Next year Morris Lubricants will be celebrating their 150th Anniversary. To mark this momentous occasion They are embarking on a project to build a steam traction engine, but not just any engine oh no! It's building a Fowler B6 Big Lion Locomotive Talisman engine!
Morris is a fifth generation family company steeped in history and tradition, it is one of the largest privately-owned manufacturers of high quality lubricants in Europe, and it has a global reputation for delivering the highest of quality products. Its International reputation is underpinned by its unwavering focus on continual investment in product development to deliver the most demanding of applications and there is none more demanding than the Talisman Project.
Alex Sharphouse who is a friend and customer of Morris had a dream, and that dream was to own a Talisman engine, a pipe dream some may say but Alex has been dreaming about this since he was a boy, however, it wasn’t until Charlotte, his wife, got so fed up with him asking for a Talisman every Christmas she said “why don’t you build your own?” Many a thing has been said in jest but this little comment sparked the imagination of Alex and he set about the task.
The original Talisman was built by John Fowler & Co., in 1926, there were 5 made in total for the famous road haulage company Norman E.Box in Manchester. These monster engines were used to move heavy goods in the early part of the 20th century and carried loads in excess of 100 tonnes across the country including, it’s rumoured, parts for the Titanic and huge Lancashire boilers, whether this is true or not remains to be seen but the fire had been stoked and Alex was on a mission.
After much investigation on Alex’s part he found out that John Fowler & Co (Leeds) Ltd, one of the leading manufacturers of steam traction engines throughout the 1800s and 1900s was up for sale so he thought “why not?” and bought the company. This meant he acquired all the original drawings for all the steam traction engines and fortuitously the drawings for his dream engine, the Talisman.
John Fowler was an agricultural engineer and inventor who was born in Wiltshire in 1826. He worked on the mechanisation of agriculture and was based in Leeds. He is credited with inventing the steam-driven ploughing engines. After his death in 1864, John Fowler & Co., was then continued by Robert Fowler and Robert Eddision. In 1886 the limited company of John Fowler was formed. The company built eight road going B6 Type Engines, Atlas, Vulcan. Talisman, Ajax, Titan, Despatch, Kitchener and Jix. Sadly it has all gone the way of the Dodo, until now that is.
Alex grew up idolising Fred Dibnah, for those who are too young to remember Fred, he was an English steeplejack and television personality with a passion for mechanical engineering, coincidentally Fred’s sons Jack and Roger now work with Alex and the three of them make up the Talisman team.
So building a steam engine, where do you start? This is not just a case of popping down to your local garage and ordering the parts these have to be made from scratch using the drawings that Alex obtained from John Fowler.
This is an unbelievable task to undertake and a massive project! Many of the skills needed to make this type of engine have been lost and Alex, Jack and Roger have had to do a lot of research and learning on the job to enable them to start this build.
Alex who owns Old hall Farm in Cumbria has his own workshop where he and the team have pored over drawings, built dies for casting and machined parts to put this beautiful engine back together.
Some original parts were discovered in a secure location in Dorset and with the help of Morris have been purchased and used on the build. Another great feature is the original number plate found and purchased by Alex so the Talisman is now road legal with the DVLA so he can pop down the shops for milk in it once it’s been built.
To coincide with the 150th birthday celebrations Morris plans to take Talisman on a journey to mark this significant anniversary and bring together all the things that Morris hold dear, manufacturing, family, innovation and British heritage.
Morris has invited Guy Martin to join the team in the manufacture of the engine and so far he has helped with the riveting of wheels and with the casting of the cylinder block, he will also be hopping on to the plate and driving the engine for part of the journey.
The plan is to start from Alex’s farm as the brand new and shiny engine rolls out of the yard and makes its way to Leeds where John Fowler Engines were originally made and link up with some other traction engines to start the tour. It will then make its way across country linking up with companies who have helped us build this magnificent engine. This part of the journey will highlight the British manufacturing industry that is still thriving in UK. The tour will also be calling in on some Morris customers on the way to say “Hello”.
During this journey the Talisman will have its strength put to the test. As originally these engines used to pull weights of up to 100 tons. So to show its muscle the engine will be pulling a Lancashire Boiler. Which is one of the items it would have pulled back in the 1920’s
The final leg of the journey will culminate at the head office in Shrewsbury where there will be celebrations a plenty as the journey comes to an end.
A film crew will be following the progress of the manufacture and journey as well as a huge online presence from the start to the finish. It will also have a dedicated page on the website following all the highs and lows as well as regular daily and weekly updates on the progression. The social media accounts will be awash with news as well as joining up with local TV and radio on its journey across the UK.
The official launch will take place at the Classic Car Show at the NEC, Birmingham 9-11 November, 2018.