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The Tidman engine runs at the centre of the ride.

THE JUBILEE STEAM GALLOPERS

The Gallopers is the centrepiece of Carters Steam Fair – it's how it all began, and it's still at the heart of the fair and the family. The first large ride bought by John and Anna Carter, the Gallopers represents years of dedication and hard work, and a great deal of love and affection. This machine is not a carousel – a carousel is an American ride which turns anti-clockwise, and the horses are often different to one another and prancing. The Gallopers is a very British ride, born of a time when normal working people couldn't afford their own horse. It provided a much-needed flight of fancy, a break from the drudgery of work, and often they would be highly decorated with exotic scenes, portraits of actors and actresses, of great men and royalty. In the days before cinema or television, it was transporting people into a gaily-coloured world. They're called Gallopers because the horses speed round, and as they race they're pulled up and down on cams, which gives them a 'galloping' motion. When they were made in about 1895, this would have been the fastest most people had ever travelled.

The horses are constructed from wood, carved in sections and fitted together. They're beautifully designed to pack tightly together when the ride is pulled down and loaded to travel to the next ground. The horses on this machine, mostly carved by Andersons of Bristol c1910, are subtly different to one another, and are all named for friends and family on the Fair.

It is said that a set of Gallopers is best run by a family – this set has been the start of the fairground career of every member of the Carter family. You can tell when you look at our Gallopers that it's loved.

When John and Anna first bought the Gallopers in 1976 it was a rational, albeit ambitious, step. At the time they were running a business promoting vintage car shows, air shows, steam events and collectors' bazaars. They often employed traditional amusements and, as there were only around fifteen sets of Gallopers travelling nationally at that time, when John came across this set it seemed sensible to buy it to operate themselves. It was never intended, at that point, to run a complete vintage travelling fun fair – that happened almost by accident.

This set of Gallopers is quintessentially English, and was originally built by Robert Tidman & Sons of Norwich, a well-known maker, in 1895. As with almost every vintage fairground ride, it has been extensively repaired and added to over the years – parts of it are believed to have been made by different makers, but that's hardly surprising with the ravages of travelling life. Amazingly, this machine is believed to have opened virtually every season since it was built, providing eight different families with an income.

It's not as large or as grand as some other surviving Galloper sets are, but it's a perfect size, at 36' diameter, for travelling short distances between grounds, and was known as a 'red set', as it was traditionally painted almost entirely red with cream paint in place of gold leaf, as the showmen couldn't afford that kind of embellishment. When we first bought it, it was in poor condition, and over the years it has been extensively repaired and redecorated.

When we first bought the Gallopers, it had no engine. Bizarrely, a friend of ours living just down the road in Maidenhead had a Tidman engine of unknown heritage. John and Anna bought the engine from him, and were amazed when it lowered straight in and engaged with all the bolt holes as though it had never been away. Nobody can be sure if it is actually the original engine from the set, but it appears to be pretty likely.

Its first season with Carters was in 1977, so John decided to name it The Jubilee Steam Gallopers in commemoration of the Queen's silver jubilee, and the fact that it had been 25 years since it was last run on steam. It features over fifty portraits of royalty, famous personages and actors, and exotic jungle scenes on the rounding boards by Anna Carter, and consists of over 500 individual pieces (not including nuts and bolts of course). At its centre is a c1900 46-key Gavioli organ, bought from Roger Daltrey in 1979, which provides the soundtrack for that unmistakeable fairground atmosphere.

Want to know more about the Gallopers? Buy the book here

Who can ride, and what does it cost?
The Gallopers are suitable for all ages (including small children when accompanied by an adult), and cost 5 tokens per person to ride. Prices may be subject to change.


Buy tokens in advance online, and get FREE RIDES!


 

 

 

Hire the Gallopers
If you are interested in hiring the Gallopers, the price starts from around £2500. Please click here for more information. The Gallopers takes about 7 hours to build up (preferably the day before) and measures 36 feet in diameter, and about 23 feet in height. Please be aware that you will need a good level ground and clear enough access to get an articulated lorry on to the site (any gate must be minimum of 10 feet wide). It runs on steam, so we need access to water on site, but it can also be run on electricity, which we can generate with one of our lorry-mounted sets if necessary.

 

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