Industry => Factories & Mills => Topic started by: cliveh on July 23, 2014, 14:42:43

Title: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: cliveh on July 23, 2014, 14:42:43
The iconic, but sadly long empty & now somewhat derelict, former Tilling-Stevens Engineering factory in Maidstone. Built in 1917 its a rare survivor of the American 'Daylight' style of architecture.

Tilling-Stevens were famous for the manufacture of goods vehicles and buses.

During WWII it manufactured armaments and searchlights and was camouflage painted to obscure it from the air.

The building is now Grade II Listed and various plans have been put forward for it but as far as I know nothing has come of them

cliveh
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: Sentinel S4 on July 23, 2014, 20:13:10
For a building dating from 1917 that looks so modern. Thank you for posting.

S4.
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: Mike S on July 23, 2014, 22:06:04
I was told many years ago that in the 1960's the engines for Hillman Imps were built in the Tilling Stevens factory. Does anyone know anything about this?
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: mad4amanda on July 23, 2014, 22:38:34
I think the prototype Imp engines (themselves a conversion of the Coventry Climax pump engine) were built there and in the old aero engine shop in Mill Street. The old neighbour of my former father-in-law worked on them there in prototype stage. Suffice to say he still had a lovely Imp which was a wolf in sheeps clothing, looking completely standard but with a full race engine, only the very observant would spot the grille for a front radiator and slightly bigger exhaust, it went like stink!
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: Mickleburgh on July 27, 2014, 09:08:49
During the 1950s/1960s the Rootes Group utilised, in their Commer goods range and in buses/coaches, a very distinctive sounding diesel, the TS3 that was produced at the Maidstone factory. It was a common misconception that `TS` stood for `two-stroke` but in fact it was Tilling-Stevens and the engine was actually of a 3 cylinder horizontally opposed design.

The design of the TS3 is officially credited to a team working at the main Commer plant at Dunstable, post-war, but a few years ago an interesting, sadly still unverified, alternative version to that came my way. An article was written by a chap with close connections to the post-communist Czechoslovakia automotive industry suggesting the design had originated there pre-war as a concept and was brought to Maidstone by refugee Czech engineers who worked there during WW2. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the elderly author of this article he had lapsed into dementia and was of no help in providing source information to verify the claim.
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: mad4amanda on July 27, 2014, 18:24:06
This I understand to be correct as to the Czech refugees as this was also told to me by my late father-in-law and his neighbour about 25 years ago. He also had lots of TS3 parts around his workshop . My father-in-law worked as an apprentice engineer for TS before moving into the paper mills and then to the Sharps and then Trebor factory.
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: TSappo62 on February 01, 2016, 14:56:10
I was an apprentice at Tilling Stevens between 1962 and 1968 and the TS3 diesel engine was their main product. All aspects were covered from the design, development and production and associated departments included planning, tooling and machining of the components. The Chief Designer was Heinz Stransky who had what was assumed to be a guttural Eastern European accent and it appears to have been Czech. I will post further info in future
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: Mickleburgh on February 02, 2016, 08:37:47
It would certainly be worthwhile if the true origins of the TS3 engine could be proven once and for all, if only to question the perceived version of history that it was entirely conceived at Dunstable.
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: TSappo62 on February 24, 2016, 16:07:48
I will add more info about the TS3 when confident I can satisfy the verification questions!
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: TSappo62 on February 27, 2016, 16:13:03
As far as I was aware all Imp engines were built at the new plant of the Rootes Group at Linwood, Scotland due to the special tooling etc required. Early damaged engines were returned to Tilling Stevens and some of these may have ended up at Mill Street
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: KeithJG on February 28, 2016, 22:18:37
I had three Hillman Imps around 1971 including the van version.
The engine castings were produced at Linwood and then sent to Ryton near Newcastle for specialist machining, assembled then returned to Linwood.
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: TSappo62 on March 01, 2016, 11:01:47
I am sure all production engines were machined at Linwood, but if prototypes were machined this may have been at Ryton - o n - Dunsmore, the Rootes Group factory near Coventry that I visited as an apprentice
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: Dave Smith on March 01, 2016, 13:53:20
cliveh. Great photo's of T.& S. Could you please tell me where abouts it is. Obviously the Medway but that doesn't look like Maidstone bridge?
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: KeithJG on March 02, 2016, 13:42:52
Been doing some googling and came up with this:.........................http://www.imps4ever.info/linwood/die_casting_plant/diecasting_plant.html

The last sentence on the page does explain.

Sorry, got the wrong Ryton in my previous post :)
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: TSappo62 on March 09, 2016, 14:40:36
I helped strip the first 4 damaged engines sent to Tilling Stevens in the Autumn of 1963 - the Linwood factory had been opened in May by the duke of Edinburgh. A problem with the water pumps had developed resulting in loss of water - overheating - distortion of block and head gasket etc. Tillings was to look at refurbishing the pumps. Some of the engines had damaged valves due to (supposedly) the Italians changing down from 4th to 2nd gear at high revs! The design of the pistons was modified to incorporate scallops in the crown to prevent this collision happening in future.
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: KeithJG on March 10, 2016, 14:43:03
Here is a 2016 view from the dual carriageway alongside the River Medway in Maidstone.

The old part of the bridge can just be seen in one photo.

While we are on the subject of Imp engines here are some pictures of my Hillman Imp in 1969 that changed my life!

Hit a lampost at 70mph but before I was thrown out, my right knee pushed up the steering column.

Just about to have my second replacement right knee as I have worn out the first one in 20 yrs......not bad considering they told me 15yrs...lol
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: Dave Smith on March 10, 2016, 15:27:16
KeithJG. Can't help but think you were lucky it was only your knee, altho' that was bad enough I imagine. Glad the replacement worked well - very well in fact.
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: conan on March 11, 2016, 00:14:32
Ouch...........
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: TSappo62 on April 23, 2016, 15:27:24
In the mid 1960s Alan Fraser Racing from Hildenborough was running the unofficial works racing Imps team. They had a fully instrumented test bed in the petrol engine reconditioning area of the Tilling Stevens West Works (by the railway line). When they were running power curve tests they could be heard above all the other engines on test! They were developing larger engines than the 875cc, even up to1100cc, and also experimented with engines standing vertically not 'leaning over' as in the car. The 998cc engine used in the Rallye Imps ultimately produced over 100bhp. Strangely, the standard body shape was preferred for racing over the more streamlined looking fastback version as it was better aerodynamically!
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: CommanderChuff on April 27, 2016, 13:23:34
This example of Tilling-Stevens bus is being loaded onto a ferry in Folkestone in 1925 for a trip to France.
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: conan on April 27, 2016, 18:14:10
There's a great link toTilling-Stevens products here

https://myntransportblog.com/2014/11/11/tilling-stevens-ltd-maidstone-kent-england-uk-1897/
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: Mickleburgh on May 03, 2016, 12:40:11
That photo of the bus being loaded at Folkestone is very curious, although not of course a SECR vehicle, certainly in 1925 and in any case they did not run any. Although continental tours were being run at this period they would not normally use such a vehicle and what is apparently being carried on the upper deck? I was not able to open the link and get a larger image, but can anyone discern what the registration mark is? Given that we may be able to piece a story together here.
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: conan on May 03, 2016, 13:30:23
It looks like the object on top deck is a some sort of spreader bar to stop the crane ropes from crushing the topsides of the bus which has been slung from the wheels the rest appears to be padding to protect the bus paintwork
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: Dave Smith on May 03, 2016, 13:42:14
Enlarged, it seems that there are 2 transverse lifting bars, each dropping a cable down the side of the bus ( with suitable bags to protect the paintwork, etc.), passing through the wheels & up the other side. Even enlarged, the letters are not too clear- altho' the number is definitely 3523- but are either K L or KE or even KC ( ignoring that it might be X not K!). there doesn't seem to be any cargo upstairs, just the large protection bags.
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: Nemo on May 03, 2016, 14:04:57
I guess we await illumination from CommanderChuff - since it seems to come from SE&CR Society's 'Invicta' issue 65 of 2005: the index mooting a date of 1921: http://www.southeasternandchathamrailway.org.uk/Invicta%20Index%2086_for%20website.pdf (http://www.southeasternandchathamrailway.org.uk/Invicta%20Index%2086_for%20website.pdf)
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: Mickleburgh on May 04, 2016, 08:37:36
Nope, the number does not help, initially at least, although I will pursue further. My guess is that it may be a vehicle from the Thomas Tilling Ltd fleet., London probably, but as to the why it would have been shipped abroad is a mystery.

Incidentally, the large numbers of London d-d buses shipped thus to France for WW1 (but not including any Tilling Stevens) did not pass through Folkestone/Dover. Those ports were for personnel, vehicles went via Avonmouth mainly, some from Southampton.
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: TSappo62 on July 18, 2016, 13:46:56
The TS3 diesel engine developed and built at Tillings Stevens was based on the 1935 Italian Cappa engine, the major difference being the Cappa has the blower mounted above the cylinder block not in the front. Also the 1941 Sulzer is similar but has a reciprocating piston blower not a Roots blower. I am currently looking out more info on these.
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: TSappo62 on October 03, 2016, 16:12:12
These drawings show 3 cylinder opposed piston two stroke diesels that pre date to TS3 engine made at Tilling Stevens, Maidstone in the 1950s - 1970.
The info for the Cappa 1935 comes from The Automobile Engineer, Vol 25,m 1935 and the Sulzer from The Oil Engine, 1941(http://)
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: Mickleburgh on October 04, 2016, 08:17:35
Fascinating, a very worthwhile piece of research TSappo62. Certainly shows that the TS3 was indeed a reworking of an earlier concept, although whether it was Czech refuge engineers who had encountered the Cappa pre-war and thus sparked the idea remains open. one likes to think so.
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: TSappo62 on January 30, 2017, 15:19:03
According to Vintage & Classic Commercials "in 1919 a new firm called Tilling Stevens was incorporated....to make vehicles, fire engines and arc welders. Percy Frost-Smith was joint MD with AG Mickleburgh, ex WA Stevens Ltd" Any relation to the contributor of the same name?
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: Mickleburgh on January 31, 2017, 07:57:50
No relation, it is just a pseudonym for me. At first glance it is not easy to see who A G Mickleburgh was although Percy Frost-Smith is well documented. Have to dig a bit further.
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: Mickleburgh on January 31, 2017, 08:58:38
Ah, got him now! 1868-1947, Albert George Mickleburgh, career in the paper industry before joining W A Stevens in 1915, lived in Folkestone.
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: CommanderChuff on January 23, 2018, 11:25:32
The Bus on A Crane.

There has been a development of the story of a crane lifting the bus at Folkestone docks.   My conclusion is that the SECR is testing a new railway breakdown crane at the quayside and are using a Tilling Stevens bus from its factory in nearby Maidstone.  The railway is interested in increasing the lifting capaity at the docks in preparation for trans-shipping larger and heavier vehicles.  The bus company is preparing to export buses to the Continent.

After an appeal for help from the two Bus societies in Kent, a member of the Maidstone & DIstrict and East Kent Bus Club has collected the following information and Chris Duncombe has responded as follows:

Some further research has come to light as a result of a chance remark on your question at our committee meeting yesterday. It appears that Tilling Stevens sent some buses to Barcelona in the early 1920s, with 4 TS double deckers with British registration plates were shipped to Barcelona in May 1922. A Kent registration dating from 1921 would just about fit, http://perso.wanadoo.es/assotram/bcntilling1eng.htm. There is also some footage on YouTube of the Madrid order being loaded at Folkestone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_rurJvvgxg.

There is also a short article in Catalan on the website of the current Barcelona municipal:

http://horapunta.tmb.cat/seccio/historia/lautobus-tilling-stevens-reviura-90-anys-despres

From the inforamtion from the Bus Club and on KHF the highlights of this story so far is that:
1. The early Tilling Stevens buses were electrically driven with petrol engine powered dynamos.  These machines were easier to drive than the the non synchromesh buses and in the time of very few qualified drivers made vehicle maintenance and driver costs less expensive.
2. The TS petro-electric buses were not sent out to France in 1914-1918 as they were very different to use and maintain than the majority of conventional buses, so the bus-on-a-crane in the picture is not returning from France in 1921.
3. The picture shows a new bus and a new crane.  It appears that this was a test of either or both as there are no stretcher bars on the lifting hook to protect the topsides of the bus.  Whereas in an earlier photo dating from 1911 a similar crane is lifting a car on a flat tray with stretcher bars so this method was known about and used years before the subject bus is shown being lifted.
4. The crane is fairly unique. It is a railway mobile crane of about 15 tons capacity.  This type of crane would be used on railway breakdown trains and would normally be recovering railway locos and vehicles after a derailment.  In Folkestone Harbour the story of the cranes is: 1850-1900 - hand operated swan neck cranes on simple rail trolleys. From 1905 (after the big rebuild and extension of the South Quay and southern pier) the cranes were used for lifting luggage and baggage boxes of about 1 ton, and were gantry mounted on the pier or on railway trolleys on the pier and quayside.  These appeared in two steam powered versions,  the housing of corrugated sheet was either pent roofed or curve roof. The gantry cranes were replaced by electric powered versions from about 1930.  The railway mobile crane is a railway vehicle chassis on which the crane is mounted.  This means that crane can be marshalled into a train and moved at speed on the railway.  The first crane of this type on the Folkestone docks appears in 1910 and is used to load private cars, this has a corrugated sheet housing.  The crane in the picture is, I think, a more modern version and is a proper railway breakdown crane.  As far as I know the only crane of this type for the SER was a 15 ton swan neck travelling crane by Cowans Sheldon. Peter Tatlow bible on railway cranes volume 1 has not yet reached my bookshelves.
5. There is evidence that buses were lifted onto channel ferries in Dover in 1926 as a Manchester firm had started a Continental coach tour from that port.  The Tilling-Stevens history does not mention any export details but the information from the M&D and EK Bus club, above, shows that the municipal authorities in Spain had started a public bus service in their main cities in the early 1920's.  This new transport system has proved so popular that the local transport suppliers were unable to meet the demand.  So the authorities ordered Tilling-Stevens buses in 1922 and 1924.  These driven from the Maidstone factory to Folkestone to be shipped across the channel and driven to Spain.  However, British Pathe camermen recorded a single decker being loaded onto the SS Quaysider at Folkestone.  This vessel was built in 1909 at North Shields for T Steam Coasters of Newcastle.  In 1913 it was sold to a shipping line based in Tenerife and subsequently ended up in various ports in Spain, including Barcelona, before being scrapped in 1973 at Cadiz.  It is possible that this shipment went directly to Spain via sea.
6.  Tilling Stevens supplied 140 buses to China for Hong Kong and a firm there sells cast die models of these.

Thank you to everybody has contributed to this,  and happy New Year,

David

Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: Mickleburgh on January 23, 2018, 15:48:29
This is all excellent information and adds greatly to our knowledge of several facets. Regarding Item 5, UK based passenger vehicles were being shipped to the continent from at least 1921 for touring purposes, pioneers being Chapmans (of Eastbourne and London) and Motorways (Lyons) of London. Apart from the obvious destinations of the South of France, Italy, etc, they ranged as far as Gibraltar, North Africa and even Moscow. Initially following WW1 the main civilian route appears to have been via Ostend (for battlefield tours, etc) from Folkestone. Dover, Calais and Boulogne all seemed to join the fray a little later as regards coach shipments. Apart from a few spaces on train ferries, crane over the side remained the standard practice as regards coaches until 1953 and introduction of a large enough link span at Dover. Nonetheless a number of major touring firms continued to have vehicles permanently based on the continent until the mid-1960s.
Attach a Chapman charabanc of the early 1920s of the type deployed for an 18-day tours of the continent costing 18 guineas. Oddly that equates almost exactly to what a similar tour might cost today! Note the rear luggage compartment, a Chapman innovation.
Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: CommanderChuff on January 23, 2018, 17:17:02
Excellent feedback and good to know how and when the shipments of the tour buses began. 

This is now feeding another mini-project for my model of Folkestone Harbour railway.  I have been collecting bits of luggage over the years and have decided to get them out of the recesses of the storeroom to assess how and what to use.  After a session of painting I got to wondering about luggage stick-on labels.  I remember well my father collecting these as we toured the world and sticking them on the caravan, the car, and the suitcases. How I have to work out how to make them small enough to use on my luggage but big enough to read.  There are some great and famous hotels and places, some of which I have managed to visit at some point in the past.

Title: Re: Tilling-Stevens Engineering Factory - Maidstone
Post by: Nemo on January 23, 2018, 18:42:56
When you find out CC, please let us know - I'm facing the same issue with 1/72nd bus fleetnumber plates and seating capacity details. Registration plate waterside transfers are OK (2 firms make them) and I can get 1mm alphabets, but theyre fiddly for a 5 character fleetnumber and I keep swallowing them! I'm now contemplating digital photos, reduced to scale, printed onto waterside paper, sealed with spray varnish and applied...