If you were to drive through Old Warden Park on Saturday 21st June you could have easily thought you had stumbled across a small rally. Seventeen engines, 6 miniatures and a fair organ were all turned out for the 5th Steam Apprentice driving weekend, organised by the Bedford Steam Engine Preservation Society. Over 80 apprentices ranging in age from 5-20 turned out for a day of hands on driving.
The day started around 10am when Paul Worbey gave his welcome talk to the group. Some of the engines were already in steam, but it was all hands on for cleaning. I couldn't help noticing the large group Keith Honour had managed to get around Burrell Showman's Road Locomotive Margaret. Built in 1922, No. 3926 worked for Henry Thurston of Rugby. By 11 o'clock the first engines that had steam were off driving around the park, these were Marshall Agricultural No. 76751 and Michael Maskell's 1915 Fowler Lord of the Isles. As the day progressed more of the engines sprang into life and these included no less than three Fowell's, consecutively numbered 91 of 1902, 92 of 1903 and 93 of 1904. With only 7 remaining this was a fantastic turnout of this smaller builder. It is of interest that the engines were only built about 25 Miles from Old Warden.
For the younger apprentices there were six miniatures in steam, four of those being 6" Scale Foden's, two from Maskell's along with examples from Rowan Clark and John Mann. The Worbey Family had 6" Burrell Devonshire "Fred" in steam and Mark Needham had his 4" Burrell "Catherine" which proved very popular. By lunchtime all of the engines were been driven around the park, home to the Society's annual rally in September, and at half past they were called in for lunch - Jacket Potatoes with Baked Beans, Sausages and Cheese. This was eaten very quickly as all were eager to get driving again.
A course for reversing around cones was set up and many apprentices tried their hands at both steering and driving. The sight of two young apprentices taking the 1914 Burrell Road Loco "Lord Kitchener" through the cones made the effort put into the weekend all worth while.
From the Shuttleworth Collection came the 1914 Clayton & Shuttleworth engine, one of only a few appearances it makes each year. Dave Piggott bought along Burrell Single Crank Compound "Spider" whilst David Davenport had out his Allchin Cornpourid, one of only two remaining in the country. For those with a bit more confidence Colin Piggott had Fowler K7 Ploughing Engine "Jack of Herts" in action.
There were two Rollers in steam, Culpin Brothers small Fowler T3) compound "Jenny" and Paul & lan Vickery's Aveling & Porter single, "Mona". This engine has been restored by the brothers over the last few years and is almost complete and was running well. John Kilgour bought along his interesting home built steam lorry "Spider N4k2". The 4WD machine has a four speed gearbox and a double acting high pressure engine, giving speeds of up to 25mph! Alan Howard steamed Garrett Showman's type tractor "The London Belle" which was one of the engines that came to the event under its own steam in the week before the event.
The day ended at around half past four when certificates were presented to all those taking part in the weekend.
Saturday evening saw Burrell "Margaret" accompanied by Keith's organ "The Four Seasons" in steam outside the Tavern bar. Also outside the bar was the interesting Ivel tractor owned by John Moffit. The tractor had stopped off at Old Warden before embarking on a 100 mile road run for charity.
Sunday was aimed at the older apprentices. The morning started off with the popular "breakfast on the shovel" and a road craft theory test set by member Nick Allen. There were 20 questions and these were marked and certificates presented with the score on.
Jonathan Wheeler came along and talked through boiler maintenance and laying up for the winter with Saunders Farmers Foundry Portable as a teaching aid. The rest of the day was a continuation of Saturdays driving, although the reversing course had been moved on to a slight incline to make it harder. At half past two Paul called all the apprentices round and they gave a round of applause to all who helped. Thanks to all those who helped over the weekend.