REASONS FOR THE TRIP
Following letters and exchanges with David Harris and David Edgington, we had thought about going abroad and looking for Lister X/XO engines, and in early 1997, we took the plunge and booked the ferry. The odds against finding anything were pretty high, but we had not had a holiday for some years, and I fancied having a look around the vineyards and rural Spain. We had our own four-wheel trailer which we had designed and built the previous year, and our company minibus which I drive virtually full-time.
Going from Plymouth to Santander takes out all the driving across France, but does lay you open to a bad 24 hour crossing if you are unlucky. We drove down to Dartmouth and stayed with our niece and family the night before sailing, and got in the queue at Plymouth about an hour before the ship was due to leave. It was tipping down with rain and very windy. The trailer tows extremely well, although it is very heavy, being rated at 2600Kg loaded weight.
THE FERRY TRIP
There are two main ferry services: Brittany Ferries operate crossings between the UK and France/Ireland and Spain. We had an alternative choice of Portsmouth/Bilbao with P&O ferries, but they were a bit more expensive and more crucially, took over 35 hours for the trip against 24 hours for the Plymouth service. We booked a four berth cabin with shower and toilet for ourselves and our youngest son Philip, and it and the ship were very pleasant indeed. I would not recommend going on a 24-hour ferry trip unless you have at least a cabin and toilet, and for what it costs, the shower is not really a luxury.
DRIVING IN SPAIN
I had driven extensively in Europe and the USA before, so had no problems with the right side traffic, but what slows you down is interpreting the mass of unfamiliar signing of local roads, main routes and things which you probably don't need to know but you look at anyway in case you miss something important. You are always conscious of being a stranger in a foreign land, and the locals do tend to take advantage of you - for a while.
We were in our company Vauxhall Midi minibus with our engine trailer behind. We came out of Santander quite smartly, and found the locals soon left you alone if you pressed on kept out of their way. We dived off the motorway onto one of the 'N' routes which roughly equate to our single carriageway 'A' roads. The advantage is the lower traffic levels, the disadvantage is that the conditions vary enormously from region to region.
USING THE CAR PHONE
We had a car phone in the van, and it worked quite normally in Spain, except that you have a different network name showing on the phone. 'Airtel' was one and there was 'Moviestar' plus another. We were able to call home, and they could call us without any problem. No country prefix is required when calling a GSM mobile within Europe. Once the system knows you are there, all the service provider computers are updated as you move around. We actually used the 'phone before leaving the hold of the ferry, so good was the signal.
GETTING SORTED OUT
Once we had set up our two tents in the camp site (I never though we would use our old 1970's ridge tents again !) we started to plan our two weeks. I had broken my glasses on the ferry, and had also picked up an ear infection which left me totally deaf in one ear.
We went into Logrono the next morning and found an Optician. The repair to the glasses was done by the evening (shops shut mid-afternoon and re-open until eight o'clock) and cost four pounds. Quite cheap compared with some UK opticians.
The visit to the chemist needed some thought, as we spoke absolutely no Spanish. We pored through our Spanish guide books (W H Smith etc) and found enough to work out a list of complaint/remedy required etc. Farmacias in Spain are much more than just chemists, and act as semi-consulting doctors surgeries. We wrote out our problem in Spanish, having consulted our dictionary, and passed it to the Pharmacist. He grimaced at our rough Spanish but came up with exactly the right goods; an ear cleaning kit and anti-biotics. Again, the cost was less than we expected. (we had our UK E111 forms with us just in case, but happily did not need to use them )
Then we set out to look at the shops. For me, once you have seen one shop you have seen them all, and apart from the different clothes due to local fashion and climate, the most interesting shops were the local specialist food and wine shops, some of which we were to visit more than once. Pavement coffee shops were abundant, but not used much until later in the day.
Buying everyday goods was very easy, just a simple greeting: 'Hola!' (We were in the Northern Basque region) and ask for one, two, three tins, kilos or whatever. We were very taken with the warm reception we received everywhere, and the Spanish have to be the most friendly of the European races. Lack of Spanish vocabulary is no handicap, and we were able to make ourselves understood with no problem. Most goods are priced in the same way you see them in this country, so buying was no real chore. Later on we ventured into smaller shops and hand-picked our shopping with no real problems at all.
We found absolutely nothing at first. Most of the main town scrap yards kept very little, and the smaller villages were too small to have any scrap dealers or machinery agents in their locality. Time and time again we would see a promising pile of scrap, only to find modern junk inside.
The answer turned out to be the local tractor/machinery dealers, who had a local machinery monopoly, and knew all the local farmers and agricultural co-operatives. We hit lucky just the once, and had a couple of near-misses.
The nameplate was illegible but the name 'DITER' was cast into the block. I asked him how much, and after a bit of haggling we agreed on 30,000 pesetas, or about £135 ($223) It would have been quite possible to get it for less, but a bit of goodwill goes a long way when you are a long way from home, and we wanted to make sure that if anything else turned up, we would get to know about it. It is very easy to take advantage in a foreign country, and we wanted to get off on the right foot if possible.
Dorotea (his name) said that he knew of a twin cylinder petrol Lister for sale, and it would be 300,000 pesetas. This was serious money, so I said that I would need to see it or a photograph at least before we could even start negotiating on prices. We are still waiting for the photograph, and I haven't heard from him since, although we did send him and his family a Christmas card.
We collected the engine the next day, and a small crowd gathered to watch this crazy Englishman collect his engine. I spoke to his daughter when we had loaded it up, and enlisted the help of the British Consulate in Bilbao to help with translation over the hands-free facility of the car phone. I also made sure that I had a signed receipt for the money and a bill of sale for the engine, both of which were readily provided with no problem.
The trailer got a lot of attention from the workshop staff, who said that they were not used much in Spain due to the separate taxing and registration of commercial trailers. We got quite a few stares as we drove back through the town to get back onto the main road, but generally the Spanish took it all in their stride. The people at the campsite were a bit bemused as well, but said nothing as we pulled in with our prize.
THE CAMPSITE AT NAVARETTE The campsite doesn't get much of a mention here, but it was very good with excellent toilets and showers (all free) and unusually is open all year round. A lot of Brits use it as a staging post when going up or down the country. It cost us about £110.00 for two tents and the trailer/van plus three people. We got a discount for being there more than five days, of 10% which was useful, plus a bottle of their own wine ! The toilet and shower block was about the best we had seen, with separate sinks for washing clothes and for washing up, at separate ends of the block. Washing machines were available if you needed them, plus irons and tumble driers. A bit different to our first camping holidays in Cornwall in the early 1970's.
The first near miss was the CASE main dealer on the road to Pamplona, who had a very old and rusty 'AVANCE' tractor parked by the roadside. This must have been forty or fifty years old, and being French was probably quite unique. We took some pictures if anyone is interested. (PS: Subsequently found to be SWEDISH, with a hot-bulb two-stroke twin cylinder engine) We took pictures if anyone is interested.
Inside the workshop was a broken Lister HA2, with one pot and piston damaged. Our contact there spoke English quite well, and said that he had trouble with spares for this old engine from the Lister-Petter agents. We offered to source new or secondhand parts on arrival back in the UK, but again, nothing turned up in response to our faxes to him. We are able to get most HA bits in the UK, but without some response from him or his company we are not going to commit ourselves to buying spares.
Another near miss was a similar site near to Vitoria, which had a huge pile of old machinery, but mostly multi-cylinder engines. We looked around as much as we dared without being too conspicuous, and even took to using binoculars to scout around sites without actually going into them.
SPANISH FARMERS Interestingly, the Pamplona workshop was full of new or near-new tractor carcases, all with broken transmissions. The explanation was that the local farmers could afford new machinery due to the subsidies they received from the EEC, but didn't have a clue how to handle big turbocharged engines. Hence the broken transmissions, this being the most frequent cause of breakdown.
Other sites visited were very similar, and altogether we must have stopped at twenty or so and enquired about engines. The strange thing was that there was nothing at all, not even a trace of old metal. You would have thought that there would have been something around somewhere.
THE REFORM ENGINE DISCOVERY
On the day before our return journey, we missed the turning to the local hypermarket. By threading our way through the local industrial estate we found our way to the right road. As we passed the local city council engineering depot, Philip shouted out 'there's an engine'. We stopped immediately and had a look. The locals were really bemused: three mad English people rushing out of their vehicle in the middle of the siesta, looking over an old engine !
On a plinth inside the office compound was an old single cylinder single flywheel diesel engine. The rocker gear was exposed, and the general build indicated that it was pre-WW2. We asked permission from the offices to photograph the engine, and once it was given, we took about twenty shots.
The engine was manufactured in Leipzig by the Reform Motoren Werke, and the serial number indicated that 1928 was the most likely year of manufacture. We have since received from Walter van Gulik a copy of the catalogue for Reform dated 1929, which includes the engine we found. He has a contact in Hannover who kindly copied the catalogue and sent it to Walter. (cost five pounds only, including postage)
We subsequently wrote to the council to ask if the engine was to be looked after properly, or if not, would they would be interested in letting us have it for a full restoration. Again, nothing has been heard, so we will be writing again via the British Embassy to see if we can get a response.
THE RETURN JOURNEY
The following day we had to drive back to Santander to catch the ferry, so we had an early start and a four-hour drive back to the docks. After a good dry period of weather it started to turn drizzly, and we had a wet trip back. It dried up as we got to the docks, and with the engine on the trailer we attracted quite a bit of attention from the Police, although nothing was said. In fact, we had no problems with police of any kind, although we did get a few strange looks !
THE COSTS INVOLVED
We went in October 1997. Ferry costs were £666.00 inclusive return. We spent a total of £2200.00 ($3630)for the whole holiday including ferry, food, diesel, buying the engine, campsite, presents, wine etc. Shopping for wine was very easy, with lots of 'Bodegas' in the Logrono area. Wine is cheapest in the wine regions, although we thought that the hypermarket prices were pretty good.
The Midi ran at about 28mpg (light) for most of the trip, dropping to 20mpg or less once we were towing the trailer with engine on board. We had fully serviced it before the trip plus the trailer, and had no mechanical troubles at all. We did climb to about 6000 feet without the trailer one evening, and it was no problem.
Roads were generally very good, with smaller routes tending to be a bit rough along the edges. Main motorways are tolls, but not particularly expensive. Traffic behaviour was good in comparison to the UK, and the truck drivers were helpful to us, especially when we had the trailer on the back.
A couple of things that caught us out; timed traffic lights into villages that stopped you if you were going too fast, but were green if you went through at the correct speed; and left turns off main roads, where you first had to turn right and then effectively go across at right angles from a small loop. We did the UK thing and just turned left, realising as we did so that we had missed the road markings for the correct route.
SHOPPING IN SPAIN
Hypermarkets in the major towns are very very large and carry a huge range of goods; food, tools, cameras, car tyres and spares, hi-fi systems, records, clothes and of course, wine is very cheap everywhere. We paid about £1 ($1.65) pound per bottle for a very nice Muscatel, while the local red wine could be bought from between 80 pence a bottle up to three or four pounds a bottle. Locally produced olive and sunflower oil was very cheap compared with the UK, and we stocked up on stuffed olives and other goodies.
Duty-free allowances pale a bit compared with what you are allowed to bring
in DUTY PAID:
10 litres of spirits 90 litres of wine 110 litres of beer etc etc.
As long as you buy goods in a normal shop and pay local duties, there is no limit to what you can bring back as long as it is for your own use and consumption. We bought new winter coats out there, and Philip bought a car Hi-fi, both quite a bit cheaper than in the UK. An engine lifting sling was purchased in the local supermarket which was less than half the UK price, and was properly certified for proof load test.
We have booked again for this year. As the pound is even stronger against the peseta we should get more for our money. We are going in September this time which is a couple of price bands higher on the ferry, the snag is that costs for the ferry are £816.50 against £666.00 in October 1997.
Exchange rate last year was 240 pesetas to the pound, and we took £1000.00 in pesetas with us. Most credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard are accepted in Spain; American Express is conspicuous by it's absence, and cheques are hardly used at all. Visa and Mastercard purchases in supermarkets require passports to provide ID. Cash can be obtained from multi-card machines in most large towns.
We tried to ensure that we left a bit of goodwill behind us when we started home, so that others would have no problems following in our footsteps. If any newsgroup members would like further information on the travel arrangements etc., please contact me by e-mail. Gordon Wright of Stationary Engine has the Reform engine photo's, and I expect that he will publish them this spring or summer.
Despite correspondence with Deutz-Diter Espana SA, we have not been able to get any service or spares data for the engine. On our trip this year we will drive down to Zafra where the Diter factory is located and ferret around for a couple of days to see if we can find any spares or manuals. Rita wants to go on to Jerez, and we will probably go into Portugal for a day as we will be very close to the border at Badajoz. Watch this space !
DO's and DON'Ts
DO make sure that all your documentation is correct.
DO take TWO warning triangles, a legal requirement as is a first aid kit.
DO take a trailer spare wheel, repair places are few and far between in the countryside.
DO try to have another DRIVING passenger, to help with signs and directions.
DO try to get to know the locals, we found them more friendly if you made the effort to communicate. They know the area, police traps and best bars.
DO watch your speed, Police were not too obtrusive on our visit, but they are there and can impose spot fines.
DO get hold of decent maps/guide books, they can save you a lot of grief.
DONT take advantage of the locals if you are offered anything enginewise,
others will follow you and may be rebuffed through your thoughtlessness.
DONT go without thorough preparation and planning.
DONT overdo the driving periods, take a rest every three or four hours.
DONT take chances with cash or important documents, thieves are universal.
DONT change money out there, it is relatively expensive and the rate you get is not as good as the UK.
DONT drive with insecure loads, a prison cell awaits those who are caught.
The Spanish Tourist Information Office in London sends out free of charge an interesting and useful leaflet which gives details of all the regional tourist offices in Spain. You can get a copy by phoning 0891 669920 and leaving your details. The line operates on a 24 hour basis.
If you have any questions on the arrangements for the trip etc., please ask by e-mail of fax and I will endeavour to reply as soon as possible.