A remarkable piece of the Wairarapa’s history made a trip home in February after a 60-year absence.
For almost three decades, the Foden Steam Wagon was a familiar sight in the Wairarapa. The six ton, C-type wagon with a four and a half nominal horse power compound engine was often seen carrying metal for roads, firewood for families and wool from the farm to the railway station. It was cheap to run especially when coal was three shillings and six pence a hundredweight. It was last seen in the region in 1954 when it was driven in the “Parade of the Ages” during Masterton’s Centennial by owner Jack McLachlan while 17-year-old Rod Griffith acted as stoker. After that, it left Masterton when it was sold to Mr Giltrap in 1958.
But in February 2018, the completely restored, bright yellow steam wagon starred at the Wairarapa Vintage Machinery Club’s Harvest Rally, a fun, family-friendly event held every four years.
Allan Familton, the Foden’s owner, says, “Those of a certain generation may remember seeing this when it was based out of Cornwall Street in Masterton between 1925 to 1958, and may even have photos of it at street parades. It’s the only working one of its type in New Zealand.”
Allan, a steam engine enthusiast based in Rolleston, knows the Foden’s history intimately. He says it was manufactured by Edwin Foden-Sons & Co, of Elworth Works, Sandbach in England and imported by John McLachlan in 1925. For almost 30 years, it was based in Masterton before being sold for 400 pounds to George Gilltrap, who ran a museum in Rotorua. The Gilltrap’s Museum later shifted to Australia and during this time the Foden was extensively rebuilt, and painted yellow. In 2013 the wagon was put up for sale just when Allan had begun to seek it out.
“I was always was interested in getting my hands on it as I think it was one of 10 that came to New Zealand and had a rich history. By a strange stroke of luck it came up in an auction in Australia when I was looking for it, so I brought it.”
He has carried out further mechanical restoration, making it more like it was when it came out of the works in England.
“Only people who have been to England or Australia would have seen one of these running so to have it at the Wairarapa Vintage Harvest Rally is so special,” says Allan.
Mike Slater, vice-president of the Wairarapa Vintage Machinery Club and convenor of the Harvest Rally, says the two-day event celebrates yester-year attracts people from all around New Zealand.
Wairarapa Vintage Machinery Club’s Harvest Rally, Clareville Showgrounds, 3-4 Feb