Off Your Trolley!

Moving things from place to place is one of the big problems for many collectors. As their collections grow they become more and more immobile. This is a particular problem for our club members, who regularly take items to locations all over Sheffield and sometimes beyond.

One of the ways Alan solved the transport problem was by building himself a motorised trolley out of an old invalid scooter. It worked quite well, but he decided it needed an upgrade. The idea for the rebuild was to make the trolley more versatile. It would receive a tractor / trailer configuration, allowing the small tractor unit to be placed in the back of a car whan a lift was available and the trailer unit converted to a car trailer to tow behind. However when no lift was available the trolley had to work as a pedestrian truck.

Alan had already made the tractor unit, but the trailer needed a bit more thought. An ordinalry car trailer could not be used because it would be too wide. Most trailes are a minimum of 4 foot across, but this one had to be no more than three to get through various doors and gateways. The tow hitch also had to be extendable for towing with a vehicle but shortened when being used as a pedestrian trolley to keep the overall length down and also make it easier to store.

So on 17th October Andy and Alan set to work with angle-grinder and welder to construct the new trailer. The design features a central spine, across which outriggers were fitted to support the carrying cage. At the end of these outriggers are uprights which will eventually support bed extensions for carrying extra wide loads. A central axle beam was also fitted, plus suspension unit mounting plates, which will carry the integral stub axles and suspension units, bringing the previous plastic trilley wheels up to road standards with proper trailer tyres.

After a full days work, gallons of tea and generous helpings of Sandra’s sausage surprise, the frame of the trolley was complete and ready for painting.

The new frame of Alan’s trolley trailer under construction.

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Club Report & Latest Restorations

It was our club day at Heeley City Farm yesterday. Despite the fact that Dave, Josh and Harry could not be with us we still managed to put on a varied and interesting display. I was there with the usual telephone collection, Alan brought along part of gis model railway and some of gis flags and novelty memory sticks, Sandra brought her miniature shoes and soft toys and Peter came along with his vintage valve radios.

Unfortunately the farm was very quiet, so there were not many visitors came through the door. But that allowed me to get on with a few little restoration jobs. One wall phone had a handset fitted during the day and a couplebof unrestored phones had their cases polished to make them look a bit more presentable.

Also newly restored is an addition to my collection of vintage oil lamps. A couple of weeks ago I was given a twin-burner oil lamp complete with glass shade and chimney. This has now been restored, including the fitting of plaster inside the brass base to give it some weight. These lamps don’t travel to club events because of the problem of transporting the irreplacable glass shades. They look good sitting on the window sill though.


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Change of Date in September

Please note: Our September club day at Kelham Island Industrial Museum, which was advertised as being on 17th September has changed. We will now be holding this even a week later, on Sunday 24th September 2017, to coincide with Kelham Island’s own ‘Down By The Riverside’ event, which will also be taking place on the same day. So there are now two good reasons to visit the museum on September 24th!

Our Kelham Island club days retirn to the regular third Sunday of the month from November onwards.

We apologise for any inconvenience the change of date has caused but this is due to a late confirmation of the ‘Down By the Riverside’ event.

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Andy’s Latest Find!

The thing about steam rallies is there can be quite a bit of time to sit around, not doing much. Listening to the beat of the exhaust from the stationary engines is actually quite a nice way to spend a weekend. It does give the mind some time to wander though and that’s exactly what happened last weekend.

I’ve been thinking about how great it would be to be a busker for quite some time. I see them regularly in Chesterfield and they always seem to take more money at the end of the day than my market stall does! The problem with me becoming a busker though is that I can’t sing or play a single note. So what could I possibly do? Then I had an idea. I remembered someone I know who has a small hand-turned street organ. One if those would be just the job. Having a quick look online though I soon found a stumbling block. The price! These little organs, even newly built ones constructed by enthusiasts, can easily cost the top side of £1,000. But while browsing E-Bay last weekend I couldn’t believe my luck. There in the search results was a genuine Victorian street barrel piano, with buds starting at just £100. So a bid was placed and to cut a long story short, I won it for the princely sum of £155.

Although in fairly good condition, the piano is not perfect. It will need some restoration work before it can play a recignisable tune. But all the basics are there. So now the work begins.

My problem now is the apparent lack of information out there about restoring these old instruments. I had never rouched one until yesterday, when I collected mine. Now I need to learn how to restore one.

It turns out the last factory in the UK making and mending barrel pianos was still around in the 1960s accirding to a piece of newsreel film I found. Thus rare colour footage shows an elderly gent putting the nails into a new barrel. And who is he? Well non other than the very same Mr Tomasso whose company made my piano all those years ago. Unfortunately I guess he’ll have gone to that great organ factory in the sky now. So who is left to help? If you know of anyone who knows anything about barrel pianos, please, please, please get in touch.

Although there are a few British barrel pianos left (less than 100) apparently, the days of seeing them earning a living on street corners have long gone. That is something I would very much like to put right and bring back this wonderfully evocative sound and a long extinct trade.

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Collectors Return To Kelham Island

We returned to Kelham Island Industrial Museum last Sunday for our latest club day. Although there were not a huge number of visitors considering the excellent weather, we still had quite a lot on display.

Dave had his usual minature fairground, Alan had his flags and I took a small selection of the ever growing collection of vintage telephones. Alan also had a new breakdown crane for his garden railway, pulled by the newly restored diesel outline electric loco ‘Sandra II’.

Sandra II pulling the new crane.

The steam section was also out in force. Josh was steaming the workhorse Mamod, while Alan and Harry were both trying out their live steam Stevenson’s rockets on a specially constructed sectional track, which Alan had built by permanently fixing sections of the original rocket plastic track together for easier laying / taking up.

Dave’s model fairground

However things did not go smoothly with the Hornby Rockets. First Alan tried his model (identified by a black top to the chimney) which didn’t seem to want to run at all. It made steam, but for some unknown reasin it just didn’t want to move around the track. Lift the driving wheels off the ground and they would turn, but it still seemed sluggish and didn’t have enough power to pull it’s own weight, let alone pull the especially rare carriage.

Harry gives us the thumbs up in triumph as his Rocket model out performs Alans, while Alan gives it a helphing hand after a derailment.

Harry’s rocket faired a little better. It would run much faster with visibly more power at the driving wheels. However as we finally got something running the faults in the track and the fact it was laid out on granite settes caused numerous derailments! So it looks like it’s a case of back to the drawing board before the rockets appear in operation again at Kelham Island.

As the day was fairly quiet, I took the oportunity to do some work on some of the old telephones. The week previously I had collected a number of additional phones from a fellow restorer in Leeds, so I was going through some of these, fitting new line cords and doing the electrical conversions necessary to make them work on our modern day system. Three previously non-working phones were made operational again by the end of the day and we also did some further diagnostics on Alan’s red Ericofon, which has been suffering from lack of volume. As well as collecting phones I also sell some of the duplicates that inevitably arrive through Bolsover Antiques Centre. So Pay them a visit (near Bolsover Castle) if you are interested in buying a fully restored example.

Just some of Andy’s vintage telephones on display at kelham Island Industrial Museum.

Our next Club Days are over the weekend of 19th & 20th August, when we will be at Heeley City Farm on Saturday 19th and back at Kelham Island Industrial Museum on Sunday 20th. In the meantime, if you have a collection you would like to put on display to the public for a day, please get in touch with us using the ‘Contact Us’ page which you can find by clicking HERE.

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On Track For Abbeydale

Harry and Alan manning the display in the tent at Abbeydale Minature Railway

Yesterday saw us visit Abbeydale Minature Railway, where Alan is also a member. This volunteer run railway is tucked away in Abbeydale woods and could easliy be one of Sheffield’s best kept secrets. Despite this, a lot of people turned up to take an adternoon ride on the trains and we were quite busy in the tent.

Harry had his Wilesco steam roller on display and also took delivery of his newly acquired Stevenson’s Rocket from yours truely, which also immediately went onto the stand. Andy had just a small part of his collection of old telephones at the event, while Alan had most of his Mamod models there. Unfortunately Dave couldn’t be with us, but he did send along his minature fairground, which was running using the specially built pay-box as a way of encouraging donations from the public.

Just some of Andy’s telephones on display.

The weather was warm and sunny and a large crowd was in attendance, no doubt helped by the free admission to the site. We hope to be back at Abbeydale soon, so watch this space for further details!

Outside the tent with Alan’s display of flags.

Andy’s haul of treasure, bought from the railway’s club stall.

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Sheffield Steam 2017

Sheffield Steam & Vintage Rally took place at North Anston during June and we were there with the collectors club display for the first time. Harry took along one if his Mamod live steam engines, Andy took some of his telephones and old sewing machines while Alan took various mamod models plus his battery powered train, as seen in the photo.

The weather was good over the weekend and a great time was had by all. Andy even managed to add a couple of old pressure lanterns to his collection.

A big thankyou to Bev and all the team at Sheffield Steam for making us so welcome.

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Next weekend the Sheffield Collectors Club will be taking part in a two day special event at Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet. We’ll be there with various collections of interesting items old and new. It’s too early to say exactly what we’ll have on display, but in the past we’ve exhibited everything from steam engines to novelty computer memory sticks!

So why not come along and join us for the weekend? We’d love to see you.

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Heeley City Farm Spring Fair

Alan manning the club stall at Heeley City Farm’s Spring Fair.

Sheffield had a bit of a heatwave yesterday, which brought out record breaking crowds for the annual Spring Fair at Heeley City Farm. Alan was there all day, manning a joint stall between the Collector’s Club and the Repair Cafe. Lots of interesting items from telephones to flags were on display alongside the world famous “Repair Cafe demonstration toaster.”

A great day was had by all and we hope to be back in Heeley for the Summer Fair in June.

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Next club meeting on Sunday 19th March

Please come and support us at Kelham Island on the 19th March. We will be displaying our wonderful collections and a warm welcome is extended to everyone. Come and chat with us about the steam engines, Fairground models, phones, trains and many more things. Hopefully we will have live stream displays and the large garden railway out for kids and adults alike to play trains with.

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Just A Reminder…

This is just a gentle reminder that we are currently gearing up for our first ‘Vintage Repair Cafe’ event at Kelham Island Industrial Museum this coming Sunday. It’s our club’s 1st birthday, so we decided to change our monthly meeting into something a bit more special and team up with some of the people from Repair Sheffield, who hold regular bi-monthly repair cafe’s over at Heeley City Farm.

Dave, who is our vintage steam toy expert, has been asked on a number of occasions if he knows where old live steam models can be repaired, so we decided to hold a special event where you can either get them fixed or get some free advice on the necessary repairs.

It’s not just steam toys though! The vintage repair cafe is open for the repair of anything over 20 years old, so no modern electronic devices please. However we’re more than happy to take a look at vintage reel to reel tape machines, old record players and the like.

As well as Dave working on steam toys, we will also have experts on old telephones, vintage sewing machines (so get that old hand-cranked Singer out of the loft!) and even old mechanical braille available to help and answer questions.

Entry to the event is free. If you bring an item for repair that requires specialist parts then you may have to pay for these but the actual repair is free, although we do accept voluntary donations.

If you would like any more information about the event then contact us by clicking here.

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PRESS RELEASE: Collectors Club Celebrates 1st Birthday With ‘Vintage Repair Cafe’

February 19th 2017 marks the 1st birthday of the Sheffield Collector’s club, a unique club who encuurage collectors of almost anything to bring their collection our of the loft etc to share with other members and the public at regular monthly meet-ups.

The club meets each month on the 3rd Sunday.

A list of dates can be found at

So, to have a club day with a difference we are holding a combined gathering of collectors and repairers.

We are teaming up with the Sheffield repair café,

There are 2 sides to this day.

One is for people to bring along their Mamod steam toys, as we have been asked many times if we can repair these. The the second is an opportunity for people to bring any kind of vintage or classic items that need some care and attention.

The aim of both groups is to help people to gain the skills and confidence to maintain and care for their prized possessions.
For more details contact Alan Thorpe

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First Club Day of 2017

First meeting of 2017 took place last week, to show off our new collection items.

Quite a busy day, more people visiting than I thought there would be for Jan.

Alan took along his wooden puzzles and fairground rides, David took his selection of Mamod and Wilesco models, Harry brought some new items and Andy brought a selection of old sewing machines.

Josh, Cath and Barry also came to support us.

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