And all for the love of yesterdays dairy parlour
By Jeremy Hunt
FOND memories of milking cows in a field bail over 40 years ago have been rekindled by Lancashire vintage enthusiast Les Shorrock.
The first machine Mr Shorrock renovated was one his family had originally used in the milking bail in the mid-1950s.
"My son, Richard, had been working on a small Lister 1.5hp engine and wanted something for it to drive. I knew where we could find some of the bits and pieces of our old Simplex machine, so we decided to bring it back to life," Mr Shorrock says.
Searching among "junk" stalls at vintage rallies in the north west gradually yielded more of the missing parts of the Simplex.
That was five years ago. Now this father and son team admit to being completely hooked on restoring old dairy equipment. They have five fully operational machines and another project just under way.
The most "modern" member of the collection is a sparkling 1950s Gascoigne Miracle Milker. It was found locally having been used by a lady to milk her two Jersey cows.
"It was designed to carry the motor mounted on wheels to make it a very flexible system and was primarily aimed at those with just one or two cows to milk.
"But its mobility made it popular even in shippon-housed herd and I believe that one manufacturer is considering reintroducing something similar for smallholders."
Much of the early research into mechanical milking was undertaken in Scotland so it is appropriate that one of the oldest members of the Shorrock collection is the 1920s machine made by J R Wallace and Sons of Castle Douglas.
The Wallace Vacuum Pump has a 0.9m (3ft) diameter flywheel driven by a 5hp Amanco motor made by the American Machinery Company in Iowa. "It is driven by a 7in bore piston pump, which is open-cranked, with clacker valves," Mr Shorrock explains.
"The clacker valve system was one of the earliest. It was not mechanically assisted and was operated simply by vacuum. But there had to be a big header tank. This one has at least a 40gal capacity."
The Wallace machine is a real rarity and is highly prized by the Shorrocks. They admit to knowing where there is one other, hidden away on the farm where it was originally installed.
"The owners will never part with it. It is easy to become very attached to these machines, and this family want to keep theirs for sentimental reasons."
Mr Shorrocks Alfa Laval milking machine, complete with shining copper bucket, had its heyday in the early 1930s. This is one of the gems of the collection and is driven by an old barn engine.
As well as actual milking machines there is a cornucopia of "bits and pieces" associated with life in the dairy in times past. A range of pulsators from manufacturers like Manus, Simplex and International are proudly displayed alongside a range of regulators and clocks.
An old-fashioned milk cooler and cream separator are among some of the larger memorabilia, but pride of place here must go to the vacuum lift milk cooler which drew milk out of the churn to pass over the cooling plate.
Searching and swapping among the small band of like-minded enthusiasts is a source of constant interest. "You just never know what will turn up next," says Mr Shorrock.
Although huge amounts of old dairy equipment have been lost forever, he is convinced there are still old buildings and barns where important pieces remain undiscovered.
"I would be very pleased to hear from anyone who thinks they have old dairy equipment that may be worth renovating or even bits and pieces which could be used in restorations. *