The time has finally come. I saw many signs for the ‘Kelsall Steam Rally’ during my younger years. I’ve dreamt of a field of steam engines and tractors to walk around. I may have been as young as eight, but this rally is an event I’ve always wanted to get to. So finally, this is the year, and I made it to the Kelsall Steam Rally.
Exhibiting the Fergie
Deciding on what to exhibit was relatively straightforward. My Uncle has asked me in the past to take his Fergie to a show, and this was the perfect opportunity. This 1950 TEA20 has been getting increasingly used over the years, and I was quietly confident it would cope.
The only snag I have is that the tractor is not road registered. It’s also quite a drive from the farm to the showground. I’d probably have to set out on Wednesday to arrive on Saturday. I also don’t have a suitable trailer for the Freelander. It is, I suppose, good fortune that I have one particularly excellent friend who offered to run me over. So loaded up and off we went.
I’m happy to say I was more than a bit anxious when arriving at the show. Will the tractor fit in with the crowd? Will I get lost? Where does the tractor need to be? Do I need to do any sort of registration? How many pedestrians will I have to work my way through? Will it break down? I need not have worried. It’s a very friendly and mindful crowd. The slapping fan belt did an excellent job of letting people know I was there. Finally, the tractor had made it to a show. Whoop!
The Mixed Attractions
The range of attractions at Kelsall is pretty broad. Okay, they’re nearly all automotive-based, but a lot is going on. And with many exhibits being paraded around the show arena, Kelsall is a weirdly dynamic event. In this modern era of static shows on the grounds of Health and Safety, it was nice to see some of the exhibits moving around and mixing quite happily with the visitors.
Perhaps obviously, the draw of the show for me is the tractors. And what a range! Everything from tractors nearly 100 years old to those of just a few years of age. From show tractors to local working tractors and everything in between. If I’m honest with myself, it was more like a shopping trip. I have my eye on a particular future purchase. Seeing models up and down the range has helped dement that decision.
Trucks and Lorrys
The range of commercial vehicles on show is vast. Kelsall is also the ERF annual meet, so they dominate the numbers. Again the range is substantial, from fully restored vintage tractors to brand new work horses. I’m not a fan of modern lorries, but some old vehicles at the show make me want to quit my day job to go and play with these shapely classics.
Steam and Stationary Engines
While I admire steam engines and the people that keep them going, I don’t know much about them. Okay, coal and water go in, and movement comes out. But that’s about it. I know that operating them is undoubtedly a skill, and keeping them on the road is a pure passion. While there were some pretty big engines at the show, I was impressed with how many stationary engines were present. And not to forget the homemade miniature engines.
You are in luck if you like your transport with fewer wheels. Kelsall hosts the attendance of a big range of older bikes. I’m a much bigger fan of older bikes, and this show delivers many of them. I found it pleasing to see so many bikes leaving in groups at the end of the day. The camaraderie of classic bike ownership and exploring the country appeals to me.
Of course, there is quite a collection of vintage cars as well. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to get around them all, but it was quite an eclectic range. Generally, they were family cars you could well imagine driving around Cheshire over the last hundred years. Quite a sight to see.
Miles of exhibits
My phone tells me I walked about 4 miles while at the show, and I can well believe it. There was a massive range of exhibits brought from all over the country. I’m not sure I could ever describe them all, but suffice to say, if you like anything with an engine, you will enjoy the event.
One of the requirements for entering the show was to parade the exhibit. I’ve never done anything quite like this before. It was a mix of sheer panic and exhilaration. The panic was mainly in fear of riding the tractor into a pedestrian or another vehicle. Exhilaration came from finally getting the tractor to a show and taking it for a parade. A long time coming.
The initial drive to and a parade of the show arena went reasonably well. A lot of waving to little children brought a smile to their faces. A few pauses in the journey allowed me to chat with would-be Fergie owners. It’s a slow journey, never breaking five mph, so easy enough to manage, even with my tractor driving skills.
All in the field and lined up. With bright and sunny weather. It was quite idyllic. Also, an excellent opportunity to chat with some other owners of all brands. Rather than burning up a month’s wages worth of petrol, I did turn the tractor off, which might have been a mistake.
When we came to leave the field, the 1950 TEA20 Fergie didn’t want to know. Plenty of fuel in the carb, spinning over quite happily, but it wouldn’t start. I suspected a lack of spark and found the coil was incredibly hot upon investigation. I’m not great with older petrol engines, but even I know this isn’t a good sign.
Unfortunately, my trip to the showground ended in a tow of shame. Amazingly there were very few tractors with a tow rope in them. So a make-do was arranged with a 1″ ratchet strap that did the job. A lovely chap from Malpas Tractors towed me back behind his Ford tractor. Watching the back of this tractor gives me another reason to get one!
Returning to Kelsall
The return journey was uneventful. Walking all the showground and trade stalls, I couldn’t find a replacement coil. However, once the ignition coil had cooled, the tractor started just fine, and I drove around to the loading field to await my taxi ride home. I took the time while waiting to order a new coil and a toolbox for the storage of some essentials!
Despite the suboptimal ending to my first tractor parade, I can’t wait to go back again. Next year I will definitely camp over, and I suspect we might take more than a trailer load of vehicles. If I get my way, maybe I’ll tow the Fergie behind a lovely blue Ford 4000 series tractor.