History of Sentinel DG 4 Works Number 8714 - Registration No. KG1132 Built 1932
Sentinel DG 4 works number 8714 was built at the Sentinel Waggon* Works at Shrewsbury in 1932 as a flat back steam lorry.
She (all steam engines are called "she") was bought by the Cardiff Gas Light and Coke Co. and worked for them in and around Cardiff until the 14th. September 1949 when she was sold to the Wales Gas Board. By 1954 the Steam Waggon* 8714 was out of use and derelict.
[* = Sentinel's spelling, not ours !]
She was discovered by Mr. W.E. Curran of Messrs. Curran Hauliers of Clonmel and considered to be ideal for the experiment of conversion to burn peat. This was done in Ireland and a MONA JET PEAT BURNER was installed in the wagon. 8714 worked successfully for over 10 years in Ireland.
Eventually times moved on and 8714 once more became redundant and was repatriated to England in the early 1970’s. This time renovated into preservation and lovingly cared for. Another short period of neglect was followed by a further restoration and visits to many steam engine rallies mainly in the North of England.
In 2002 Stuart and Chris Harrison had long hankered after a steam Sentinel and 8714 became available for sale and was quickly purchased. In 2012 the Sentinel was purchased jointly by Bressingham and The Saunders Collection.
Sentinel Steam Buses
Steam buses were most common mainly in and around London in the early 1900’s. Sentinels came very late into the steam bus market producing their first steam bus in 1926. Sentinels made the chassis and had the body built by E & T. Hora of Peckham, London.
In total only 4 Sentinel steam buses were built and the photographs show the exterior and interior of the first model and the exterior of the last model built on a DG4 chassis, which is the one which the replica body for 8714 was modelled.
So far as we know Sentinels never managed to sell one of their steam buses, three went to Skoda Sentinel in Czechoslovakia and the last one built was used by Sentinels as transport for their works band.
It is really not very surprising that steam buses in the 1930’s never caught on. By this time petrol buses had become well established, diesel buses were in their infancy but the two deciding factors were that steam buses required an extra man to act as fireman, and there were practically no bus drivers with steam experience.
Sentinel Steam Bus – 8714 - KG 1132 “Martha”
Stuart and Chris Harrison decided that they would convert the Sentinel to as near as possible to be a replica of the final model built by Sentinels on a DG Chassis.
The Sentinel arrived in the Lake District just before August Bank Holiday 2002 in the same week that Stuart’s Mother in Law and Chris’s Granny Martha died, and so it was decided to name 8714 “Martha” as that was something she would have liked.
The Conversion of Martha
First port of call was to talk to the Department of Transport (DoT) to find out if having built a steam bus it would be allowed to carry fare paying passengers.
The DoT were most helpful, as there were no steam buses certified to carry passengers, then the certification process had to start at the beginning and every step had to be followed. The two main stumbling blocks were first that under the construction and use act a vehicle used to carry fare paying passengers must not have a vertical exhaust and the exhaust must be situated towards the rear of the vehicle. The DoT offered to put for consideration to Parliament an amendment to the Construction and Use Act to allow an exception for steam vehicles built before 1955.
The second stumbling block was that because no steam bus had ever been certified Martha would have to pass a tilt test before a “Certificate of Fitness to Run” (COIF) could be granted and this was likely to cost in excess of £ 2000.
It was estimated by the DoT that the parliamentary process might take up to two years, not withstanding this the go ahead was given.
The next step was to find a body builder with the necessary experience to build a replica body. After much study the Appleby Heritage Centre agreed to take on the project. The wagon body was taken off Martha and the chassis under its own steam was delivered to Appleby in March 2003.
The replica body was constructed during 2003 and 2004 and Martha was returned to Broughton in December 2004. Work preparing the bus for its Certificate of Fitness to Run (COIF) carried on during 2005 and Martha finally passed all its tests including the tilt test carried out by Optare of Leeds in July 2005.
The wait was still on and the COIF could not be issued until the amendment to the construction and use regulations were passed. This happened on the 16th. December 2005 nearly three years after the process started.
Martha entered her first commercial work since the 1960’s on Boxing Day 2005 running between Bowness and the Windermere Steamboat Museum in the English Lake District.
Group Days Out
A day out for a Group of up to 32 people on a 1932 Steam Bus will make for a unique day never to be forgotten suitable for all types from the very young to the very old.
We will soon be launching a range of special day excursion packages where you can ride on the bus from Bressingham to a number of destinations of interest such as a brewery, "gastro-pub" and distillery.
We will also organise days where shorter trips are available from Bressingham for those who just want a taster of this unique experience.
Please contact us for more information.