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Thread: Sulkies and Harness New and Old

  1. #21
    Junior Member Weanling Jim will become famous soon enough
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    Quote Originally Posted by Showgrounds View Post
    Interesting background there, Jim. The first Brewer I sat in belonged to a well-known Showgrounds trainer in the mid-'70's. Beautifully made, bright chrome chassis, bow and cross bar with beautifully pin-striped hickory shafts. The thing that struck me about the sulky was its balance; sitting in it just felt so natural. Made me think I was the equal of Gordon Rothacker (or about as close as I would ever be). The Freebairn wheels had completely sealed- hubs and I remember, with some frustration, painting the glue (shellac?) on the singles and starting again when you inflated them and they hadn't stuck to the rim.

    If you didn't have a Brewer you had to have a Royal Speed, made in Adelaide by the Brown brothers of Bon Adios fame. They were all hickory with a chromed-steel undercarriage and strong as all hell. It was a pretty sad day when sulkies such as these were outlawed in favour of stainless steel-shafted sulkies. While I understood the reasoning, HRA would have been better served by specifying American hickory as the only allowable timber to be used in sulkies. Don't believe me? Tackle some hardwood with identical axes, one with a hickory handle and one with spotted gum. The latter will splinter when you least expect it while the hickory will last for years.

    I digress. Can't help you with much info about the Brewer Sulky apart from some certainty I have some advertising for them in old Harness Horse magazines from the early '70's. I'll try and dig my way through some over he weekend. Good luck with your research.
    Hi Trevor, Thanks for the info. FYI, there is no doubting the superiority of Hickory. When I started with dad we could get second-growth American hickory that you could literally tie in a knot. By 1970 you could only get small quantities of very inferior first-growth Hickory. By 1971 we could not get enough Hickory OR spotted gum to keep up with demand. It would be no use specifying American Hickory these days because it is almost certainly no longer available. You may also be interested to know that when the Brown Bros stopped making gigs they took up an agency for Regal sulkies until the last of them passed away. Not sure when, but I think it was one or two decades after they started selling and repairing our carts. I agree that the Royal Speed was a mighty nice cart. It was unique in having the shafts attached to the back bow with a fibreglass sheath which was finished such that the whole chassis (shafts and back bow) looked like it was made of a single piece of hickory. I think you might find that one of the prime reasons Brown Bros quit making carts was the unavailability of good Hickory.

  2. #22
    Junior Member Weanling Jim will become famous soon enough
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    [The Freebairn wheel you mention were truly the bees knees weren't they? In loose or heavy going they made a massive difference to how horses got to the line.]

    The advantages of the Freebairn Singles: Very light. Excellent hub. large tyre (44 mm) great for soft tracks which were best for horses. Tyres had the lowest hysteresis (deformation) losses of any tyre ever used in harness racing. So all up, the most energy-efficient harness racing wheels ever made. DISADVANTAGES: The 15g spokes were the lightest and weakest ever used in a harness racing wheel. Frequent spoke failures. The wooden rims were VERY fragile, a strike from a hoof would shatter them. The tyres were equally fragile, easily punctured, with the result that the flat tyre would often wind around the hub and lead to the catastrophic failure of the whole wheel. It was these disadvantages that caused R.J. Walsh & Son never to go that route. That said, nothing could match the Freebairn Singles for over-all efficiency.




    Cheers,

  3. #23
    Senior Member 2YO Showgrounds will become famous soon enough
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    Spot on with the hickory Jim; the Brown's kept renovating old sulkies long after they stopped building them. My late mate I worked for at the time ordered a new one back in '76 and got his 24-year old model fully restored at the same time. The only way I could tell the difference was the differing paint jobs. His brother still has the "new" cart hanging in the stables. Spotted gum, as sulky shafts go, makes might fine slasher and shovel handles. I used to buy them by the hundreds from a bending works by the Clyde River at Batemans Bay in the late '70's for the forestry department. Decent hickory had become impossible to source locally; we were lucky to get onto an importer sourcing them out of the States. Initially, we were very suspicious because they had been painted rather than laquered. They proved pretty good, though. A few years later, cheap Oregon was imported into Australia - plenty of rotten pergolas and verandahs on houses from the early 80's.

    Legend has it the last Royal Speed ever made was offered as a trophy at the Hopetoun Show in the Mallee. It resulted in record nominations from all over the place, only for desperate trainers to be disappointed when Ross Conway fronted up to his home-town show with his great filly Copper Satin! Wonder if he still has the cart?

  4. #24
    Junior Member Weanling Jim will become famous soon enough
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    Sulkies

    Quote Originally Posted by Showgrounds View Post
    Spot on with the hickory Jim; the Brown's kept renovating old sulkies long after they stopped building them. My late mate I worked for at the time ordered a new one back in '76 and got his 24-year old model fully restored at the same time. The only way I could tell the difference was the differing paint jobs. His brother still has the "new" cart hanging in the stables. Spotted gum, as sulky shafts go, makes might fine slasher and shovel handles. I used to buy them by the hundreds from a bending works by the Clyde River at Batemans Bay in the late '70's for the forestry department. Decent hickory had become impossible to source locally; we were lucky to get onto an importer sourcing them out of the States. Initially, we were very suspicious because they had been painted rather than laquered. They proved pretty good, though. A few years later, cheap Oregon was imported into Australia - plenty of rotten pergolas and verandahs on houses from the early 80's.

    Legend has it the last Royal Speed ever made was offered as a trophy at the Hopetoun Show in the Mallee. It resulted in record nominations from all over the place, only for desperate trainers to be disappointed when Ross Conway fronted up to his home-town show with his great filly Copper Satin! Wonder if he still has the cart?
    Hi Trevor, Speaking of the last Royal Speed, I am not aware of a harness racing museum anywhere in the country that has a decent collection of the iconic sulky brands of the 20th century? There certainly should be, while it is still possible to get the sulkies. Plus we, as a nation, have much to be proud of in terms of both workmanship and innovation, and it would be a shame if it all disappeared.

  5. #25
    Senior Member Horse Of The Year Toohard will become famous soon enough Toohard's Avatar
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    Hi Jim. Bendigo have a few in their museum. Will get some pics next time I'm there.

  6. #26
    Junior Member Weanling Jim will become famous soon enough
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    Quote Originally Posted by Toohard View Post
    Hi Jim. Bendigo have a few in their museum. Will get some pics next time I'm there.
    Thanks Paul, I assume the museum is on the track? If not, address?
    Cheers, Jim

  7. #27
    Senior Member 4YO Adaptor will become famous soon enough
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim View Post
    Thanks Paul, I assume the museum is on the track? If not, address?
    Cheers, Jim
    It's on track at Lord's Raceway. I just got home from the 10 race card. We open it during race meetings.

    We have 2 really good Royal Speed Sulkies, one used less that 12 times, was owned by The Conways at Hopetoun.
    We have a Regal
    A Hammill
    Gentleman Johns 1956 Sydney Interdominion Sulky
    The legendary Grand Voyages 1920s sulky, purchased when Grand Voyage was in New Zealand
    An all wood sulky from the 1910s...we think won the 1923 Boort Cup.

    We are chasing a Brewer, which we are sure we have located in storage, and a Tasman which were made in Echuca.
    Silver Peak's Brewer sulky owned by Brian Gath is in a house in Bendigo...I believe in the lounge room !
    Come and see us !

  8. #28
    Junior Member Weanling Jim will become famous soon enough
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adaptor View Post
    It's on track at Lord's Raceway. I just got home from the 10 race card. We open it during race meetings.

    We have 2 really good Royal Speed Sulkies, one used less that 12 times, was owned by The Conways at Hopetoun.
    We have a Regal
    A Hammill
    Gentleman Johns 1956 Sydney Interdominion Sulky
    The legendary Grand Voyages 1920s sulky, purchased when Grand Voyage was in New Zealand
    An all wood sulky from the 1910s...we think won the 1923 Boort Cup.

    We are chasing a Brewer, which we are sure we have located in storage, and a Tasman which were made in Echuca.
    Silver Peak's Brewer sulky owned by Brian Gath is in a house in Bendigo...I believe in the lounge room !
    Come and see us !
    Thanks. Is the Regal a wood or steel shaft? Do you have a Regal Ireland Special? Do you need images of sulkies? I would be happy to give you what I have in that department, including the Regals made in the USA.
    Best regards,
    Jim

  9. #29
    Super Moderator Stallion Messenger will become famous soon enough Messenger's Avatar
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    Thanks for that info Jim. I had a double thickness of Spotted for a floor, when it had to be redone due to shrinking (first lot not kiln dried) - they lay the second over the first. It was so solid you would swear you were walking on a concrete slab. The off cuts were great for the open fire so I can imagine how that floor fueled the fire when that house went up in smoke.
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  10. #30
    Junior Member Weanling Jim will become famous soon enough
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    Quote Originally Posted by arlington View Post
    I remember the Royal Speeds, made by the Brewer brothers? Beautiful sulkies, hand painted.
    Reg Walsh made an all hickory sulky http://www.powerhousemuseum.com/coll...ase/?irn=38352
    If a shaft did snap, the hickory's grain didn't give a long spike.
    I have seen the wooden rimmed, steel spoked race wheels with decorative paint work on the rims. And the tubeless glue on tyres. These were still used in the late 60's early 70's I think. I remember a guy named Ken, 'the wheel man' making his rounds through the trainers at the Melbourne Showgrounds, picking up and dropping off wheels each week.

    The Royal Speed sulkies were made by the Brown Bothers in Adelaide, and fine sulkies they were. Dad (Reg Walsh) and I made hundreds of hickory-shafted sulkies in the 1960s before second growth hickory was no longer available. When you could no longer get good hickory, the Browns ceased making sulkies. In the early 1980s they became agents for our Regal brand stainless steel bikes and did a lot of repair work on them inAdelaide. They were excellent craftsmen.

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