"Engines lack clout"

Long post follows. Triggered by threads appearing in the GDSF posts
that need addressing by us all.
Examine & comment. "Engines have low clout at most shows. Why?"
I'm one of the wrinklies. Been exhibiting for over 30 years, but no
longer. Still have engines, but would now take a vintage m/cycle
or model -- or, most usually, just my body as a paying visitor.
Why? I like my toys & play with them in the comfort of places
of my choosing, with folk who understand them -- probably just
me! So what drove me off the rally field?
Back in the 70's I exhibited in the south at GDSF, Longleat, Beaulieu,
Knowl Hill, Woodcote, Aldershot, Stoke Row, pub crank-ups etc.
Of them all, the ones that stand out in the memory are the stately homes
events. They were super, & luckily blessed by good weather.
Characterised by sheer range of engines, rarity, size, & enthusiastic
owners & visitors just there to talk engines. No prizes, other than the
chance of a pic of engine+"Dook" (to quote from Iron Maiden movie).
Even then, the smaller events were often next best -- more friendly,
less hassle, more enthusiastic audience etc etc. There would be 20-100
engines, many driving exhibits. Exhibitors disciplined themselves to only
bring engiines they would travel -- & pay -- to see. No one was paid,
although Knowl Hill in the early days were amazingly generous with meals
& beer until that got abused -- familiar story.
GDSF was always a challenge for acceptance, even with pre 1910 hot
bulbs. Earliest years were OK, but after about '80 it became too much
effort, especially when other organisers were writing to you several months
before their events inviting you to attend again. Plus I'm a general rust
nut, so I'm interested in the whole range of exhibits at GDSF, so it was
more sensible to buy a week's advance ticket & wander around.
So what's happened since?
a. Engines have not increased in popularity with the public. Pretty much
status quo at most events.

b. Looking back at old pix, I'm struck by the difference in display areas.
We often now look an amateur shambles.

In the 70's it was a strict no-no to take anything into the display
enclosure at rallies, other than essential tools, & possibly a chair
to be kept well away from the engines. Now, especially in engine
enclosures, the scene often looks like a poorly-organised picnic, with
engines barely visible surrounded by clutter, fuel cans, deckchairs,
gazebos, vehicles, trailers, rusty tat for sale.

Meanwhile, the owners are in a huddle around their vans studiously
avoiding curious folk keen to know more... & we wonder why less
youngsters are joining in ....

Portland much better, although sliding downhill gently. At least we
don't have bum-butts. GDSF better than most at keeping clutter out.

c. As engines get older, so most folk under 30 have little or no previous
exposure to engines as working tools. Especially true for events visited
mainly by townies. The electric motor has a lot to answer for ....
d. Many visitors need instant triggers to spark their interest & imagination.
Working exhibits are best, closely followed by good information boards.
e. Many exhibitors do not walk the fence & talk to visitors, unless pursued.
We have to share our enthusiasm & knowledge, not hide. We're selling
our hobby to the faintly curious. We need to show why we are worth
spending time with.
f. Too many non-running engines. Boot them out instantly if they haven't
run for the majority of each day (unless rebuild projects, mechanical
failure on a genuinely interesting exhibit).
g. Seem to be proportionally many less large engines, & engines showing
all their working bits. "Pop-pops" hidden in the long grass attract
less attention, especially if they are doing nothing other than making
an irritating noise.....
h. Many large rallies are now vast fairgrounds & flea markets, with some
vintage bait on the side. We're competing to interest visitors for
whom engines are periphereal to the helter-skelter. No use talking
valve mechanisms, ignitor set-ups, or best witches brew for your hot
bulb on a cold day.

Talk human interest -- people, locations, prices, skills needed, what
work was done, what effort & sweat saved.

i. For me, the big rallies are places I go to meet old chums. At GDSF,
that includes frequenting the beer tents for many hours; enjoying the
Wurtzels; grovelling in the tat for SE gems; marvelling at the
gullibility of the public at the auction; walking multiple miles
every day; taking hundreds of pix. So I no longer exhibit .....

I'm not alone in going to rallies for many reasons other than just to
see engines. I hate the "rip-off" feeling of GDSF, & the storm trooper
mentality that oozes from so many of the gate & car park attendants, but
I suppose pop festivals are the same. The fact is that GDSF is the one
great meeting place for my old gang, & even when I lived in the US
I came back for it every year -- just like Portland when in the US.
j. Rally organisers & exhibitors are their own worst enemies. If we know
folk who are not delivering value for the visiting public, ensure they
do not appear at next year's event. If there are folk who cause engines
& engine owners to be ridiculed, take them aside & retrain them or
remove them.

k. Stick to quality. That doesn't mean even more well restored engines,
just the same as the one in the line-up. It does mean well-presented
variety, wow-factor, interesting exhibits, helpful owners who talk to
the public.

It may well mean showing & valuing well-battered engines whose every
oil patch talks of their history.

It may mean getting the anoraks who spend all their time criticising
minutiae off the rally field, & into special events put on specially
for them, whilst the paying public get on with their version of real
life & decide whether we interest them enough to hang around us .....

If that means 6 interesting engines & owners, so be it. Better than
60 rally ticket engines with attendant tea party goers, of no interest
to the general public who have paid to be entertained.

l. BTW, one of our most popular local displays is a couple of well-worn
Lister D's, permanently on a trailer driving a bench drill & other
workshop material. Pure common-place to old engine hands, but
fascinating & relevant to newcomers to our scene, from whatever
background or age group.

Well, that's cleared out 30 years of frustration ........ Flames expected.
Reply to
Colin Osborne
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No flames here Colin even though I don't share many of your views. Some comments though f. Too many non-running engines. Boot them out instantly if they haven't
That does tie the exhibitor to his engine thus preventing him from seeing the rest of the show. This is not expected of most other types of exhibit, cars, tractors, etc. Engines don't even parade in the ring, now there's a thought.
I have never found the folk at GDSF to be like that. I suppose that when you are just letting thousands of people in, it's easy to become monotonous and impersonal. I stay in the campsite and have always found the attendants helpful, cheerful and courteous.
Everyone will find different things interesting so present a wide variety of engines. Better to have 60 engines then everyone will find something of interest. Got to rush now.
Reply to
John Manders
"Colin Osborne" wrote (snip):-
I have been going to rallies since the late 1960's, initially as a kid with parents showing vintage car or bike. But despite being brought up around old vehicles it was always the stationary engine 'side show' which attracted me most and when I started collecting in my own right it had to be engines.
Me too, apart from one abberation a few years ago I only take engines to club crank ups.
Maybe, but I do enjoy that rusty tat!
Not everbody is a natural showman, I know I'm not. One of the advantages of news groups, email etc is you can be exactly who you want to be - face to face I actually find it rather hard to hold a conversation! But I do love engines and should I choose to rally, I hope a lack of social skills will not preclude me from participating in a fascinating hobby. I really think it is futile to try and *attract* people to any given hobby - the interest is either there of its not. Perhaps we should ask some of our newest recruits what drew them to engines, how about it C C-W et al?
What's a 'bum-butt'? I've seldom seen a rally with so many 'support vehicles' parked on the field as at the GDSF, the engine pen was one of the few areas where you could get a clear uninterupted view of the exhibits.
I have never used so much as a IC engined cement mixer in anger. Mind you when I used to commute round the M25 I did wind down the car windows to listen to the diesel powered flood light sets while crawling through roadworks - how sad is that!
True, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder and a line up composed only of large impressive engines would give a false impression of history (a bit like the listing process for old buildings!)
It's not a competition, if you enjoy rallying do it for that reason and no other- it's supposed to be a hobby!
I like the idea of 'retraining' is a Petterlite attached to the testicles the kind of thing you had in mind? :-}
Definitely, these are always the ones which draw most comment from my wife when she humours me with a walk down the engine line up.
Unless space is at a premium I would go for variety, even some of the apparent entry ticket engines are someones pride and joy.
See, no flames, we're a nice friendly lot here!
Reply to
Nick Highfield
I think this topic may be running out of fuel ( I didn't like to say running out of steam!) , Colin, but here are my comments, for what they are worth.
Firstly, the disclaimers, I don't rally, mostly because of lack of spare time (I keep a small farm as well as a 9-5 job). I am not a member of a club, because of my dislike of politics and being regulated by other people. If I do join a club, it would be to get the insurance and to get to know people with similar interests to mine, not for me the delights of the committee.
I am, however, an avid rally visitor, and think it is marvellous that such a diverse group of people can co-habit so well.
The reason that no great change will take place in the way that engines are shown, is that different people have different motivations for rallying. Some are exhibitionists, some are sociable, some want to get in free with a cheap engine to have a nice day out. Some people have higher standards than others, some people think that flashing lights and animated garden gnome and duck displays are clever and witty. Some, like me, would like to see much more working displays, but are too idle to do it themselves, or are not wealthy or generous enough to buy suitable transport.
Opinions to the tune of we need to do it better, tidier and more interestingly for the punters seem to hold sway here, but I suspect that most, like myself, would not care to be organising the rally, badgering people with better displays to attend, rationing the number of popular engines and causing such offence to old Harry or hurting the feelings of young Herbert.
All in all, I greatly enjoy the rallies I attend, though some are better than others. I think that praise should be given for good information display, or perhaps it could be made a condition of rallying (maybe SEM could make a feature of honouring examples of good displays, by showing photos of them). I think that a maximum number (ten perhaps?) of any sort of engine would help curb the repetitiveness of some engine areas. Some relaxation of that rule might be applicable if the engine was driving some equipment (especially contemporary equipment).
Other than the foregoing I would not impose any more regulations, as, in the final analysis, this is a hobby, and people will only do it if they enjoy it. I don't think I would travel far to see the display of six engines Colin suggests.
No doubt these observations are full of holes, and I will be shot down, but I think the most important thing is that the exhibitors enjoy the rallies, as they, through their clubs, organise them.
Regards, Arthur G
Reply to
Arthur Griffin
Another long post I'm afraid ..........
I appear to have spent the wrong two days in the workshop and missed the fun, but there are two points that have not been addressed.
I most humbly venture to inquire about the ethos of outdoor summer rallies. Whilst new to stationary engine events, I do (as mentioned before in this forum) have some experience of this kind of thing in another context. The same things are required, a designated venue, an area within that venue with 24 hour access to toilets, water, car parking and the site. There must be local shops and/or an on-site café. A pub that serves evening meals within striking distance is a good idea, although not essential.
These arrangements completed, it is then necessary to gather the people together to provide the ?exhibit? for want of a better term. This is done in stationary engine circles on an entirely voluntary basis and arranged by direct marketing to previous exhibitors, adverts in the (very) specialised press and - of course - by word of mouth. No one pays us and we pay all our own quite considerable expenses.
Here's Point One - we do this principally for the opportunity to be in the separate and corporate company of a peripatetic community of like-minded individuals who share a common interest. It is true that run our engines and put them on view for the public, but I?m afraid no-one is going to convince me that this is the primary urge that keeps us in our workshops all winter and in frequently muddy or baking hot fields far from home in the summer.
I have attended various rallies this year as an exhibitor. Whilst far from actively hostile, the exhibitors as a body are not good in their self-appointed roles as docents. Most of them came to see and be seen and to talk to their peers. The public are seen as necessary but are not the real reason for our presence, so the exhibitor, each according to his means and conscience, deals them with on that basis. Having come to this conclusion, my conscience pricks me and I like to have a sign on a stick and preferably photocopies for the onlooker to take away with them. Anyone that stops more than thirty seconds gets spoken to: those that smile and reply get me out of my chair.
And so on to Point Two. Like all tribal communities, we respond to peer group pressure. There are accepted social mores but widely different standards of restoration, different schools of thought about display and signage on site etc etc. But these are not apro pros of the motivation, which is the Being Together. We despise those who pretend to be with us but are not of us, the bringers of lawn mower engines, the absentee exhibitors, the Transit-and-a-caravan-and-a-gazebo extractors of the urine. But we cannot get at them, gentlemen. They are not Here, nor do they, I suspect, read SE Magazine, so they never hear the fuss they cause, but return home, convinced they have Done Their Bit.
Shall we form a deputation at the next rally and present them with a Black Spot? I bet my parrot and my wooden leg we don't! The only thing we can do is to single them out *to the organiser* at each and every event that they attend. Hands up those who think that might make a real difference.
So here we are then, me with my good signs, vanishingly rare engines and pressing photocopies on the public whether they would or no and you with your Branston Pickle-O-Light, complete with a radio that picks up a report that Maefeking has been relieved and a detailed history from its rapturous welcome by Farmer Jones of Whittle-cum-Stick in 1906 to its recent reincarnation from ninety flakes of rust and a plug insulator. I'm impressed, you?re impressed and we stand around inside our Rope of Difference taking each others picture.
Beyond the thin red-and-white line, Joe Public tries to make out just what relationship all this bears to the rarely seen aluminium and plastic whirry thing under his bonnet. ?Petrol and Diesel engines? Nahhh, not the same as mine mate, but steam engines, well, they?m old, aren?t they??
- and they smell nice ...................
Kim Siddorn
Reply to
J K Siddorn
Cor, don't he rite nice! Anyone for a post graduate thesis on the tribal dynamics of engine fanciers and associated rustophiles?
Reply to
Nick Highfield
No flames, Colin, we all have an equal say here as I have already mentioned... :-))
Could it be that the older guys are just plain running out of puff? not necessarily through age but just been around the same hardware/people for too long and need a break?
Other interests also come into play, and when you have a full-time job (not knocking the seven-day weekend guys!) plus work commitments it can be a bit of a problem to keep all the balls in the air.
I have really slowed down this year as we have been so busy with the factory and other work, but the interest is still there, just that the time is so short to do anything.
Often we will get a spare couple of days but will do something totally non-engine just to have a break away from things, not that we get two spare days that often!
The fact that so many large engines are no longer rallied is an indication of the problem, and with the very high prices being charged for a half-decent lump it is no wonder that the youngsters don't want to get into it any more.
I am still not sure of the reasons for the problems you mentioned, I have too much trouble understanding the background to it all to be able to make an informed judgement.
Kind regards,
Peter Forbes Prepair Ltd Luton, UK email: snipped-for-privacy@easynet.co.uk home: snipped-for-privacy@easynet.co.uk
Reply to
Prepair Ltd
Speaker of the truth...
- but at least you've been in the workshop for two days, I haven't been near mine for that many weeks!! although if I did I probably couldn't move anyway..
Mass moving session in two weeks time, we are going to empty the engine tent and take most of it up to the new storage facility at our friend's farm, that should unearth a few goodies :-))
Kind regards,
Peter Forbes Prepair Ltd Luton, UK email: snipped-for-privacy@easynet.co.uk home: snipped-for-privacy@easynet.co.uk
Reply to
Prepair Ltd
Mine weighs close on 12cwt (600kg for the youngsters).I think that's taking body-piercing a bit far......and I'm not even prepared to contemplate the effect of 50vdc ttfn Roland
Reply to
Roland and Celia Craven
"Nick Highfield" wrote
Why thank you sir! One likes to give satisfaction..................
Kim Siddorn
Reply to
J K Siddorn
You taught me one new word Kim. I haven't ever knowingly been taught by a docent before.
-- Dave Croft Warrington England
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Reply to
Dave Croft
Colin, I'll start the ball rolling, at Woburn we never allowed cars near the engines, we stated a minimum of six foot from the fence and six foot apart from each exhibit. Nothing for sale out front but we , the club supplied a stand for items to be sold. The only catch was we, the club, took a cut.
This weekend I am off to a very good, in my opinion, rally and this evening on my way back from Norfolk with my wife and daughter where we have just had a nice day celebrating our wedding anniversary we stopped by the site. I have got to be in position by Friday morning otherwise it will be tight for space. The rally is so popular that there is now a space problem and cars caravans etc will be in the way where ever you turn. I believe that we must now start culling all exhibits to return to a safe layout. An example two years ago at a local rally to me a young lad climbed into a Scammell recovery vehicle and started it and pulled out of the line, with the owners permission, and turned up the hill to take it around the ring. He missed a gear and by the time he had realised that the air brakes were not charged he had rolled backwards down the hill damaged a couple of stationary engines and reduced a caravan to matchwood between the Scammell and a transit. The site is now so tight for space he had no escape route. Fortunately nobody was injured but it wont be long before somebody is and then we shall all own lots of stuff we cant show because HSE will make it impossible to display. and its already happening i.e. risk assessment for steamers.
Reply to
It is unfortunately true that engines do lack "clout". One of our local rallies was losing "steam" so it added a "Truckfest" to boost numbers. It did just that but the "Truckheads" walked past the engine pens as if they weren't there! Engines, by their very nature, are a very "specialised" hobby, you either love them or hate them. I used to love them but grew to hate them for several reasons,one being the public's lack of interest. I havn't been near a rally field since Astle Park last year and frankly don't miss it one bit.I would recommend a break to anyone,it's amazing what there is in the outside world.
Reply to
I think that was the insurance companies that imposed the risk assessment, not the HSE, but I agree in pricipal with what you are saying. In many respects it had to come, especially after the Medina explosion a few years ago.
We have been very lucky over the years with machinery operation and a low level of accidents, let's keep it that way.
-- Peter & Rita Forbes snipped-for-privacy@easynet.co.uk Engine pages for preservation info:
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Reply to
Peter A Forbes
Most of us already have other interests. For me it's cars & motorbikes & motorsport & DIY & etc. I would agree that engines are not everything but they can form part of a wider interest in matters engineering.
Reply to
John Manders
Thanks for all of your comments in response. I recognise the danger of my generalisations, but it's the easiest way to start, although always likely to raise as much heat as light.
Realise I wasn't clear at the start ............
My concern is simple. We're happy with our own engine events, & yard crank-ups to fellow enthusiasts. We only need to please ourselves, & we do that well.
We're at serious risk at steam events & vintage rallies, where we need to please others.
Reason is simple. Organisers are under ever more pressure to boost revenues, whether to donate to charities, to fill their coffers, & not least to pay the insurance man. Organisers need repeat business.
These events have diversified into an ever-wider range of exhibits, & are often under space pressure. When they have that pressure, as business folk the organisers must decide whether to add more trade stands, more jumble, more fairgrounds -- or more vintage items.
It's a straight opportunity cost issue. What attractions will raise more revenue, & if space is tight, what has to go to make room for the new?
All I wanted to do was to highlight issues that organisers have raised with me as reasons why engines are not top of the pile for them -- because they are not top of the pile for many of their paying guests.
We do differ from most other vintage exhibits. Old vehicles have a well-understood history. Steam attracts. Our engines often need explanation. Means that we have to man & run our engines more than most other exhibitors, & happily help the curious.
It's always a chuckle for me when visitors think my Handyman portable is a steam engine, & most are genuinely interested when I explain how it replaced a portable steam engine driving a cider press in 1903, & cost the equivalent of 2 years wages for a farm worker -- & the techies are curious if told it has the fewest components possible in a four stroke.
It would be a huge loss if many more rallies squeeze us out. Whilst I very much enjoy talking to the converted at engine-only events, I contend those events are not the best way forward for recruitment of new blood, though great for those prospects that we ourselves encourage & take to our shows. Suspect most of us who did not grow up with engines in a working context first found our interest sparked at some vintage rally. Let's not lose that opportunity by our own actions.
Thanks for chiming in, & especially to those who have mailed me describing how they rally with the public put first -- long may you be an example!
Reply to
Colin Osborne
Kim, Sorry to hear that you don't like my engines, after all my B&S which I show, was once a on a lawnmower. It is now on a very compact purpose made frame driving an alternator. Unlike a lot (most?) engines, mine was assembled into a useful working unit and has to earn it's keep when the need arises. The BSA gen set also fulfils a useful role when needed. The downside from a show point of view is that neither engine is visually exciting even though both have been restored and look almost as new. I only show at a couple of events each year and am warmly welcomed by those organisers and by other engine owners. I feel that my little engines add some variety to the line up and show that there can be engines other than Listers, Peters, etc. Mine are visually different to the general public as well. I always put out an information sheet for each engine. It's only short but I am always prepared to explain more detail if anyone wants to know. If you decide to honour me with the order of a black spot, please don't stick it on my engines as I have spent quite some time on their paint jobs. I must also admit to another hideous crime I suppose. I don't subscribe to SE. Suitably chastised for my choice of engines, I shall now go and hide in fear of retribution, flames and loads of spots noir.
Reply to
John Manders
"Dave Croft" wrote
'Quae nocent, docent' - A phrase which I think should cover retraining with the aid of a Petterlight!
Reply to
Nick Highfield
12cwt - why the heck is it called a Petter *light* then?
Reply to
Nick Highfield
John, we'll have to leave it to Petter owners to deal out the black spots! :-) Regards, Arthur G
Reply to
Arthur Griffin

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