November 1, 2008

Northumbrian milking machine tales: Old Alf’s contraption

Byres, hemmels, shippons and mistles - milking machine tales

By Jack Dent (2005)

I knew an old engineer in Leyburn when I was an apprentice during the war, and used to go into his workshop to get bits and pieces made, as parts were very scarce in those dark days. Old Alf could just about make anything – he had to.

One day he was fettling something and as I was waiting for it (as lads do), I was nosing about in his back shop and I found a two cylinder Jowett 8hp car which had been butchered and reformed as a mowing machine. It had a car front end and a pair of cast mower wheels and a cutter bar at the back. Alf told me he had made eight of these machines from scrap cars.

He had made them to order for local farmers between the horse and tractor age. But Alf was getting older and tractors were coming in so the secret of his “motor mower contraption” was lost.

After the war there appeared on the market another wonderful contraption called the “Motorcart”. This had a flat cart body with two rear wheels and at the front it had one huge tractor wheel. The chassis came up in a fork to a pivot on top of this wheel, and a 5 hp Petter engine was mounted on the side. It only had one forward gear and a reverse, and was steered by a tiller bar by the driver who stood on a platform in front of the cart body. The luxury of the seat was not part of the package.

Norman Harrison had one, and every morning he drove about a mile from Harmby to Leyburn to bring his milk cans to the Express Dairy. The top speed was something less than walking speed and I can vouch for this, for at the time I was an apprentice at the L.N.E.R. workshops next door to the Express Dairy. Norman had the machine for about 15 years and used it every day. He said the body fell to bits before the engine gave out – that’s the machine’s body and not Norman’s!

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