The "Pudsey Roller" - The Recovery

A lot happened in the first six weeks after our Chairman, Michael Goakes, announced the 25 year loan agreement with Leeds City Council at the Association’s AGM in Leeds on 3rd March 2007. An Operations Agent, as required by the contract, was appointed by the Association. Ian Fearnley, a very well known name in traction engine circles in West Yorkshire, took on this role, assisted by son Jamie, a member of the Steam Apprentice Club. Ian’s grandfather, Arthur Fearnley of Castleford, was one of the first in the West Yorkshire area to own a preserved road steam engine in the mid-1950s and both he and his brother Walter, together with Ian’s father Ronnie and his uncle Lister were regular attendees with the family’s engines at traction engine rallies in Yorkshire and elsewhere in days gone by. Ian has been driving steam engines since the age of six and has restored a steam wagon from scrap condition and continues to work on another.

In addition, see later, the Road Roller Association had set up the "Pudsey Roller Restoration Fund" to help bring back the steam roller to life. Several donations have already been made to assist in the long task of restoring the Roller. The first very generous donation of £500 had came from Keith Wear, an ex-Pudsey resident who has been instrumental in the recent past in respect of saving the Roller and negotiating with the council for its survival. Keith received one of the Associations awards at the 2007 AGM for this. The Pudsey Civic Society had sent £1000 and the Leader of Leeds City Council, Councillor Andrew Carter, had confirmed a donation by the Council to the fund of £5000. The Leeds and District Traction Engine Club had also promised a donation of £500.

RRA member Keith Sargeant had sent a cheque for over £300 – with the instructions that a set of boiler tubes should be purchased and in addition to these financial contributions, other donations or pledges in kind have also been forthcoming. Keith Sargeant had also said he would provide a set of steering chains; Israel Newton & Sons, Boiler makers of Bradford, are to donate a front tubeplate; a local boiler inspector had volunteered to provide a report on the boiler and a set of Fowler owls for the headstock front has also been donated. The Bramley & District Steam Rolling Company (John & Dorothy Knapton and Eric Robinson – local Wallis & Steevens Advance Roller owners) had provided a new shiny brass nameplate for the roller’s motion cover – MAJESTIC – with a promise of another plate to follow when circumstances permit!

The above plate was fitted on the roller on Friday afternoon, 27th April 2007, in the Council yard at Farnley Hall, Leeds, the roller’s resting place for the last seven years. It was then that members of the RRA got together, along with Les Donn, a Fowler Roller owner himself, to load the Roller onto Les’s lowloader.

When the group first turned up, on Friday 27th April 2007, a Council pickup truck was blocking access to the Roller and it transpired that the driver had finished work early and gone home, it was believed taking the keys with him. This is shown here :-

Pudsey Recovery 1

Was this to be the first problem of many? However, a word by Ian in the right quarters brought forth another workman from the offices – bearing a set of keys – and the truck was moved. A plan was formulated and soon a push pole was produced and with Les at the wheel, the tractor unit was coupled to the drawbar at the back of the Roller. The tender vibrated considerably because much of it was missing and with the first pull backwards, showers of rust fell from beneath. Ian and Jamie had spent some time previously freeing off important items and had even borrowed a Council tractor to enable the Roller to be shunted at right angles from its previous resting place into a position where it could be extracted easily on the day appointed for the Roller’s collection. They had also cleverly blocked up at the front end between the smokebox tubeplate and the forecarriagehead under the chimney with a stout piece of wood - plus another similar one was hammered in tight between the inside of the rear drawbar and the firebox backhead – accepting that great gaping holes in the tender would not now give it much strength when the roller was being pushed from the rear.

Then, carefully, Les inched the rusting hulk backwards – and to everybody’s surprise, it moved quite easily. It was interesting to see the brake drum at the back of the left hand rear roll counter-rotating as the driving pins had been removed and, clearly, something inside was still fast. The Roller’s steering wheel had been missing for some considerable time and also the worm at the lower end of the steering shaft, so Ian had rigged up a temporary arrangement using two ratchet straps attached to the firebox front and the steering shoes and these worked to perfection to steer the front roll. This is shown here :-

Pudsey Recovery 2

The machine was pulled backwards for a distance and then propelled around a corner and carefully lined up with the ramps leading up to the low loader bed. Up on the trailer, Derek Rayner was charged with keeping an eye on progress and by suitable signals to both Ian on the ratchet strap at one side and Jamie on the other, plus Les in the cab, the Roller came up slowly onto the platform. Martin Hallows followed up carefully with the chock, if needed, to prevent things running away backwards. A sudden shout from the rear stopped the onward movement abruptly as the scarifier bottom corner was about to gouge a lump out of the roadway. This is shown here :-

Pudsey Recovery 3

Les backed off, some wooden packings were found to go beneath the rear rolls and, when these were in position, forward progress was resumed until the Roller sat fair and square in the centre of the trailer bed. It was then lashed down to prevent movement and John Knapton produced the one remaining motion cover, now complete with a new polished shiny brass nameplate – MAJESTIC. This is shown here :-

Pudsey Recovery 4

Everyone thought things were now complete, and ready for the following day when the Roller would once more be seen by the people of Pudsey, many of whom clearly remember it well from their own childhoods. However the outfit needed to be turned round in the yard ready for the following day, and it was a bit of a tight fit! This is shown here :-

Pudsey Recovery 5

The morning of Saturday 28th April 2007 dawned bright and fine and the Roller soon was in position outside the swimming baths in the centre of Pudsey. This is shown here :-

Pudsey Recovery 6

This location was carefully chosen since on one side of the square in front of the baths was Pudsey Park – the Roller’s ‘spiritual home’ and on the other was the shed where the original Pudsey Borough Council’s own Fowler Steam Roller was housed.

Appropriate banners were attached and it was not long before the words from the many curious passers-by, ”I used to play on that when I was a kid”, or “I used to bring my kids to play on it when it was just over there”, were heard. Such phrases continued during the hour and a half that the Roller stood there. Representatives from the Pudsey Civic Society were chatted to, Keith Wear and others handed out copious quantities of leaflets to the enquiring passers-by and he dealt with press photographers who came and took pictures. Hopefully these will appear in the following days to give good publicity to the fund. Coins were thrown into a bucket and all too soon it was time to leave and press on to the next place.

A major shopping development has sprung up near the Park & Ride railway station at New Pudsey and arrangements had been made to stand the Roller there for an hour or so, by kind permission. It was a little tight ‘shoe-horning’ it into position but Les achieved this task very effectively and again. This is shown here :-

Pudsey Recovery 7

Curiosity came from the busy shoppers, some of whom were not interested but fortunately they were in the minority. Again, “I remember the Roller in the Park” was heard many times – along with accounts of scrapes and torn clothes as a result of playing on it.

It was then time to head for the Roller’s new home in north Leeds where it will be stored and eventually restored to working order. The drive of about 12 miles resulted in more rust covering the low-loader bed underneath the ex-water tank and then, once off the ring road and about half a mile from home, the chimney gave up the ghost and keeled over. Jamie spent the last part of the journey riding on the roller’s front end, holding it on. This is shown here :-

Pudsey Recovery 8

It then took Les several attempts to get the trailer through the gateway off the road into the farm, blocking passing traffic for the period of shunting backwards and forwards - and then with the pushpole again coupled on the front of the unit, the roller was inched off the bed and down the ramps onto terra firma once more. This is shown here :-

Pudsey Recovery 9

Having unloaded the Roller, Les gently and slowly manoeuvred the machine into the shed and to a well earned rest after all the excitement it had experienced over the previous few hours.

After the Roller was safely chocked, when the clearing up operation outside commenced, what was quite remarkable was the quantity of earth, stones, broken glass and other debris that had cascaded out of the chimney bottom, adding to the rest of the rusty debris on the trailer. A couple of somewhat familiar objects also had emerged, one being part of the Klinger water gauge frame – which, being brass, seemed to be eminently reusable - whilst the other was the extremely rusty remains of the top plate from the mechanical lubricator. When the trailer bed was being swept to clear the rubbish, a further Roller part was revealed in the form of the water filler pocket lid. It was quite amazing how such items should have survived, thanks to the ingenuity of the children of Pudsey and the way they had ‘played’ with the machine.

In addition to its Pudsey Roller Restoration Fund, the Road Roller Association also needs help with other aspects of the Steam Roller’s restoration in the form of goods and services. It will take some time to assess the overall condition of the Roller – but one or two of the obvious items required – for which donations will be welcome – are safety valves, cab irons, a pressure gauge, injector, mechanical lubricator and a new smokebox. The Pudsey Civic Society is to assist locally with fund raising and promoting the awareness of the Association’s efforts and help is to be provided by local members as well.

Financial donations can be sent to:- The Road Roller Association, 5 Dryden Avenue, Balderton, Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire NG24 3QT. Other aspects may be discussed with Derek Rayner by ringing 01904 781519.

The following picture shows those people who helped in the recovery :-

Pudsey Recovery 10

Left to Right – Derek Rayner, Vice Chairman of the RRA; Keith Wear, without whose help the loan agreement with Leeds City Council would not have been brokered; Jamie Fearnley; Ian Fearnley, the RRA’s Operation’s Agent and Les Donn who provided the low-loader.

With thanks to Dorothy and Derek Rayner for the Photographs.