Eight hundred hours of labour for a bottle of brandy would have many saying Ted Hiscock was grossly underpaid.
Hiscock recently completed a restoration of the 60-year-old speeder locomotive, which he’s dubbed the “Brandy Speeder.”
Ted Hiscock don’t know if he’ll do it again, but, one thing’s for certain, he knows how it’s done.
Used during the days of the Newfoundland Railway, the speeder would tail the steam locomotives, which ran on coal, to make sure there weren't any fires caused by flankers along the railway track. Crews would also use it for track maintenance.
Hiscock started the project in November, as a favor to the Clarenville Heritage Society, just to get the engine running again.
After seeing its rundown condition, however, he decided a complete makeover was in order. Parts were seized or rusted solid, metals were twisted and bent, even the piston had to be beaten out of the engine.
He spent weeks restoring the engine and cleaning it up.
In a previous interview with the Packet, Hiscock said it didn’t feel right putting the engine back into the weather-beaten “piece of junk” frame.
So he carried on working to get the entire thing back in shape.
Some 800 hours later, Hiscock’s had the speeder chugging along.
Looking back, he said, it was an extremely time-consuming process that caused more than its share of frustration.
“The motor was probably the most difficult part because everything was seized solid,” he said. “I had to soak parts, beat the piston out, and when she finally started I couldn’t believe it.”
The speeder taunted Hiscock down to the very last days of restoration.
Hiscock had everything ready to roll last week and was putting the finishing touches on the speeder. He decided to start the engine but couldn’t get so much as a pop.
Hiscock admits it was pretty heartbreaking after pouring all that time into the project and not have it run.
“I was extremely vexed, and that’s about as nice as I can put it,” he said.
The transistor was broken and wouldn’t produce a spark. He took a part from his own engine, to get the speeder’s engine firing again.
Frustrations aside, he’s pleased with his accomplishment.
“I’m really proud about how she turned out, but it was a lot to take on,” he said.
Steve Bonnell, president of the Clarenville Heritage Society, couldn’t believe the difference from what Hiscock started out with, to what he produced.
“Ted has done a fabulous job. Without his effort we would not have been able to come close to restoring it to the level that he has,” Bonnell said.
“His work now provides people with the opportunity to see it, hear it and, hopefully, get a ride on it, providing people with the full speeder experience.”
Protecting the past
Now that the speeder has been restored the Heritage Society is exploring ways to store the locomotive, so it doesn’t have to sit in the elements.
The group has been working towards the purchase of a shed, which will cost approximately $10,000.
While the shed is the overall goal, there is a Plan B.
Bonnell said the Society has asked the Town of Clarenville to donate one of the unused sheds built for the shoreline market. (See councillor at large A4)
“It’s the perfect size for the speeder, and it’s the perfect short-term solution,” he said.
While no final decision has been given, Bonnell said the town has been receptive to the idea.
Town manager Bob Hiscock said the request has been received and will be discussed at the upcoming recreation meeting.
As for Ted Hiscock, he’s since been approached to repair another speeder, for another group, but he isn’t sure if he’ll take it on.
“I’ll do the motor for them, gladly, but they’ll have to take care of the frame themselves.”