Ray Hooley's - Ruston-Hornsby - Engine Pages

Ruston Proctor Steam Navvy No 306 Recovery - Page 1

Back in the 1970's, at an abandoned chalk pit area in Arlesey, near Hitchin, Hertfordshire, UK, a regular beauty spot called the 'Blue Lagoon' attracted visitors from the surrounding area. The chalk pit was flooded, and the minerals in the water made it a deep blue in colour, something which can also be seen in Kent and other areas where chalk lays along with clay and other mineral deposits. In the lagoon itself, a rusty object appeared whenever there was a dry spell and the water level dropped. Local divers found the remains of an old steam excavator or 'navvy', named after the manual workers it replaced.

By a long process, Ray Hooley got to hear of the machine back in Lincoln, and the following story is his account of how the navvy was found and subsequently recovered and restored. The machine is not a light weight, and the conditions from which it was recovered were by no means ideal, but with a lot of help from others, he managed to get the machine back to the Ruston Bucyrus factory and see it into full working condition. This account of the recovery was originally published by Stationary Engine magazine in issue 51, and we have added two pictures which were not in the original article, one of the crew of the navvy and the other of the finished and working machine.

No 306 excavator in the Blue Lagoon, note the water level markings on the banks. Taken in 1976

No 306 excavator (manufactured 1909) at work in the chalk pits at Arlesey in 1929

The chalk pits staff taken in 1921. Excavator Driver A.Albon (back row, far right)
Stoker G.Albon (front row 2nd left) Father & Son.

Location of Arlesey relative to the A1(M) motorway and Hitchin/Letchworth/Baldock. Note that the Village
of Rushden in the lower right-hand side is not where Peter & Rita Forbes live, it is a very small place with
the same name. The place called Redhill above it and Wallington above that also have larger counterparts,
one in Surrey and one south of London.

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