Rais­ing the Barr and Stroud

Old Bike Australasia - - BLOW YOUR OWN -

John Fer­gu­son Mel­bourne, Vic­to­ria A hitherto un­known side of P&R Wil­liams is that they im­ported some Barr and Stroud sin­gle sleeve-valve en­gines. B&S thought they’d have a crack at the pro­pri­etary mo­tor­cy­cle en­gine mar­ket af­ter the first war, be­cause their main pre­ci­sion op­tics busi­ness (range-fin­ders, periscopes, binoc­u­lars etc) had fallen to nil. Pretty ob­vi­ously P&R in­tended to build at least some trial B&S en­gined bikes. On 6 Novem­ber 1923 they or­dered a 350cc sin­gle and a 1,000cc V-twin. So is there a 1,000cc sin­gle sleeve-valve V-twin Waratah lurk­ing undis­cov­ered some­where? There was a sec­ond ship­ment to Syd­ney, con­signee un­known, of a 500 and an­other V-twin. That par­tic­u­lar 500 is the heart of “Ever On­ward”, one of only two known 500 B&S pow­ered bikes still about, but what hap­pened to the oth­ers? Even in their day the 1,000cc twin was a spec­tac­u­lar en­gine, and it’s hard to imag­ine them just van­ish­ing. Dur­ing the late 1930’s, prob­a­bly 1937, a Barr and Stroud V-twin en­gine was the win­dow dis­play at All­parts in Ade­laide. The fact that a 12-year-old V-twin was still deemed wor­thy of that treat­ment re­flects on how in­ter­est­ing (or weird) they were con­sid­ered even then. I won­der where that went? Two ship­ments of en­gines went to Mel­bourne. One ship­ment of a 350, two 500s and a V-twin went to the same, but un­known, con­signee. I’ve seen a photo of a 350 B&S pow­ered GCS, so that ship­ment prob­a­bly went to Still­wells; but what of the other en­gines? A far greater mys­tery sur­rounds the two 1,000cc en­gines bought by Norm Maple­stone. Norm was big news in Vic­to­rian mo­tor­cy­cling. Pre-war he built his own “Maple” mo­tor­cy­cle. Post-war he sold his “Maple­stone Can­tilever” fork de­sign to H.C Webb, and it be­came the ubiq­ui­tous Webb fork. He worked with Frank Baker at Pre­ci­sion, mar­ried Frank’s daugh­ter and re­turned to Mel­bourne with a Beardmore Pre­ci­sion agency and a work­shop in Kew. Such was Norm’s im­por­tance that his move­ments in Bri­tain were re­ported in “The Aus­tralian Mo­tor Cy­cle”. A news­wor­thy man, known mo­tor­cy­cle man­u­fac­turer, two news­wor­thy V-twin en­gines, and not a word of a re­port or a photo that I can find. It’s hard to imag­ine that he didn’t build at least one bike around an en­gine. F.E. Baker’s was a ma­jor cus­tomer for B&S, so Norm would have known what he was get­ting, and they weren’t cheap. There is one part of the story of B&S in Aus­tralia where there are some an­swers. The WA Rail­ways bought a to­tal of 52 of the 350cc en­gines for use in fet­tler’s trol­leys. In March 1939, 46 were still in ser­vice. In 1951 a sig­nif­i­cant pro­por­tion were still in ser­vice, but in 1955 they were all re­placed with J.A.P. en­gines. To give 30 years ser­vice they could not have been too bad. If any­one has any knowl­edge or sto­ries on B&S en­gines in Aus­tralia, I’d be very keen to hear from you by email at john­fer­gu­[email protected] or phone (03) 9432 0511.

“Ever On­ward”, a ve­hi­cle for a 500cc Barr and Stroud en­gine. All early ‘20s parts, built in 1966.

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