I arrived at the Anson from Astle Park around seven on Saturday evening. I wandered about and gravitated to the Gardners as usual. Roger Gardner was pottering about amongst his grandfather's products and I was chatting to him when Geoff Challinor came up and wrung my hand. I know it's not possible for any of us to be in more places than one at a time, but Geoff gave a damned good impression of it on Saturday evening! He was only in any one place for a short time, usually to start another engine and there were a dozen running at one time to my certain knowledge. Every time I looked, another flywheel was spinning, but nothing beat being at the rail when Roger Gardner fired up the big 4T5 (Port Build). The turning of taps, the lighting of the burners, the arcane movement of this or that control that led to the roar of the lamps, the swish of two hundred psi of compressed air and the steady rumble of combustion. Running up the 4FHM that shortly followed was almost tame by comparison, but the sound and smell of the two of them running together in a not-so-large room is worth going back for. The 4FHM hunts a little, speeding up and slowing down on the governor. Roger intimated that he can easily adjust the mixture so that it runs at a steady pace, but prefers the rise and fall of the note. I think he's dead right and it seems more alive because of it.
Towards the end of the evening, I spent some time talking to Steve Gold who has a special connection with the big Robey engine that he tends so lovingly. He found it deep in a quarry slurry pit and was involved in both its removal and its subsequent renovation. It was missing several parts, many of which were re-created by Steve from photos and calculations. The flyball governor is a good example, taking eight years of research and machining. It worked first time, too. The engine has high-tension wipe ignition, either an original feature or certainly an early modification and will be a hundred and ten years old next year.
Every time I visit the Anson, I wonder at the changes that have taken place since I was last there. In the eight months since my last visit, walls have been knocked through to lighten the building, a reception area and café created and several floors raised, levelled and concreted. I look at photos I took last October and notice that the yard is a lot more organised too and that this or that engine has been moved. How Geoff and his cheerful band of helpers manage it, I can't imagine and their efforts show real dedication and commitment.
In closing, I'd like to thank Geoff for donating a couple of fire hose fittings I'd been looking for and also for letting me rummage in his skip! Skip diving at the Anson is very interesting .