Dave and Ethel – a perfect match
In this edition Kermie interview's Dave Mickle who owns Ethel, a 1924 Yorkshire Steam Wagon...
Kermie: This is Ethel?
Dave Mickle: Good name isn't it?
K: It's a beautiful name. I can see she's definitely a lady.
DM: She's named after my late mother. She's a 1924 model Yorkshire Steam Wagon. Three forward and three reverse speeds. Two piston, compound engine. Six steam-horsepower which equates to about 40 petrol hp. She was retired when petrol became available again in the 40s.
K: What did she do for a living? I understand at one stage she was delivering foundry products around Melbourne. Have you taken a photo of her?
DM: Not yet but I will.
K: Good. Ethel will like that. So she's a lady that likes a bit of attention then?
K: How long has she been part of your life?
DM: Well I've had her for 35 years and have been restoring her for the past 25.
K: You're only a young fella Dave.
DM: I'd be getting towards the 80 mark.
K: Who's older - you or Ethel?
DM: She's just a touch older.
K: A toy boy eh? Did you grow up around trucks?
DM: No. Steam trains. Puffing Billy and all that sort of thing. You wouldn't have trucks if you had a steam train to drive in the Dandenong Ranges would you?
K: What did you do for a living?
DM: I was in the electrical game but loved steam. You get interested then you get hooked. Then you join a club, then you buy a tractor or traction engine. Then you restore it. Unfortunately these are rarer than hen's teeth now.
K: How many have survived?
DM: I think there's four in Australia.
K: I imagine she'd get a bit warm in summer. What do you fuel her with?
DM: Coal and wood - anything that burns.
K: Is she into curries?
DM: We don't cook on her but she makes a great pie warmer.
K: What's that gauge for?
DM: That's the steam pressure. When it reaches the red line you abandon ship.
K: How quick is she?
DM: She likes to take her time. I lived down Dandenong way and it took me two days to get to Ballarat. She'll do around 25 I guess. They didn't come with speedos back then.
K: Power steering?
DM: Yep - muscle power.
K: It's plain to see you love her. Does she love you back?
DM: She does play up a bit sometimes. Gets the female irrits every now and then.
K: How did you meet?
DM: She was an orphan. I found her abandoned and paid scrap value for her.
TALE of a 20th Century steam company
THE Yorkshire Patent Steam Wagon Company was founded in 1901.
A characteristic feature of the wagons was the double ended, locomotive type boiler. The first engine used was a two cylinder compound with the cylinders mounted on each side of the chassis, the high pressure on the off side and the low pressure on the near side. The valves were actuated by a single eccentric reversing gear. Sliding gears on the crankshaft provided two speeds.
In 1906 a new design saw the engine fully enclosed in a cast iron crank case and was mounted vertically between the frames inside the cab. The revised layout gave the 'Yorkshire' the opportunity to offer three speed versions of the wagon.
The company produced steam powered vehicles until 1937 although the name was retained until 1971. The company was dissolved in 1993.