This years rally was the 48th organised by the Society, and by far the biggest event of our 50th Anniversary celebrations. Held over three days, we had the biggest exhibit turnout ever, which included 140 full size steam entries, and the "Made in Bedfordshire" display.
The "Made in Bedfordshire" display brought together vehicles and equipment built in the county before 1970, and what a selection we ended up with! The centrepiece was Richard Vernon's 1876 Howard Farmers' Engine built in Bedford and one of only two steam products remaining from the firm. Joining it were David Philpot's Howard Oil engine, one of only 3 left in the world, three Howard Horse Ploughs and a set of Zig Zag Harrows.
Over the weekend 31,000 pints of beer were drunk, 62 tons of coal was burned, 18,000 gallons of engine water was used, and 18 gallons of effluent was taken away along with 38 tons of rubbish.
John Moffitt's Ivel Agricultural Motor "the world's first tractor" came down from Cumbria, having been built in Biggleswade. Four Saunderson Tractors and two water fuel carts attended which were built in Bedford, as was a 1908 Adams Car which is thought to be one of only two remaining, the other being in Bedford museum. The Berkeley Enthusiasts Club and the Vauxhall Owners Club put on displays of their cars, with four veteran Vauxhalls coming from Vauxhall's own museum in Luton. A Bedford built Motor Rail "Simplex" Locomotive came from the Leighton Buzzard Railway, and other makers covered within the display were George Brown & Son of Leighton Buzzard, Frank Hartop & Sons Ltd of Bedford, W. H. Allen, Sons & Co. Ltd of Bedford, Bedford Trucks from Luton and Commercial Cars Ltd, also from Luton. To complete the display a brick making machine came from Bill Kemball in Suffolk which was run by Chris Griffiths newly restored Clayton & Shuttleworth portable, and Martin Shepherd's portable from the same maker. This was joined by an ex-London Brick AEC lorry, linking back to Bedfordshire's brick making industry.
Elaine Burbury worked hard putting together a display of T. C. Fensom, Bedfordshire contractors, and organising a reunion of many of their former equipment including engines, tractors, commercial vehicles and trailers. Some former employees also turned up to recollect stories with one another.
New engines attending this year included two from Scotland, the Barrack Steam Museum's Burrell Showman's "Western Pioneer" and William Nicol's Clayton & Shuttleworth "Red Admiral" which once worked locally. Jeremy & Mark Walker's Fowler BB Ploughing Engines "Salty" & "Sally" created a lot of interest, having been converted to diesel power by McLaren's of Leeds in the 1930's. The pair worked commercially for R.G.Kendall in the Biggleswade area. Bert Hills, a former driver of "Sally" attended the event to see his former steed. Joining the pair in the ploughing area was another newcomer, the only Wilder ploughing engine, owned by James Hodgson. Another engine that once worked locally was Simon Webb's Foden D Type "Mighty Atom" which spent time with Astell Bros. Timber Hauliers in Bedford and is restored in their livery. A special mention should go to Jimmer and Sarah Marsh and their crew, Steve and Jason Brackstone who roaded Sarah's Burrell Tractor "Harry" to the event through the night from Sussex, passing through the City of London in the middle of the night arriving at Old Warden early Thursday morning. Two engines nearing the end of their restorations were Colin and Carol Piggott's Fowler "Bromyard Queen Nance" which was in steam following its derelict appearance in 2003, and Willem Middlemiss' Foden Colonial engine "Captain Cook" which returned from Tasmania 5 years ago.
Sunday marked the Grand Draw of the 3" Scale Marshall Traction Engine, by Mr Richard Banks that the Society had been raffling for the Anniversary and tickets were being sold right up to the last minute. It was nice that then engine will stay locally.
There was much to see around the vast site with many new attractions this car. The Sheep Show proved a big hit with all ages, and the aircraft displays were this year provided by the Shuttleworth Collection. Exhibits could be found around the site at every comer, with some great displays in place including a very active threshing and stone crushing area organised by Pete Wheeler, Geoff Scott-Coomber and friends. Right up until the last minute Geoff had been tinkering with his Priestman Cub drag line so that it could form part of the display.
Once again the Saturday evening saw engines and other exhibits heading for Broom and Northill on the road runs, creating much interest in both villages.
Evening entertainment in the Beer Tent began on Thursday evening with the "Stour Valley Stompers" Jazz Band, then on Friday by "Paul Neon and the Saints". Saturday started with popular folk group "Howling at the Moon" and then later "Maxwell, Hammer and Smith" who always go down well. The evening finished with a special light show and confetti cannons went off over the dance floor.