Sunday, 19 August 2012

In a roundabout way

Every Summer there’s a steam and traction engine rally event just down the road.  It’s quite a sight as they trundle by, even though our windows rattle worryingly and the walls creak with the vibrations.  The other day one on its own clattered past – painted in red and gold and looking very fancy.  The words on it caught my eye the most:


I had a vision of a fantastic race in which riderless silver stallions with thick, swishing tails compete against giant peacocks, perhaps with jockeys perched high on their backs shaking multicoloured reins.  A quick check on Google dismissed this far-fetched concept (sadly) although I still liked what I found out and maybe it wasn’t so distant from what I’d imagined. 

From his humble roots making farm machinery in the late 1800s, Norfolk-born Frederick Savage went on to develop traction engines and then used his flair and expertise to revolutionise and manufacture fairground equipment.  This included steam-powered galloping horses - and yes, racing peacocks - for carousels.  He didn’t stop there; he also manufactured Jumping Cats, Flying Pigs and Giant Cockerels and Ostriches.  All of these variations were known simply as ‘Gallopers’.  (Ah, I want to change my profession!   I wonder how easy it would be to make and paint fantastical creatures for merry-go-rounds…)

On another note, they may not be racing around on a merry-go-round but I've also been delighted to see peacocks of a different kind in the garden at last.  Peacock butterflies have made a welcome appearance again after what seems to have been a dearth of flying beings this Summer.  Along with the now abundant Red Admirals, their hues and patterns are as rich and vivid as any roundabout models.  It's not difficult to imagine tiny passengers on their furry backs, clinging on as these colourfully winged creatures take them on heart-stopping flights that would far exceed the thrills of any fairground ride.  Although... I do rather like the thought of riding on a steam-powered Flying Pig.

The Hollies: On A Carousel
(and what a nice quality clip for this great song)


  1. I bet you'd be good at that. Somebody has to still be making them and if they're being made they need to be designed.

    A winged slug.

    I love the little guitar wiggle in the chorus of that song.

  2. You can't beat a beautiful old fairground roundabout. Great tune choice to go with the post, too! Butterflies? What are they???

  3. Thank you and I'll keep my eyes open for that job, e.f. - winged slugs and multicoloured snails could be my forte!

    Yes, I love those old fairground designs - the lettering especially, plus the ornate patterns and the colour schemes. So sorry to know you've no butterflies there, SB. I was ridiculously pleased to see them here at last.

  4. Our village has a similar annual rally which took place about three weeks ago. Luckily the majority of the arriving engines came from the direction of the main road so we only heard them in the distance. We do have one local enthusiast living further down our lane, however. I'd seen his modest collection under tarpaulin in his field over the winter and a couple of his smaller engines have trundled by on occasion, but three weeks ago he broke out the big guns.

    On the morning of the rally as I sat upstairs at my computer I became aware of an approaching noise which steadily increased and began to shake the windows, doors, foundations and fillings in my teeth. For a moment I thought a helicopter was landing on the roof. It was a massive vintage steamroller passing virtually at eye-level as I looked out the first floor window! It was an impressive beast for sure.

    In the evening I was ready with my camera to record the return journey from the window upstairs. It was hard to get a good shot as I was bounced around the room with the vibration, but I did note, with amazement, that a boy was doing the steering while his father stoked the boiler! The next generation of enthusiasts is clearly here already, so I guess the foundations will be rattling for a good few years yet!

  5. Sounds like a wonderful array of slightly insane-looking machines there. Sometimes it's so good to cast aside minimalism, and just indulge in sheer garish giganticism, no?

  6. Great story, The Swede - nice to know that you too understand the intensity of those vibrations! I do rather like the triumphant little "toot tooooot" noise they do every so often though!

    I agree, Kolley - and yes they are a bit insane-looking, which is no bad thing.


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