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Digger visits vintage excavators at Threlkeld (Part One)

During a recent visit to Cumbria for Earthmovers Magazine, I took the opportunity to visit the Vintage Excavator Trust at the Threlkeld Quarry and Mining Museum in the beautiful surroundings of the Cumbrian countryside.

Threlkeld is one of those places I have always wanted to visit, but living as far down in the West Country as I do, it’s a bit of a trek to say the least! However when I was invited to attend the Taylor and Braithwaite working demo day event, which was being held in Kendal, I figured it would be ideal to combine a visit to the famous quarry too.

It was a damp drizzly day when I made the 50 minute trip on from Kendal towards the Keswick area, but that was not going to spoil my enthusiasm for what I was about to see and my £3 entry fee was the best value for money I have ever had!

The Vintage Excavator Trust itself was formed in 1999. The organization is headed by Ian Hartland who is the current Chairman and whom I was fortunate enough to meet on the day of my visit. There are now well over 550 VET members, all of whom share a deep rooted passion for the preservation and rebuilding of old excavators and cranes from our earthmoving heritage. Some of the machines which now reside at Threlkeld, of which there are over 80, are stunning and a real credit to their owners. Many others quite frankly do look like they have seen better days, but in all fairness to them, are in the early stages of preservation.

I was one of possibly a handful of visitors on the day and I must say it was a mystical experience wandering around some of these classic machines in an almost eerie total silence. There was also that “smell” of old machines, a kind of combination of grease, oil and diesel that I am sure any plant man can relate too!

Most of the photos in this post were taken on the approach up to the main quarry in an area that is heavy with machines from Priestman and Ruston Bucyrus. The most notable machines in this area were the 3 models of Priestman’s Cub V, one in crane/dragline configuration, one in backhoe and one in face shovel guise. The Cub V was first launched at the Public Works Exhibition in London in 1956 where believe it or not it was something of a star attraction. This machine could be purchased for the princely sum of just £2,600 and apparently 56 orders were taken on the stand during the course of the show!

Could you imagine some of today's operators getting into the cab of something like this, no air-con, radio or bluetooth connection in this operator station. I think many, myself included, would spit the dummy out within about 10 minutes!

Threlkeld is a must for anyone with a serious interest in plant and machinery. I am sure we all like the modern kit we operate these days, but it really is something else to see the kind of machines our fathers and grandfathers used to operate on a daily basis back in the day.

I took many photos during my visit and I will bring you more in a series of blogs over the coming weeks here on the Digger Man Blog.

 

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