Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Deep in my past...

... I sometimes wonder how I got into restoring a steam loco in this day and age. There is, however, a clue from my family history.

My paternal grandfather, H. Albert Chapman, was at one time employed by W. H. Yeatman and sons Ltd of Poole, Dorset, England. Amongst his duties at the time was delivery of goods using the company's 'van' or, as appropriate to the 1920s, the Steam Wagon!

The wagon was a Garrett overtype and is listed in the comprehensive volume: Garrett Wagons, part 1, Pioneers & Overtypes by R. A. Whitehead (ISBN 0-9508298-5-4).

Stoker 'Tubby' Hibbs and Driver H Albert Chapman with BJ-1882
(Picture courtesy G M Chapman, date & location unknown)
The specification of the wagon was as follows:

  • Garrett works number 31925
  • Factory despatched 8th December 1913
  • 3-tonner
  • Superheated
  • Piston valved
  • Non-tipper
  • Fixed sides
  • Hinged ends
  • Cast steel wheels
  • Rubber tyres
'Tubby' Hibbs and H Albert Chapman (seated) with BJ-1882
(Picture courtesy G M Chapman, date & location unknown)
I know nothing of 'Tubby' Hibbs from the pictures or his family. My grandfather lived his final 30 years with Disseminated Sclerosis. Undaunted by the affliction, he continued to work from his wheel-chair in his backyard workshop sharpening saws, mowers, shears and anything else that was blunt using mainly tools that he'd made himself! He died in 1975 at 84.

W. H. Yeatman & Sons Ltd, I have been stunned to find, still exist in Poole although their business has somewhat digressed from its activities 100 years ago.

There is an old family tale that H Albert Chapman was the first person ever to motorise a straw baler by mounting it on the back of an old Morris car chassis and driving the baler mechanism with a belt and pulleys from the prop-shaft. It was never patented but my dad went on to become a patent agent. I wonder if he was conscious of a connection!

So, with that lot in my past, I guess it was inevitable that H Albert Chapman's heritage was going to find me out one day and Sentinel 7109 just happened to be there at the right time!

After I first posted this article, I was telephoned by Anthony Yeatman who was very pleased to see the photos again and for the reference to his company. He explained that  W H Yeatman & sons Ltd is one of the country's oldest companies still run by its original family owners.

Meanwhile, G M Chapman, daughter of H Albert Chapman, my aunt and supplier of the photos, started to dig in her cupboards for any other related photos and came up with these two.
Tubby Hibbs (left) and H Albert Chapman (right) foreground
(Picture courtesy G M Chapman, date & location unknown)
And before the steam lorry...
(Picture courtesy G M Chapman, date & location unknown)
I had to work hard digitally with the original pictures to make them presentable. Hope you agree it was worth the effort.


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