Some thirty or more years ago I was given some casual information about an abandoned stationary engine which could be found lying in a bog in the countryside near Caerphilly. A friend and myself went off in search of this but after about half an hour of scrambling about in water and mud nearly up to our knees we were about to abandon the quest when I decided to wander off downstream a fair distance. Eventually I spotted it, sure enough, the vague information was correct, a Victoria stationary engine in a bog.
Although I owned a number of stationary engines manufactured by R A Lister & Co, and was considered to have probably one of the best collections of this marque, I was always on the look-out for other unusual vertical and rarer engines, and the Victoria, manufactured in Bristol, was one such machine.
In its early life this engine had been sited at a farm house some 200 yards away and used to drive a saw bench. But alas, there were vandals even in those days sixty or more years ago; a group of lads got hold of the engine, tipped it on its side and sent it on its way running on the flywheels down the steep slope to the bottom of the hill, where it then lay for the next thirty or more years, just waiting to be rescued.
After many enquiries I was told to take the engine away so the necessary arrangements were made. The day of the removal was not particularly good weather but with two engine friends, Alan and Gwyn, along with young David, set off with ropes, spades, bars, trolley, a block and tackle pulley and a winch to attempt to retrieve the engine, a journey of about twenty miles.
After extricating my vehicle and trailer after getting stuck in the mud as we approached the farm, we then unloaded the trailer and placed the tools and equipment onto the trolley we had brought with us before dragging it all to the top of the slope. Alan & Gwyn tied ropes onto an adjacent tree and around the engine and slowly she was sucked out of the ground. By this time we were all filthy dirty, soaking wet from the drizzle, and covered in mud.
The easy part over, we then had to drag the engine up the 45º slope, with much pulling on ropes, and heaving on bars the engine was persuaded up the first 10 yards of the steepest bit of the hill. We must have relaxed a little as suddenly the engine slipped, myself acting as brakeman frantically dived to the engine to stop it slipping back into the bog. Fortunately she stopped right on the edge with me lying full length over the top of it. Needless to say we used a safety rope from then on which we attached to a tree at the top of the slope.
Four hours later, exhausted at the top of the hill, with Victoria firmly tied to the trolley, we admitted defeat and securely padlocked trolley and engine to the top tree for the night. We informed the farmer we would return the next day to collect the engine and told him where we’d left it and when we arrived the following lovely sunny morning his young son had already been over to the tree with his tractor and retrieved it for us and the engine was waiting by the farm gate for us to load onto my trailer.
This final photograph shows the engine back home where I did intend to restore her to her former glory. It was however, really beyond my basic engineering capabilities and when I had an offer from another enthusiast I felt I had to let her go.
I wonder where she is now, and if she was ever rebuilt?