Cars Showman's Fowler B6 Super Lion for sale at auction for £1.2million
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A rare 1930s showman's road locomotive from the final days of steam could fetch up to £1.2million when it goes under the hammer at auction on Friday.
The Fowler B6 Super Lion, built in 1932, was one of just four constructed by agricultural engineers Fowler for the West Country Showman Troupe. It was bought by showground operators Alderton and Rowland of Bristol and used by that company until 1947.
Ernie Lucas of Salisbury in Wiltshire owned it between 1950 and 1995, when it was sold to Arthur Thomson of Salisbury, Wiltshire, who spent two-and-a-half years restoring it. It was sold again in 2018.
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The Lion powered the popular fairground ride of the period, the Super Noah's Ark - a circular ride with carriages that rise and fall on a curved floor.
Fowler's quartet were among the most sophisticated showman's road locomotives ever constructed, according to Sidney Harrison of Burrell, the leading manufacturer of machines. It even incorporated left-land steering.
The Lion was the first of the four, built in March 1932. The delivery price was £1,470 and a special car-lifting crane was sold alongside it for £48.
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In April of the same year No. 19783 King Carnival II was sent to Frank Mcconville of West Hartlepool. The third engine, No. 19989 Onward, was built for Samuel Ingham of Cheshire.
The last of the four, and the last showman's engine to ever be constructed, was No. 20223 Supreme, built in March 1934 for Mrs A. Deakin.
Three of these engines have been preserved but Onward was destroyed in 1946. A faithful replica was completed in 2016.
When cheaper engines took over in time for the Second World War, steam engines were being sold for scrap, but their value has since soared to hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Showman's engines were characterised by a full-length canopy to protect it and its operator from rain, a dynamo mounted in front of the chimney and brightly coloured paintwork.
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The ornately decorated black and red locomotive has been restored in recent times and is in regular use, with frequent appearances at steam rallies.
It continues to thrill the crowds as it did in the 1930s and is up for sale with auctioneers Bonhams, of New Bond Street in London.
Tim Schofield, head of department at Bonhams Motor Cars UK, said: 'This is the first time we have offered one of these magnificent machines for sale.
'We are delighted to have been entrusted with this very special vehicle.
'We are looking forward to the Lion putting on quite a show.'
Bonhams Golden Age of Motoring Sale will be a live auction with an auctioneer at the rostrum. But only a limited number of bidders will be allowed inside the salesroom.
What were showmans locomotives and what were they used for?
With the popularity of fairgrounds came ever increasingly complicated ride designs that needed a substantial power source in order to run.
Showmans steam-powered locomotives came in varying sizes but all had three gears, fully sprung axles and extra water tanks mounted under the boiler barrel. It meant the engines could reach speeds of up to 15mph.
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The major manufacturers of Showman’s Engines were Burrells of Thetford and Fowlers of Leeds, although firms like Maclaren, Foden, Foster and others also constructed the machines.
As fairground rides got bigger so did the size of the locomotives, culminating in the Scenic - which had an A frame built into the back of the engine and an extra bracket bolted onto the boiler between the steam chest and the chimney. The modifications made the machine more powerful.
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