The Mechanical Horse

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Disclaimer: No Englishmen were injured in the making of this weblog post.

When I was a child in Canada I collected Dinky Toy cars and trucks – with the odd Corgi Toy tractor thrown in. My cars were mostly gifts so I got whatever had caught the eye of the adult in the toy store. As I played with the different steam rollers, council tip vans, wooden-sided vans, and three wheel articulated tipper lorries, I was struck by a thought; ” Is any of this shit real? “. English vehicles seemed to bear no resemblance to anything that I could see in Calgary, either for commercial or private travel.

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Then I came to Australia. It was like seeing the Dinky Toy catalogue parked on the side of the road…and frequently it WAS parked on the side of the road, with the bonnet open, and a man swearing at the engine. That was a bit of a comfort – I recognised the sound of someone dealing with a Lucas electrical system as I had heard master mechanics on construction sites in Alberta working on Land Rovers. It was a bit of home.

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Well, over the years I have discovered many of the vehicles in real life that I saw as small zamac models. Nearly all of them have some logical explanation, if you take into account the medieval history of Great Britain* and the sort of minds that wear flat caps and eat kippers. ( Or is it the other way around?) This Scammell mechanical Horse is one of the memories that is real, possibly after a late supper of kippers or caps.

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It is sturdy, sort of, turns on a sixpence, apparently, and goes very slowly, assuredly. I cannot envy the driver of this horse who had to take it home in the Australia Day traffic from the exhibition in Melbourne, but I envy the people behind him less. At least he has the benefit of a good deal of ventilation in his little clapboard cottage there at the front, and if he is adept with the hand signalling hand he can do high fives with other horse drivers…or smack cyclists on the bum as they pass by.

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I would like to drive one. Not on the freeway at peak hour, but around a factory lot would be fun. If it is as simple as it seems it would be a useful thing on flat ground for moderate loads. Winter would be a bastard. Eeh, boot you’d ‘ave yer flat cap and yer kipper, innit?

  • Dodgy little towns with narrow and crooked streets.

 

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