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  • Nigel Gamble

Horse Power Rally 2018

Updated: Mar 10, 2020

So, if like me the few weeks building up to the event will have been very busy for you. Club members and enthusiasts alike will have been flat out getting their machinery ready, to bring along to display at the Rally.

The monday and Saturday afternoon crews put a lot of effort into getting tractors cleaned and polished up, making improvements to the steam trailer and getting the wooden mill ready for the threshing demonstration. The traction engine crew put in same late nights, painting the front end of the No1 Fowler and carrying out some minor repairs and improvements. The truck crew were also kept busy polishing trucks, and making sure that the beautifully restored old rigs were good to show off at Phar Lap.

Behind the scenes the Rally committee and section conveners were kept on their toes, insuring that everything was in place and ready for the weekend. At times it must have felt as though there was no end to the work required, in organising such an event like this. But as the weeks flew by and meetings came and went, slowly things began to fall into place. One of the biggest difficulties encountered by the committee being, the propensity of people sending in their entry forms at the last minute. In fact, a large number of entries were received just two days out from the event, making it very hard to know how many exhibits were likely to arrive at the Rally field- and how much room would be required to set out the displays around the main track area.

Bruce Anderson can be seen here preparing the Barwood Motors Commer for the weekend.

As the set up day drew closer, preparations began to ramp up, site meetings were held and the lay out of the show started to take shape. Once again, a lot of work took place behind the scenes which a lot of people would not be aware of. It is surprising the number of little jobs that are required to put on an event such as this, simple jobs like organising newspaper and radio advertising. As well as putting up advertising banners, can suck up hours of volunteer’s time, not to mention the time required to put up posters all over Canterbury and North Otago.

With the final committee meeting taking place the Tuesday night before the Rally, the committee were pleasantly surprised with the increase in entry numbers that had come in since the previous week. And I think it would be fair to say, some people at the meeting went home a little more relaxed knowing these figures. But now with the set up day approaching the real work would need to be done, wednesday evening saw a group of volunteer’s bag up two and a half ton of coal for the steam section. And then it was here- Thursday, the day we could start carting machinery out to Phar Lap Race Way.

Bagging up coal at the Club.

With the Racecourse still being used to train horses, we would not be able to start setting up in the main display area out on the track- until after lunch on Friday. Meaning that any machinery that arrived before then, would need to be unloaded and left in an area away from the track, this area would quickly fill up with tractors and trucks as exhibits began to arrive.

Machinery parked in the holding area early on the Thursday before the Rally.

Thursday afternoon would see a convoy of traction engines leave the Club grounds for Phar Lap. The Mowat Fowler as well as the Crossen Family Burrell, Guy Wigley’s Burrell and the Bradley Family Marshall, left the Club yard together. Some towing trailers loaded with coal and wood, and others towing the wooden mill, steam trailer and Club hut as well as other items needed for the event. The Clubs other Fowler would be towed across to Phar Lap the following day, as some small finishing touches had yet to be completed, after having had work carried out on the engine over the winter months.

Crossen Engine leaving the yard with the Mowat Fowler and Steam trailer in tow.

Upon arriving at the Racecourse after travelling for an hour or so, the engines quietly climbed over the hill past the stables to where the steam camp would be later set up. And more engines and huts would congregate, to form an impressive display that many folk would get to enjoy over the next few days. The many stinkies and caravans would become a focal point for steam and tractor enthusiasts alike.

The Bradley Engine leaving the club with the hut and trailers behind.

The Wigley engine pulling out of the yard- reminiscent of earlier times- when an engine, mill and hut would have been a common site on Canterbury roads.

Throughout thursday and well into the evening, more exhibits continued to arrive. The loading bank built by Peter Hardy and Bruce Anderson was put to good use, and even the poor old Phar Lap groundsman was called upon on many occasions, to lift items from trailers with the racecourse’s front end loader. An act that I was very grateful of, as my first load saw me arrive on the grounds with a very awkward shaped and heavy- New Zealand Railways built Blacksmith Forge loaded on my trailer.


Friday dawned fine and yet even more machinery arrived in the holding paddock, the weather to this point had been sunny and warm, the question on everyone’s lips being “could we be this lucky for the next two days?’’. As we still could not gain access to the main display area out on the racing track until midday, most people busied themselves with getting gear to Phar Lap. However, when midday arrived, and it did far quicker than it does on most ordinary days, then the real work began.

Tents had to be erected, rubbish bins and toilets set up around the grounds, working display rings fenced off, signage put up, the band stage put into place, the car park and lane ways had to be fenced, secretaries office arranged. As well as the thousand other jobs that no one sees or even thinks about, that was taking place behind the scenes as the event came closer to kick off. And all this had to take place as even more exhibits arrived, but by now excitement was building and it was clear to see we were about to enjoy a fantastic Rally.

Jackson’s display being set up.

Out on the track things were really starting to take shape, convenors were flat out lining tractors and trucks up in the appropriate spots, implements were being unloaded and a few new machines could be seen moving around the track to their display areas.

By early Friday evening the race track was starting to fill up.

The main camping ground was starting to look full, aided by the arrival of the Southern Tractor Trekkers who had driven their tractors up from Southland especially for the event.

As the very busy day drew to a close, it was time to head up to the Grey Way Lounge for the first of the social gatherings that had been planned for the weekend.

Visitors to Horse Power Rally enjoying a catch up in the Grey Way Lounge during the Friday night social function.

The main camping site filled up quickly with the arrival of some tractor trekkers from Southland.

Some of the organising team having a discussion with our announcer, from left- Donna Hardie, out of site Gordon Handy and Craig Gibson, middle Bruce Anderson , Crag Andrews our announcer, and Jack Douglas.

South Canterbury Catering provided some snacks and nibbles throughout the evening for everyone to enjoy, as they sat around having a catch up and a couple of drinks with friends they had not seen for a time, with the back drop of the Rally grounds, reminding the punters of the promising weekend that was about to begin.

Saturday morning arrived with bright clear sunshine, as the mercury started to climb it was evident that the day was going to be a warm one. Pretty soon I was looking for my shorts and apologising to everyone I met, for the white glare omitting from my legs- which had not seen the sun since last summer. Perfect weather. How did we pull this off?

As the horses were still training on the race track until 8:30 am, we would once again have to wait to get the final exhibits into position and to make final adjustments to displays. So when 8:30am rolled around, there was a mad scatter to get everything into position, ready for the gates to open to the public at 10am. Although the late start did give a little more time to get everything like traffic management, gate keepers, and car parkers in place.

With everything in place the public began to arrive, the car park started to fill up very quickly and remained full all day which was just what the organisers were wishing for. It was a great sight to see the rally field covered with machinery and people wondering amongst the many interesting exhibits. In all, nearly 500 items had been brought along to Phar Lap Raceway to be displayed over the weekend, and although there were still same empty spaces that not been taken up, I hope you will agree that this was not a bad attempt. Given we have never held an event of this size and scope before, I must admit that we did have some empty areas that should have been taken up by displays that never arrived, im not sure how it is possible to plan for such things, a little disappointing, but what was there looked fantastic!!

Overall Saturday saw the largest crowd come along to take in all that was on offer, it was great to see young families and older folk walking about, or enjoying the attractions, whilst taking a ride on board a shuttle trailer drawn behind a tractor or traction engine. The shuttles appeared to be kept rather busy over the two days.

The editor’s father, David Gamble taking visitors to Horse Power Rally, around the grounds on John Kyle’s Farmall M and people mover trailer.

Spotted on the Ford stand, these two Fordson F’s are considered to be the oldest and youngest examples in NZ .

some of the pick up trucks on display.

line up of trucks from the Road Metals Museum, with trucks from the Hilton Haulage fleet.

Les Page, Paul Johnson and Joseph Gibson inspect Jack Andrews- David Brown Crop Master, 11 year old Jack the proud owner of the tractor can be seen sitting on the seat.

Something for the kids to enjoy, this little rig was kept busy throughout the weekend.

And they’re off and racing this time, coming past the grandstand are three miniature engines owned by Owen Bennet, Bernie Bradley and Jonathan Grueber.

Throughout Saturday various parades took place, trucks, cars, tractors and traction engines all took turns at parading around the main race track. Our commentator Craig Andrews giving a great commentary as each vehicle passed by, the driver often receiving a ribbing from our gregarious P.A man- as he spotted someone he knew passing by. Some fantastic displays of modern machinery sat around the grounds, creating an impressive sight, and giving an interesting comparison between new and old technologies. Jackson Cranes of Washdyke had set up some large cranes, as well as a house moving trailer attached to a late model Kenworth prime mover, and a very shiny Kenworth truck and trailer unit.

Jackson’s house removal set up, complete with hydraulically adjusted axles on the trailer, capable of lifting a house up in order to clear objects encountered during a shift.

Hadlee & Brunton of Timaru also had a wonderful display of late model equipment, including a large directional drilling machine, capable of laying a 2m diameter pipe of 1 km in length without any excavation, sitting on a transporter pulled behind a Freightliner truck. And a large rock saw trenching machine, also sitting on a transporter draw behind a Mitsubishi truck, parked between these two monstrous bits of machinery was a nicely restored Ford V8 truck in the old Hadlee and Brunton livery.

A very noisey machine was heard during Saturday, turning large logs into wood chip on a number of occasions during the day, the wood chipper powered by an 800hp engine was fed logs from a Point Lumber log truck. The logs were fed with the trucks Hiab, the full grown log was turned into chip in a matter of seconds and blown straight into a chip bin ready to be delivered to your garden.

Weir’s International 3388 on parade.

Kevin Deem seen here driving around the track on the Clubs Farmall M.

Tractors lined up ready to parade around the main track.

An international S line moving out onto the track.

Kelvin Andersons Mack Ultraliner seen here parading past Jackson Cranes display.

Paul Johnston’s Fowler from Leeston is seen here moving about the grounds .

Another crowd pleaser that was seen over the weekend, was the display put on by the dancing tractors group, this cleverly choreographed dance routine sees a group of people seated on Farmall tractors, ‘dance’ in time to music and directions coming from their dance caller. It was quite obvious that a lot of practice had been put into this performance, one of their team even flew up from Southland for the display- evidence of just how dedicated this group are and how much energy goes into organising such a display.

Kids had plenty to keep them entertained over the weekend, a bouncy castle, miniature truck ride, lolly scramble and games including egg (potato) and spoon race as well as a tug- o- war with a traction engine, were all very popular with the young folk and parents alike.

The dancing tractor team doing what they do best, dancing up a storm during their demonstration.

This little miniature truck and trailer unit was kept busy all weekend giving kids rides around the kids area .


ome of our junior members taking part in the potato and spoon race.

Our resident band, The Garage Nights- with Club member Wayne Girvan playing guitar and singing, entertained the public with some great music over the weekend.

Come saturday lunchtime, we had a small set back- when a hap hazard fencer somewhere around Washdyke drove a fence post through a power cable, and put most of South Canterbury’s power out. Unfortunately for the Rally, this was the first time in 25 years that Phar Lap raceway had suffered a power outage, meaning that for most of the afternoon we had no loud speakers for announcements to be made over. And the live band was silenced in mid performance. The evening meal at the Grey Way Lounge was also put in jeopardy; it looked like for a few hours -that the evening meal may have been served up cold. But just as people were getting ready to go for tea, the power came back on, and the team of caterers worked their magic and produced a magnificent hot meal for saturday’s social evening .

A shot taken from the announcers box, shows just a little of the IHC gear on the grounds.

Saturday nights meal and social was a real success, punters were provided a wonderful spread, complete with succulent dessert, some of which had been prepared by our Clubs Secretary- Donna Hardy, and very much enjoyed by all. After the meal The Garage Nights band played and everyone enjoyed a bit of friendly banter and a good old catch up.

Our blacksmith found him self at a stand still when the power went out, up until that moment he had been busy making flowers from pieces of square steel, as well as other interesting objects from otherwise boring bits of metal. On Sunday the smithy was supplied with a hand cranked farriers forge just in case there was a second power outage. But fortunately it was not required and Brandon the Blacksmith was able to continue demonstrating to many interested onlookers- the ancient art of hot metal working, a skill that was once widely found in blacksmith shops in every

corner of the country, building and repairing the equipment that was essential in building our nation. A skill that has now been surpassed by modern technology, and is mostly relegated to artisans and folk interested in historical recreations.

Brandon working away at his anvil whilst onlookers enjoy his blacksmithing.

Along from the blacksmith in what in horse racing is called the bird cage, stationary engine enthusiasts arranged a great selection of engines of various makes and sizes on the nicely manicured lawn. From the little single cylinder Kohler to the big six cylinder Gardner engine, we had a great representation of old motors on display.

Lyndsey Saunders was the recipient of the peoples choice award in the stationary engine section, his engine and pump complete with a selection of working taps for the kids to play with was a clear winner with the young folk.

The Clubs Lister A on display.

Along from the stationary engines out from the old tote building was the steam camp, alongside the two Club Fowlers and steam trailer were a site not often seen, two early Hornsby portables. One being that of Ian & Margaret Urquhart of 1868 vintage, Ian’s Hornsby spent much of the weekend belted up to a grain crusher, and ground several bags of wheat and barley into chock food. The other Hornsby belonging to the Waimate Museum, this portable was built in 1887 and was once owned by All Black legend Ritchie McCaw’s Great Great Grandfather.

A rare sight indeed, two early Hornsby portables side by side in steam.

The other items on display in the steam section comprised of a Ransom steam truck, three Burrell’s, a Marshall and Paul Johnson’s Fowler which had been transported down from Leeston just for the rally, 4 Scale Model traction engines could also be seen milling about the grounds , all being Burrell replicas.

The Clubs steam trailer was looking great, Owen Varcoe had spent many hours cleaning and polishing the steam engines that can be found on the trailer, prior to the event and it really did look good. Thanks to Owens efforts, it was great to see some of members enjoying themselves running the various old engines.

Out in the working display area, the steam team put on a great demonstration threshing with one of the Clubs wooden threshing mills, as well as taking part with traction engines in various parades. At one stage over the weekend I recall seeing the miniature engines having a race past the grandstand on the main galloping track, given that all these little engines were

of the Burrell design- they all appeared to be evenly matched. In the end it came down to a very close win, I can’t be sure if any bets had been placed on any of the engines, but it would have been a hard job to call a winner.

The steam trailer was put to good use over the weekend.

Wigleys Burrell, driving the Clubs wooden mill during the threshing demonstration.

As the theme for this Rally was Horse Power-entries were very much open to all types of transport, it was nice to see some classic and vintage cars on display along side some motor bikes and military equipment. Although a lot of the exhibits that had been indicated to have been coming to the Rally, to be part of that display never showed up. What was on display was well worth seeing, even if this part of the display was smaller than we had hoped for,

A few of the cars that were on display.

bike display, many of the bikes are owned by club member Brian Roycroft.

Sunday’s weather was just as good as Saturdays, hot and dry, the show would continue almost as it did the day before- but for a few changes with some of the working demonstrations. A good crowd came along- to be part of the final day of the event, im told by our gate people that many of the punters through the gate on Saturday, were seen coming back on Sunday because they had enjoyed the Rally so much. Undoubtedly, the biggest attraction on Sunday was when all the traction engines were hooked together- and towed around the main race track by the power of just one engine, a truly impressive sight. And then just like that it was over, after months of planning the event was done and dusted, and it was time to pack up and go home. And if like me, the going home part took several days of travelling back and forth with loads of machinery, but well worth it. As I hope you will agree the Rally was very successful indeed. The question remains though. Will there be another Horse Power Rally? Watch this space!!!!! Update, Horse Power Rally returns to Timaru in October 2020.

100 ton pull

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