Steam traction: A Garrett from the ground up
By: Alan Barnes
Once again proving that something beautiful can be constructed from just a few remaining parts, Alan Barnes brings the story of the Worbey family’s just-rebuilt Garrett overtype steam wagon No 30826 of 1912 – reconstructed from a surviving chassis, rear axle and some lucky finds.
For reasons which are now probably lost in the mists of time, a German catalogue for Garrett Steam Wagons contained a picture of one of its three-ton overtype wagons which had been photographed in the Norfolk village of Earsham. The photograph shows the wagon carrying the livery of Charles Marston and is seen leaving Earsham Mill with the village church in the background.
Very few of the steam wagons built by Richard Garrett & Sons Ltd survived into preservation so it is quite remarkable that parts of the Marston wagon survived, and having now been fully reconstructed, it returned once again to Earsham Church nearly 100 years later.
TEN YEAR PROJECT
For Paul Worbey and his family the return of the restored Garrett steam wagon to the community where it worked for many years marked the successful culmination of a 10-year project to rebuild the wagon from the few remaining parts.
The decision to bring the wagon back to its old haunts had been made when the project was still in its infancy. It had been the discovery of the picture of the wagon outside the mill at Earsham and also a second picture showing Earsham Church in the background that had prompted the thoughts of a return visit. That return took place on Saturday, May 26 – the centenary year for the Garrett and the tenth anniversary of the start of the rebuild.
RETURN TO EARSHAM
Since the picture used in the Garrett advertising was taken there have obviously been some changes to the area around the mill and the church. Earsham Mill itself is sadly derelict and part of the surrounding area is now part of an aquatic and garden centre. The mill building in one of the black and white photographs is long gone and a recreation of that image no longer possible.
However, the scene with Earsham Church in the background was possible, although some modifications had been made to the church building with the addition of a more recent annexe. A large fence, a signpost and rather inconvenient telegraph pole on the opposite side of the approach road occupied the place where the photographer had stood for the original photograph, but with a little patient manoeuvring the Garrett was eventually positioned for our ‘snaps’.
Paul and Mark Worbey, suitably dressed for the occasion, filled the roles of driver and fireman which in the original picture are believed to have been driver George Wilby and fireman Jack Mayhew.
The wagon built as No 30826 was the eighth out of a total of 147 three-ton overtypes to be built at the Leiston works. The records in the Garrett order books show that the wagon was listed as delivered on June 4, 1912 and appears to have been driven from the works to Bungay.
The new wagon had been ordered by Charles Marston who owned three mills – the one at Bungay, a second at Earsham and a third at Harleston. The price of the Garrett was given as £500, although a 10% discount would apply if the account was paid within 30 days. There was also a note on the invoice of an additional charge of £100 for the wagon to be fitted with rubber tyres. The order noted that Garrett would also supply a driver for training purposes “Driver to start for two weeks, Marston to find him board and lodgings.”
In September 1918 the wagon was returned to Garrett’s engine stores for an upgrade – during which new hind wheels, new hind axle, new brake drum and dust covers were fitted. The upgrade also included additional work on the bearings and there was a note in the records that the “Old wheels to be sent here for old rubber tyres to be removed and fitted to new wheels as above.”
Charles Marston had bought Bungay Watermill in the early 1870s and it is on record that he was very particular about the upkeep of the premises, insisting that the mill site be kept weed-free and that the corrugated iron roof on the mill was to be painted in red ochre once every five years.
In 1900 Mr Marston acquired the watermill at nearby Earsham for which he paid £1500 and later, in 1909, he bought the Harleston Steam Mill for £600. Until 1912 and the purchase of the first steam wagon the business had relied on the use of horse and cart to move the loads of bagged flour. Mr Marston must have been satisfied with the performance of the Garrett because in October 1914 he bought a second wagon, a five-ton overtype No 32504, which was registered BJ 2313. The fate of this second wagon has yet to be established but unlike the first Garrett, which was painted green and red, the livery of the second wagon is recorded as being orange chrome with red underworks and wheels.
Charles Marston unfortunately suffered an accident and developed a gangrene infection which resulted in the amputation of the infected leg. This operation was apparently carried out at his home upon the kitchen table and the leg was then buried under an apple tree in the mill house garden next to the Bungay watermill.
He died in 1919 and the business was taken over by his son Charles Candace Marston. It would appear that at least another two of his sons were also millers – Alfred Thomas Marston working for a time at Bungay and Earsham while Carlos Marston worked for the Parker Brothers at Barton Mills in Suffolk. Carlos went on to purchase the watermill at Icklingham which continues to be run by the Marston family to this day.
Charles Candace Marston continued his father’s business and became a very successful miller in his own right, winning The Miller Silver Challenge Cup in 1923. Not long after he took over the business the steam wagons were sold and in 1920 the three-ton overtype was sold through Garrett’s agents George Thurlow of Stowmarket.
The wagon was bought by George Cooper & Sons of Hawkes mill at Needham Market but the following year it changed hands once again and was acquired by Robert Gray, a showman from Ipswich. In 1924 it was sold again and went to William Stringer & Co, a firm of motor and agricultural engineers at Surrey Street, Norwich, and it also acquired Garrett 4CD No 32335 at around the same time.
In 1925 the wagon was sold to the Taylor Brothers at Wimbish, Essex, who were the last commercial owners of the Garrett which was used to cart loads of sugar beet and roadstone and other more general haulage. The wagon, which was usually driven by George Swann, remained in use for several years until it was partially scrapped at some time in the mid to late 1930s.
The chassis and the rear axle assembly were used to support part of a shed and this is probably the only reason why the parts survived.
In 1975 Ken Frost of Swardeston, Norwich, bought the wagon for restoration but the project never really started and eventually the remains of the Garrett passed to Pat Jenkins in Swansea. In September 2002 the Worbey family viewed the surviving parts at Preston Services, although at this time they were still in the ownership of Pat Jenkins. While any restoration would be a lengthy and also costly project the family received much encouragement from the late John Bush and in October 2002 the remains of the Garrett were brought to the Worbey family home in Bedfordshire.
Faced with little more than a pile of scrap it would have been an easy decision to walk away from the project and it is a testament to the vision of Paul and his family, combined with the invaluable help from the many people who would eventually become involved with the project, that the Garrett was successfully rebuilt. However it would be some 10 years before the wagon would return to steam and during that time and very much to everyone’s surprise more original parts of the wagon would be discovered.
As Mark explained: “We made a number of appeals via the Traction Talk website and the preservation press and one of these appeals led Colin Knight from Dorset to contact us. At the Eastwood sale, which I think was in the late 1980s, Colin had purchased a couple of pallets of casting patterns and believed that some of them were possibly for a Garrett wagon. We arranged a visit and among the collection of parts we found several useable patterns including the trunk guides.”
“We also found one of the original boiler clack valves in the engine stores at Wimbish and it was through the Wimbish yard that we were also able to locate the original smokebox door ring and superheater plate. At the 2008 Strumpshaw rally we discovered that the wagon itself had been dismantled by the late John Downs and thanks to his son David we were re-united with the original chimney top which had actually adorned the top of the family’s Gallopers for many years.
“Duncan Marston, the great-grandson of Charles Marston, has become a great friend of the family and it was his low loader which was used to bring the wagon back to Earsham in May. For many years he had kept the original toolbox which had been fitted to the side of the chassis. This toolbox had been discovered at the Wimbish yard some years ago and had been given to Duncan who kindly gave it to us to be fitted back in its rightful place during the later stages of the rebuild. One side of the toolbox has been left untouched as it shows one of the earlier liveries complete with the remains of the lining.”
The details of the 10 year rebuild project will be covered in the next part of the Garrett’s story, but in the meantime I’d like to express my thanks to Paul, Mark and the Worbey family for their kind invitation to attend the wagon’s ‘Return to Earsham’.
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