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Gordon Easton's Collection
Author: - C. A. Martin

I was luckily enough to be invited to see a collection of restored horse drawn farm carts - horse drawn carriages - farm tools and aids from many years ago. There was also a collection of tractors - a classic car and lorry - my main reason for going was to see the Burrell Showman Steam Engine, although not in steam it was still a magnificent sight.

I was invited to see the collection with my fiance who is a member of the Bourne Bygone Club. There was not a massive turn out, most that did turn up seemed to have either been there before or like me never seen a collection such as this in one place.

Gordon introduced himself and explained a bit about what we were going to see - you could tell that he had done this speech many times before, he had it off pat. He started off by showing us the shed in which he restored the horse drawn carriages - where the painting of them was done. To restore one and get it painted up in its original colours took many painstaking hours of hard and dedicated work. He had craftsman to do this work for him - although he did muck in at times - it was mostly down to them to get the work done.

He had many restored working farm carts in another shed - many had been repainted in their original colours and logo's - they were interesting but not really my scene. I could appreciate the hard work that had gone into restoring them - the hours and hours of meticulous painting to get them exactly right. Although I myself have a lot of patience - I do not think that mine would stretch that far - they were beautifully done.

We toured round what seemed like barn after barn of farm carts and other farm implements - it was like a maze - if you missed where they went you had to back track to find your way out. Most of them were filled up to the rafters with stuff - some carts had been stacked on top of each other. There were also ploughs and threshing implements - as well as carthorse collars that they would have worn to pull the carts.

While we were in one of the barns - I was standing on the outer edge - I do not like to feel too closed in. I happen to turn round and it was then that I saw the beautiful Burrell Showman Steam Engine "DRAGON" Pride of the Fens. That was a sight well worth waiting for - she stood proud and shining in the sunlight with her brass gleaming. Gordon made us wait a while before we had the chance to get a closer look at her - I felt a bit put out but knew that I would get to see her properly later on.

Gordon also had some tractors - three of which were Field Marshall's which where housed together - he had a series one, two and three. There was also two beautifully restored and painted gypsy caravans housed in the same barn. Parked next to the gypsy caravans were two John Deere tractors - one had the usual arrangement of a wheel at each corner - the other had two wheels at the back and two more - almost together at the front. Gordon called his manager over to start up one of the Field Marshall's by hand - first he put a lighted fuse paper into the front of the engine - this was to warm it up apparently - then once it was inserted Gordon cranked the engine and she fired up. Noisily at first and seemingly not wanting to start - then she just fired up and roared into life. His manager then drove that one out of the shed and came back to start up the second one - but by cartridge alone this time.

He got a cartridge {I found out later it had some gunpowder in it} - placed it in the side of the engine - then took hold of a hammer and then hit what seemed like a solid button at the other side of the engine. There was a loud bang and much acrid smoke and the tractor fired up - belching smoke everywhere. As it was inside it started to fill up the barn very quickly -my chest started to feel tight and I had to go outside to get some fresh air before it started my asthma off.

Everyone then started coming out and moving on to another shed where some more tractors where housed. The shed was a container - there was just enough room for the tractors to be housed and for you to get down the side. Everyone piled in but I stayed back - I did not fancy being enclosed in there and just looked at the outer tractor. We then moved across to another container with yet more tractors - this time Gordon went in and brought out the two tractors. The first one was a Massy-Ferguson - it looked fairly modern with a closed in cab - the other was an older Massy-Ferguson - which was open topped as most of the tractors were years ago.

While people were milling around I took the opportunity to go back into the barn to take a good look at the two gypsy caravans. You could really see the care to detail that had been taken in restoring it to its original condition. The paint work took many hours - you would have to have a very steady hand to do it - some of it you would have had to lay on your back to do - definitely a labour of love for the work.

We then went into another building to have a look at another collection of bygone stuff - ranging from old televisions - oil lamps - bottles - and an old classic car of the 1930's. It was as though he had a bit of everything in his collection - it had taken him years to collect these things - in fact he was still collecting. I suppose that he will continue collecting until he goes - then possibly his family will continue his work - its certainly something to leave behind for posterity.

We were then allowed to go back to finally have a good look at the Showman Steam Engine - I did not need telling twice I can tell you - it was what I had waited for. I enjoyed the rest of the collection but the Steam Engine was what I had mostly come for - it was a pity that it was not in steam but then again you cannot have everything. It was great just to be able to finally get the chance to get up close to her - she was a magnificent sight that's for sure. Bill who was responsible for looking after her was on hand to answer any questions - I had a few - I was very interested.

She was built in the 1930's and was used to pull and run steam rides at fair grounds and shows. There were usually two of them to one big ride - it must have been quite a sight seeing them going down the road - one showman engine in the front - behind three or four trailers with the ride housed in them - then another showman pushing from behind. At one time she was left to rust and needed a lot of restoration work done on her to bring her back to her original condition - that would also have been a labour of love - also many hours of hard back breaking work. She weighs 6 ton and can pull at least 60 ton - no one really knows what she can pull - but for her age she is magnificent. Bill even said that we could go up onto the footplate to get a look at the controls - also to see what it would be like to drive her. You would have to look down the side of her huge wheel to be able to see the road and kerb side - I think that she would be fairly hard to handle - but something I would have loved to have tried.

It was a bit awkward to get up onto the footplate - but well worth the effort - the sight was great - to be able to stand there - to imagining taking her on the road just made my day. A few pictures were taken of her controls and of the outside of her - but unfortunately the film did not wind on properly - so no pictures were taken. Hopefully I will get he chance to see her again at one of the rallies around the country - if not her then one of her sisters. There are nine left in the country that are still running - well eight in England and one in Scotland.

We were then all called to have tea and cake at the house - he even had a collection of musical instruments in the house. A couple of old piano's which played by musical role - also an old church organ. Surprisingly he also had some female nude dummies - apparently he has bought them to dress them up in old forces uniforms - army, navy and air force - that should make a good sight once they are finished. There was then a collection in aid of one of his charities - £62 was collected - which he was surprised about - so was I as there was not that many there - roughly twenty or so.

It made a nice afternoon out - we got there about two and left about five - all in all a good time was had by all. He does quite a few of these tours - mostly inviting different clubs to view his collection - well there is not point in having a great collection if you are going to hide it away - something like that has to be seen and enjoyed.

I don't suppose I will ever get to see another collection like that again - not many people have the time, money or inclination to put together such a formidable and interesting collection. Well done Gordon Easton - long may you survive and carry on adding to the collection.

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