Archive from Tuesday 7 October 2008
As has been previously written David Napier sailed from Leith on the Firth of Forth to London in 1808 and set up his precision engineering company. The weekend of the 21st and 22nd June 2008 was the occasion of the main bi-centenary celebration of the formation of the Company that eventually came to be known as D Napier & Son. The Napier Power Heritage Trust wanted this event to be a celebration of all aspects of the Company’s achievements. In addition it was intended as a chance for Napierans (as ex-employees of the Company are widely known) to get together and those interested to learn something about the Company.
The main exhibits at the event included vehicles including our very own D9009 Alycidon which departed from Barrow Hill by road on the 19th, spent the night at Leicester Forest East services, and proceeded to Quainton on the Friday. On entering the site one of the tyres on the Allelys trailer carrying our locomotive rode up on a kerbstone and ‘exploded’. However the trailer was able to move on and in due course Alycidon reached terra-firma once again. The loco ran throughout the weekend on the short demonstration line giving Napierans the chance of hearing one of their greatest products running once again. Visitors were also given the opportunity of visiting the engine room and seeing a Deltic engine in situ. There were three full size engines on display that weekend. The third was the Trust’s CT18-42K engine, the most powerful Deltic put into production. In due course this engine will be moved and put on display in the Anson Engine Museum, Poynton; that is unless the DPS has the desire, ability and space to fit it in the Depot!
Whilst the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre could never be seen as an ideal location to see a Deltic locomotive perform it was the ideal place to bring together the different products of D Napier & Son. On show within the excellently reconstructed Rewley Road railway station building the Trust had a display of wide range of Napier ephemera. A display ‘in the Napier Drawing Office’ included original drawing boards from the Company along with various drawings as well as many tools and equipment that were used to manufacture and test Napier products.
The BRC Cinema Coach had various archive Napier films playing including, of course, ‘The Triangle of Power’ and ‘The Deltic Story’. Of great interest was a Napier timeline exhibition showing the various achievements of the Company over the last 200 years. This exhibit will also be on display in the Museum of Lincolnshire Life (2nd Aug – 28th Sept), DPS Finsbury Park event before going on display at The Anson Engine Museum, Poynton. Also on show was the newly restored Acton Works clock which is destined for the DPS Depot where it should in working order. Larger exhibits within the station included a beautifully preserved Napier Lion engine out of a Schneider Trophy winning aircraft courtesy of Solent Sky Museum, Southampton. The Rolls Royce Heritage Trust (Coventry Branch) was also generous in making various Napier items available. This included a Napier Sabre and newly restored Napier Eland engine from Rolls Royce, Hucknall. Also on show were three Napier rocket engines; a double and triple Scorpion along with a rocket motor from a ‘Red Shoes’ missile. Along with these large exhibits were smaller items including various components from Deltic engines. Clennel Tomlinson’s beautiful model Deltic engine sat alongside Alan Vessey’s Nimbus loco.
It is worth bearing on mind that the last such similar event was held in 1958 when the Company was at the pinnacle of its existence. On that occasion the Company had an exhibition in the centre of London which included a cavalcade of Napier vehicles which ended up displayed in Regents Park whilst the great and the good dined in Pall Mall. Fifty years later the same thing occurred and with similar elegance when no less than eight Napier cars and the one and only Napier Railton visited the Buckinghamshire Railway Centre.
On the Saturday a rally was organized in conjunction with the VCC. Seven of the Napiers along with half a dozen other vehicles left the BRC to embark on a circuitous journey to Waddesdon Manor, one of the many Rothschilds homes stuffed with priceless art. On arrival all the Napiers were parked in a semicircle in front of the Manor on the gravel driveway and visitors. With their vehicles all looking very much at home the drivers and their passengers enjoyed a Pimms in the grounds courtesy of the Trust. On both days the Napier Railton ran around the BRC car park and sounded magnificent. It was also displayed alongside our Deltic and other Napier cars making a fabulous backdrop for all attending ex-Napier staff to be photographed together. Another vehicle on display was a 1935 built Scammell mechanical horse; these vehicles were originally designed by Napier who sold the rights to Scammel for a mere £4000.
During the event NPHT organisers were recognised by the fact they wore white overalls. This was in the tradition that Napier service engineers generally wore white; a bit difficult when you consider how dirty an engine room can be! Those that visited the event had the opportunity to learn more about D Napier & Son and its products as well as being able to meet many of the people who designed, manufactured, installed and maintained Napier’s products. This opportunity has now passed as it is unlikely that such a gathering will ever occur again.
The Trust was very grateful that a DPS locomotive was available to be on display during this weekend. The Deltic returned to Barrow Hill on the following Monday travelling up the M1 without incident other than many, many turned heads.
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