclone spreader and the Minispike hand-push lawn aerator. But which of the following popular machines, painted blue, did they also sell?

A: Bluebird lawn scarifier
B: Tudor aerator (illustrated, right)
C: Mowrite Auto-Spike attachment for power mowers

——————–

Q9: What mower was driven from Edinburgh to London in 1951?

9. In 1959, five students from De Havilland College in Hatfield rode a lawnmower from Edinburgh Castle to Hyde Park in London, a distance of more than 400 miles. It took over 4 ½ days travelling down the whole of the A1 day and night at 4mph.  But which British cylinder mower, as in the pictured example, did they use?

A: Ransomes Matador
B: Royal Enfield Motor Mower
C: Atco Royale

————————-

Q10: What model name did Rolcut give to secateurs?

10. Over the years there have been many makers of secateurs. These include such names as Wilkinson Sword, Felco, Greensleeves, and C.K. There was also a large range of secateurs by Rolcut LTD, based in Horsham, West Sussex. They exhibited anvil secateurs which were the first of their kind at the 1927 Chelsea Flower Show. By 1968 there was a vast range of Rolcut secateurs each with a reference number and name including: No.2 Major, No.7 Superlight, and No.18 Ambassador. But which of the following was also a Rolcut secateur name?

A: Snagger
B: Snick
C: Toggle Lopper

————

Answers:

The MTD DX70 is the basis for the Karcher mini road sweeper

1: A: MTD Yardman DX70. Karcher designed their mini road sweeper around the green and yellow beetle-shaped DX70 and apart from the sweeper attachments it looks 95% the same. For clarity, the same DX70 was also sold in an identical shape but clad in a red plastic body shell in some markets.




Tarpen Grassmaster

2: A: Tarpen Grassmaster as in the image, right. The debate in Parliament was if the Grassmaster could cut the grass short enough to warrant it being able to cut a lawn. The Grassmaster was subject to purchase tax in 1957, exempt in 1958 and subject to the tax again in 1959 when it was finally decided it was a lawn-mowing machine. This information was sourced from the UK Parliament Hansard archives. 

3: B: Qualcast claimed more than than 3,000,000 users in 1951. This was an increase from 1,000,000 ball-bearing mowers in 1938. Therefore approximately 2m ball-bearing mowers were produced in the intervening 12 years – that’s 450 mowers per day.

4: B: The chassis price for the Nash Roller Tractor was £170 in 1950. A 4-wheel version of the tractor was introduced a few years later in 1954. According to reports, the company was sold, with patent rights, to Landmaster Ltd in 1956 who had already been selling the Nash tractor for a couple of years.

5: C: Qualcast used the phrase ‘It’s a lot less bovver than a hover’ in adverts for the Concorde cylinder electric mower. There is a video on Youtube showing their brilliant TV advert with the slogan. https://youtu.be/4IARuRMLIAU which features Leo McKern (Rumpole of the Bailey).

6: A: It would take an amazingly short 10 minutes to raise steam on the Sumners Patent Steam Lawn Mower made by The Lancashire Steam motor Co. The Sumner name on the mower comes from James Sumner, a blacksmith, who was one of the company founders. Later, The Lancashire Steam Motor Co became Leyland Motors.

Danarm TV3 Texas Cultivator Advert

7: B: Texas cultivators as in the image and  painted yellow, were sold by Danarm in the 1970’s onwards. They were similar to the Merry Tiller design idea and the De-Luxe model was powered by a Briggs and Stratton 3hp engine, later, Kawasaki engines were introduced into the range. Attachments included steel bladed wheels and pneumatic wheels, tool frame with harrows, and end-discs to protect plants at the sides when cultivating.

8: A: Bob Andrews sold the blue-painted power-driven Bluebird lawn scarifier, it retailed for £292 in 1977, But not only did they sell the Bluebird scarifier they apparently also manufactured them too. Bob Andrews also sold the similar Lawn Doctor scarifier. Many of these very well made scarifier machines are still being used today, they can sometimes be found for sale and make a good second-hand purchase. 

9: A: Ransomes Matador was rode from Edinburgh to London in 1959. The mower still exists today in preservation and has the original number plate JDX150. There are many photos of the feat on the internet including a recent reunion. 

10: All three fantastic names are actually correct, A:Snagger, B: Snick and C: Toggle Lopper being three real names Rolcut gave to models of secateurs. Incidentally Rolcut stopped production of their secateurs to undertake work for the war effort, but by 1949 they were reported to be back to near full production.