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Yorkshire engine with history down under to make debut at Tractor Fest

A rare vintage gas engine built in Yorkshire and exported to Australia more than 100 years ago will go on show at this year’s Tractor Fest.

The ‘Imperial Pitt’ engine was manufactured in Keighley in 1916 and shipped down under when it was brand new. It was built by the Keighley Gas & Oil Engine Company at its Imperial Works in the town.

An agent’s plate on the engine is from an Australian company. A similar petrol version carrying the same agent’s plate is also known to be in the UK. It is possible that they were both shipped out to Australia at the same time as they are less than 20 numbers apart.

Now owned by Hull-based engine collector Andy Milestone, the vintage engine will be among an exhibition of engines which are 100 years old or more. More than 135 such engines have so far been entered for Tractor Fest which takes place at Newby Hall, North Yorkshire in June over the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee weekend.

Andy, a retired engineer, has owned the Imperial Pitt engine for almost a year after it was offered to him by another collector. It is the latest addition to an 80-strong collection of engines owned by him and his sons Mike and James.

Andy said:

I’ve recently visited the Bradford archives to find out as much as I can about the engine and its manufacturer. It was built around 1916 and would have gone straight to Australia. I think it was brought back to the UK 16 to 20 years ago and was owned by three people before me.

The Imperial Pitt was a working engine and would have been used to drive equipment on farms or workshop equipment in industrial premises. It uses a gas burner to heat the hot tube ignition and also gas as the fuel to power the engine.

The drive to the driven equipment would be by a flat belt. Today an electric motor and Vee belts would be used.

Andy has refurbished some parts of the engine including fitting a new cooling tank and exhaust system.

Andy said:

I’ve been an engine collector for more than 50 years and I’m pleased to be taking it to Tractor Fest along with three more of our engines which date from 1905 to 1912.

Tractor Fest is the UK’s largest tractor and stationary engine festival and takes place at award-winning country house and gardens Newby Hall, North Yorkshire. (Friday 3 June to Sunday 5 June).

The event will showcase thousands of vintage tractors and modern marques, stationary engines, commercial vehicles, cars, lorries and motorcycles.

In celebration of the Platinum Jubilee, this year’s festival will feature a display of 70-year-old Jubilee and Coronation vintage tractors as well as exhibitions celebrating 100 pre-1922 vintage tractors, 100 century-old stationary engines and 100 years of the Austin 7 car.

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