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Scammell 3-wheel Mechanical Horse RSL 732

This three ton Scammell Mechanical Horse was never in railway company ownership, instead it served in the Army as No. 08 RD 17. It was built by Scammell's, supplied to the Ministry of Defence on 8th August 1944, and was always very well maintained whilst in the Army. Its service life ended in 1967, when it was sold by auction in February at the Ministry of Defence Depot at Ruddington, and passed into the hands of a scrap dealer. From there it was acquired for restoration.

After many years of standing out in all weathers the horse's engine was checked over, and was started without too much trouble. The horse was driven to Dunstable, where it was stored at a private house, then moving another house in Acton, before being moved to Quainton. The engine was in good condition having completed a mileage of only 9500. The engine is a scammel four cylinder, 10 horse power, side valve unit which was decoked and overhauled. The tractor has two cable brakes on the rear wheels as well as two handbrakes fitted to the two axles, thus giving a variety of methods of making brake applications. The speedometer takes the form of a Geeson meter which is a light which flickers at speeds varying with the speed of the vehicle. A timed trial during its time at Quainton found the tractor had a top speed of 32mph, compared to the 20 - 25mph recommended.

This fascinating three-wheeler is an excellent example of the rather odd looking but flexible form of road transport widely used by many railway companies in the pre-war period and for a short period post war. When they were attached to a trailer their ability to "turn on a six-pence" made them ideal for town delivery work for the parcels and other small items carried by rail to depots, and then delivered by road to customers. These were once a frequent sight bustling around our city streets and nipping in and out of the traffic with great dexterity. Their distinctive railway company liveries made them mobile advertisements and their loads of packages, boxes and such items as day old chicks, wrapped plants and shrubs, reminded the public that the railway carried all manner of sundries in their parcels trains and "pick-up" goods services.

When at Quainton it was painted in GW&GC livery to be more in keeping with railway use. The livery of dark blue is that which was carried by delivery lorries working from the High Wycombe to Harrow Joint Line stations. Whilst at Quainton it carried the registration KLE988N. It was undoubtedly the only GW&GC liveried vehicle that received a MOT test.

A flat trailer was purchased separately from a NCL depot in North London. It was one of the last of its kind and was made in 1958 for the Eastern Region. It was in immaculate condition, MOT tested and was delivered to Quainton with the help of some Stour Valley RPS members.

The horse had a chequered life after leaving Quainton. Its first owner after leaving Quainton was declared bankrupt, and so it moved around for awhile. It was in a dismal condition when the present owner, one time Chairman of the Mechanical Horse Club of Great Britain, bought it at a sale in Hull and he has worked hard to renovate it. It has been rebuilt and repainted in Railway Livery and the new registration is RSL 732 and now resides in Keighley West Yorkshire. It has been pictured on the Mechanical Horse Club of Great Britain's website, though is not currently available.

Quainton News No. 22 - Winter 1974
Quainton News No. 23 - Spring 1975
Quainton's Horse - Quainton News No. 25 - Autumn 1975

Origin :- Army Date Built :- 1941 Number :- Army 08 RD 17
Reg RSL 732
Type :- Mechanical Horse Builder :- Scammell Wheelbase :- -

Text © Quainton Railway Society / Photographs © Quainton Railway Society or referenced photographer
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Page Updated: 05 October 2017