The Age of Steam
The Fyson T1 taken in 1894 when it was first made. CJR Fyson is shown on the boiler holding his son Wallis. The men on the footplate are George Pollard and Robert Morley, with George Powell standing at the end of the 'Middle Shop', where this and all the other Fyson engines were made.
It must have been a shrewd mind and an eye for business, which lead Richard Fyson to make the transition from a millwright and blacksmith to an agricultural engineer in the 1890’s. With the introduction of steam pumps across the fens and factory milled flour, the windmill was becoming a thing of the past. Fyson’s needed a new product to keep them in business. Richard Fyson deliberated to make a steam engine, which would perfectly suit the unique conditions of the fenland farmer. It is recorded that Fyson’s were working with portables since at least the 1870’s and began working with traction engines in the early 1880’s.
The first production engine was made in 1894. As well as providing employment for the workforce, the engines were regarded as better suited to the Ten roads and working conditions than other makes and models. The Fyson engines were lighter than equivalent engines of other makes.
Many of the parts of the engines were brought in from other companies, to produce what would nowadays be termed as a custom engine. Some of the boilers were brought in from Dodmans at Kings Lynn. Other parts were brought in from various suppliers including Burrells at Thetford. Dodmans records of transactions with Fyson, and Fyson’s own employment costs suggest that each engine took 2 years to build. During only 30 years of manufacture, between 1894 and 1924, Fyson’s produced 17 traction engines of which 15 were their own design. These 15 were all 8HP, single cylinder engines, produced for use with threshing machinery. Most of these were hired out to local farmers during the harvest season, although T3 and T6 were sold new.
The other 2 engines produced by Fyson’s were both rebuilds of other makes. The first ‘T11’ was based around the boiler and top works of a ‘Fowler Road Loco’ destined for South Africa and shipwrecked off the Scillies, and the other was a rebuild using parts of a Robey traction engine. Neither was successful. The latter being a poor steamer and generally underpowered, and the former, having been salvaged, seemed to need regular repairs, including possibly a new crankshaft and brake drum.
Work on the engines was continuous and only occasionally interrupted by other jobs, although practically everything in Soham was linked to the farming community at the time and Fyson’s services would have been in constant demand.
The Fyson T2 shown leaving Fyson’s Paddock Street yard, driving south. This engine was hired out annually to the driver, ‘Brown’ Ayes of Isleham, for the threshing season
FOWELL 85: WAS BUILT FOR S MORBEY OF SOHAM AND DELIVERED IN 1898 — ROAD TAX NO. EB2833. IT WAS SOLD IN 1921 TO JF ALDERMAN OF THORNEY AND IN 1926 TO JH OGDEN OF MARCH. IN 1937 IT WAS BOUGHT BY SA FLACK OF OUTWELL WHERE IT SAW OUT THE LAST OF ITS WORKING DAYS. TE7HP WAS SCRAPPED IN 1941/1942
FOWELL 43: WAS BUILT FOR CJR FYSON AND SONS OF SOHAM AND DELIVERED IN SEPTEMBER 1889. IT WAS LATER OWNED BY JOHN MAY OF OUTWELL THEN BY MATTHEW PALMER OF CHATTERIS. IT WAS BOUGHT IN 1923 BY EA FOLEY OF BOURNE.