30th April - 2nd May 2016
As usual the 38th Annual Cavalcade of Historical Transport & Country Show organised by Rushden Historical Transport Society clashed with NVTEC East Anglia Group's 40th Anniversary Rally at Stradsett in west Norfolk. However, from what I've seen and heard both events had a good weekend, but Monday at Rushden was quite a quiet day was we were closer to the inevitable onslaught of rain that finally arrived late afternoon. Perhaps due to the 40th anniversary status at Stradsett, a few stationary engine exhibitors had changed allegiance and more left on Sunday night, otherwise it was pretty much business as usual. There were a few late layout changes at Rushden caused by the damp ground conditions the previous weekend which meant part of the vintage fairground couldn't site in their usual position.
They had to move along to firmer ground opposite the main line of steamers, and the tractor section took their place. This left the fairground split in two but the tractors did all right out of it. The Ouse Valley section of the NVTEC had a club stand-cum-display here, and just in front, a small-scale LNER model railway engine gave rides along a short length of track. Just to shake things up a little, the classic caravans and motorcycles had swapped places this year, the bikes being in the smaller back paddock shared with the miniature steam, and taking the small pedal-cycle contingent with them, perhaps not to their satisfaction. There did seem more classic caravans this year including Car Cruiser, Lunedale & Vickers, the latter two with their leaded windows popular amongst the travelling community. On Sunday only, they were joined by a Pearman-Briggs Safari Minor dating from 1947, a really odd small van with double entrance doors over the tow-bar, a concept perhaps copied from the horse-drawn vargos of the gypsy community. Pearman-Briggs carried on production of their Safari caravans up until the late 1970s or early 80s.
The classic car section was perhaps at its best on Saturday but as usual at Rushden there was a different selection to view on Sunday and even Monday brought out a few different examples not seen on the other two days. Last year an early Skoda caught my eye, this year a red 1960 Auto Union Audi 1000SP with its 1950s influenced fins and rear lights was perhaps the most unusual of the classics, ignoring the customs. There's always a healthy contingent of American motors and the Ford duo of blue Falcon sedan and red Country Squire station-wagon would have made a nice pairing sitting side-by-side. The Mopar-inspired Plymouth Barracuda was also nice if you like muscle-cars and appeared to be road legal rather than a drag-strip special.
The commercials were down in numbers compared to last year, as the much-reduced Cooper fleet was not in attendance. The Cooper family had held a collection reduction sale the previous week at the East of England Showground where 50 non-Cooper livered commercials and over 100 classic cars were offered for sale at auction, but I know they still retain a core fleet of heritage commercials in their own livery. There were some interesting timber company wagons probably all based on WWII AEC Matador 0853/4 chassis but carrying a multitude of both proprietary (AEC Mammoth Major & Bedford TL) and home-made or in-house cabs, as the Matador wooden cabs tended to sag and were often replaced by tin-cabs made in-house by the bus companies who ran these recovery vehicles in the decades following their release from the MoD. Somewhere I have an old picture of my Dad sitting at the wheel of the Peterborough-based Eastern Counties Omnibus Company Matador whilst recovering a double-decker bus which had listed over into a dyke at Three Holes in Cambridgeshire in the early 1970s.
The military section was again well represented but not quite so many larger vehicles, which is understandable these days. Jeeps, be it Ford, Willys, Hotchkiss or even Mahindra, seem to be in plentiful supply but I do believe the Stores Display Group within the marquee need to restock a little. There's always one oddity and this year it was the 1955 DAF 6x6 artillery tractor which edged it over last year's armoured Bedford RL 4x4. An even rarer sight in years to come will be the Foden IMMLC DROPS vehicle with its demountable armoured vehicle, as the Government has decreed these to be over-width for British roads for any new registrations so forcing the need for a movement order every time you take one out on the road. Tyres are also a factor at GBP3-5k per tyre, so I'm told.
I remember when the main steam area was just the line separating the front and back fields from the gateway up to the corner, but now there is also steam down both sides of the main access roadway to the back field, and here, one novel display was the miniature rack-saw bench powered by "Sybil". There was also some (not-so) miniature heavy haulage trundling around this part of the site as well with what I guess to be a half-size engine either end of a considerable tree trunk. One good thing about Rushden is that miniature steam is not allowed to run around the trade section and as we're tucked on to the end of that, our awning display does not to suffer the smuts. Back to the full size steam, there was quite a good selection of types with Foden, Sentinel and Garrett lorries, plus two Stanley steam cars amongst the engines.
Bygones continue to offer pretty much the same mix with a few changes of display each year, but are pretty much left to their own devices on arrival, so a lot of space was wasted with cars parked in-between displays and several modern collections within the so-called 1940s display area. That said, we were the last to arrive but there was still room available for another caravan on our line. As tends to be the case, we faced the stationary engine display area under the stewardship of "Waterfall Pete" who seemed to be making a point of telling everybody (not just in his section) what to do, frankly in matters that don't concern him. Numbers seemed a little down in this section, but I know a couple of exhibitors had gone to Stradsett and others with big engines were disappointed there was no engine water laid on for them, but the mix of engines was quite good until Monday when there was a big hole in the line due to departed campers.
The trade stands were quite good with the usual mix of stalls, apart from Steve's Tool Emporium who was missing and appears to have managed to sell on his excess of stock (as advertised late last year), which is a bit of a shame for the "Pickers" amongst us. Model stalls were plentiful and lots of other useful bits and bobs were procured over the weekend to fix an ever-growing list of things to do. Catering was reasonable value, particularly the chips on Sunday evening from the van at the end of the ring nearest the gate (you know who you are) but I must remember to take my tankard to the beer tent as it just doesn't seem the same drinking ale out of a plastic beaker.