Defunct Speedway Tracks

 

 
 
Miscellaneous
Part 4
 
 
Pre War Helmet Colours  Concrete/Tarmac Starting Area  Old Bike Makes  Jack Sharp in Singapore 
Jack and Frank Chiswell  Rocket Bike
 
 
Speedway Bike Transportation
 
Since becoming interested in speedway from 1961.  I have developed an interest in the modes of transport employed in getting a rider and his bike(s)/equipment around the tracks.  In the modern era all riders appear to have at least two bikes, a large van and a load of equipment with them at every meeting.  This wasn’t the case years ago. 
 
The early pioneers in 1928-1929 would set off for a race meeting on their street legal bikes to the track and then in the pits proceeded to strip the bike down, removing mudguards, lights etc and were also instructed by early dirt track racing rules to disable the brakes.  Then the riders took to the track on their stripped down machines. At the end of the racing the rider would refit all the parts removed, reconnect the brakes and ride the bike home.  Modern riders have it so much easier with mechanics and a large van.
 
Most tracks used to have a "Track Spare" which could be used in an emergency if the rider wrecked their bike or had serious running problems.  The track spare usually started off the season in good running order but was often plundered by a rider in difficulties taking parts off it to keep his own bike going leaving the spare in a state of disrepair.  As a result the "Track Spare" idea was done away with over the years.
 
 
1930's Mode Of Transport
 
 
This is Canadian Eric Chitty and his mechanic at West Ham in the 1930's.  He was a very successful rider hence he could afford the sports car, trailer and two bikes.
 
Car/Van ownerships were often not affordable to young riders starting out on their speedway career whereas a motorcycle/sidecar combination was more affordable, I am showing below how this, the most basic transport, was used by many young riders aspiring to the level of Eric Chitty
 
 
1948 Typical
Junior Rider Transport
 
 
This photo was taken in Wallsend close to Newcastle's race track Brough Park. It was taken in 1948 and shows novice rider John Hunter and friends on their way to Brough Park.
 
The guy on the left was another rider Stuart Robson, no relation to the 2013 Newcastle rider by same name.  The combination was a 1923 Harley Davidson.  I don't know what the other road bike was.  The speedway machine in the sidecar was I am told a Rudge with a JAP engine.  The other speedway bike has it's chain removed so the back wheel could revolve freely on the road.  It was common to see speedway bikes transported in this fashion before car/van ownership did away with the motorcycle combination.  A notable "Name" Reg Fearman, started his riding career this way.
 
 
Reg Fearman's Humble Beginning
 
Courtesy of Reg Fearman
 
My friend Reg Fearman used the above pictured sidecar combination when he was riding in Australia in 1950/51 The workhorse machine was a Panther 650cc, a far cry from Reg's Rolls Royce's which he owned when he was promoting in the 1960/70s in the UK.
 
 
The Small Van
 
Owning a small van big enough for one bike was looked upon as a huge improvement over the bike/sidecar
 
Courtesy of Reg Fearman
 
Reg Trott with his van at Rye House in 1950's, looking very happy as he loads his bike into a strange looking vehicle, it appears to have a rear door that becomes a ramp when let down and partly wooden in construction, unless I am wrong.
 
 
Bike In The Boot!
 
 
This is Ronnie Genz an Oxford rider when this picture was taken.  Incredible now having a motorbike sticking out of a boot.  But in the 1960s many riders travelled this way.  The boot would be tied down to stop the wind catching it and the police were happy with it!  All you needed was a biggish family saloon with a good sized boot like this Mark 1 Ford Cortina.  Another good car for a speedway rider was the Citroen Safari you could get a bike right inside and shut the tailgate.  I remember New Zealander Graeme Stapleton using one when he rode for my team Newcastle in the 1970s.
 
 
Tow Bar Mounted Bike Racks
 
 
If you had a large car or van with a tow bar fitted.  You could take of the ball end off the tow bar and bolt a bike rack
on in its place.  A bike would sit securely on the bike rack as shown above.
For many years speedway bikes were transported either sticking out of the boot of large cars or like this one slung on a special rack mounted on a tow bar.  This rig belonged to Cliff Watson.  I borrowed a bike rack in 2005 from local Newcastle rider Craig Connon when he lent me his bike to put on show at a local motorbike carnival.
 
 
Ernst Bøgh's Retro JAP On A Tow Bar Bike Rack
 
 
Danish Rider Ernst Bøgh has sent this pic of a Retro Rotrax JAP mounted on a bike rack.  Although the picture is recent, this kind of bike rack has been around for decades.  The rack fits onto a tow bar mounting and the bike is lifted on and secured by aerolastics and a number plate/lights board. Do it right and you can cruise at top speed, well 70mph in the UK!
 
John says:  This is an interesting topic if you have any pictures showing a riders chosen novel method of transport please send me your pics and/or your views on what is shown in this section email me here John
 
It never ceases to amaze me that most riders turned up for matches despite the various difficulties they faced in years gone by.  Not many motorways, dual carriageways and less than reliable modes of transports!  Well done guys
 

 
 

Homburg Saar, Germany
In The Late 1950s

 
Courtesy John Hyam
 
John Hyam says: This is a cartoonists view of speedway as used by the German promoters at Homburg Saar to promote their 1958 international meeting featuring Germany, Austria, Holland and England.
 
A great work of art. I particularly like the speed blurs and how the two riders blend into one.
 

 
 
Pre-War Helmet Colours
 
In modern times we have Red and Blue for Home Riders with White/Green and Yellow/Yellow& Black Away Riders.  This wasn't always the case.
 
 
This pre war 1938 programme of a Newcastle v West Ham match.  It shows the team colours Newcastle: Red and White and West Ham: Red and Blue.  You may not have expected the Newcastle body colours to be shown as Red and White, as in modern times, from 1961, Newcastle have always been Black and White!
 
Stranger still, the helmet colours are Newcastle Red and White and the visitors Blue and Yellow!  So is this a printing mistake or were the helmet colours right?  If you can throw any light on the helmet colours please email me John
 
Newcastle fans will be pleased to see that we hammered the hammers 57-26 with the Diamonds hero George Pepper scoring a 12 point maximum
 

 
 
1929 Birmingham Team
 
 
Six riders all mounted on Douglas machines so this could be as early as 1928 or possibly 1929.  I don't know any of the riders or the venue, can you help John
Terry Stone says: No 14 is Jim Kempster
Valerie Davey says: The track is Stamford Bridge
Nigel Bird says: Six riders mounted on Douglases; Venue : Stamford Bridge , This is the 1929 Birmingham Perry Barr team, rider on the left is Wally Lloyd, I would be very surprised if Jim Kempster is among these riders, I only wish I could positively identify the others. The numbers on the bikes can be a bit unreliable as a form of identification.
Valerie Davey would recognise this track, as her Grandfather raced here.
 

 
 
1953 Australian
Test Team
At Norwich
 
Courtesy of Ashley York
 
Ashley York says: This photo was with the photo of the Norwich rider (shown above). The team photo looks like it may be of a touring Australian Test team – perhaps they raced at Norwich.  This is all pure speculation on my part based on what I have found on the internet – I have no knowledge of speedway myself. I would be interested though If you are in a position to provide any information about the photos, such as when they might have been taken, whether it is an Australian Test team, and who any of the individuals are.
Colin Greenwell says: The "Australian team" is from L-R standing: Arthur Payne, Keith Gurtner, Athur Simcock, Jack Young, Aub Lawson and kneeling: Johnny Chamberlain, Ronnie Moore, Peter Moore and Jack Biggs
Steve Brown says: The pic of the Australian team you just posted was indeed taken at Norwich.  It was from the first England v Australia Test on June 20, 1953, and was won by the visitors 62-46.  Back : Arthur Payne, Keith Gurtner, Jack Young, Aub Lawson.  Front : John Chamberlain, Ronnie Moore, Peter Moore, Jack Biggs.  Ronnie Moore scored an 18-point maximum.
Don Price says: Just spotted the Australian team photo in your " name the rider" section so I'll have a stab at this.  I think the riders are... (back row) Arthur Payne,  Keith Gurtner, Jack Young,  Aub Lawson..  (front row)  John Chamberlain,  Ronnie Moore, Peter Moore & Jack Biggs,.   1st Test @ Norwich 20th of June 1953.  Australia won 62-46.  All the best, Don.
 

 
 
Concrete/Tarmac Starting Areas
 
In the modern era we are all used to see our riders digging in the dirt at the starting area before settling down for the tapes up.  This wasn't always the case as once upon a time the starting area was either concrete or tarmac
 
Courtesy of Jim Henry
 
This photo of Walthamstow shows a concrete starting grid.  God knows what was going on here! But the rider couldn't have been digging the dirt with his boots as it was solid concrete!
 
Courtesy of Colin Greenwell
 
This is 1940s Cleveland Park Middlesbrough.  A Tarmac starting grid and their rider Frank Hodgson appears to be restricted to a rather narrow grid 1?
 
 
The Starting Gate Rule
 
 
So what could be better?  A consistent start area without advantage.  I wonder why it didn't catch on and now we have starts on the dirt with multiple winners from one starting position and none from another.  Is it time to get the boys from the black stuff in to tarmac our starts again?
I am not old enough to have watched racing when these starting areas were in use.  If you witnessed speedway with these grids please send me your comments John
 
 
A Concrete Start
 
Picture courtesy of Fred Pallett
 
John says: The small text reads: Starting Hazards, Oliver Hart and Split Waterman find their front wheels lifting on the concrete starting area. Neither turned over but Hart's machine broke the bottom tape of the rising gate causing a restart. Concrete in place of the softer tarmac was a 1950 change which upset several riders including Waterman and Vic Duggan - G.R.A. photo taken at Harringay
 
Fred Pallett says: Hello John, I am not too young to remember this! I remember that all the London tracks had a hard starting area of some kind. I always assumed them to be concrete, but some could have been tarmacadam/asphalt. I clearly recall that, at Wembley Stadium, the driver of the tractor that towed the grader between heats used to raise the grader off the ground when passing over the starting area. Stenner’s 1951 Speedway Annual (World Edition) includes a centre pages (48/49) photograph spread, taken at Harringay, showing Oliver Hart (Odsal) and Split Waterman (Harringay) with their front wheels lifting “on the concrete starting area” – see attached scan (above). The caption goes on to state that “Concrete in place of the softer tarmac was a 1950 change which upset several riders, including Waterman and Vic Duggan”. As a Wembley supporter, my speedway attendances ceased in June 1954, so I am unable to confirm the situation in later years. Many cycle speedway tracks also had hard starting areas, as they were generally modelled on motorcycle speedway tracks.
 
 
Stoke's Starting Grid Area
 
Picture courtesy of Reg Fearman
 
John says: 8 Belle Vue riders on the concrete at Stoke.  I suppose a trackman that could grade dirt up to a seemless join with concrete would be ok and trackmen that couldn't would have a bump as the bikes entered the concrete section.  Not good eh?
 
Reg Fearman says: John, The concrete starting gate came into Regulations just after WW II. All tracks had to install the concrete slabs which were made by the one contractor and indeed were all the same size and length. They did have 'grooves' which can be clearly seen in the first photo. My attached photo shows clearly the Starting Area at Stoke Speedway in 1953. The idea of course was to 'Standardise' the starts. Later came complaints about the 'bump' at high speed when the race was on, it could be very noticeable between the track and concrete.. They were then all torn up and reverted to the old fashioned dirt start then much later followed the time wasting 'gardening'. Cheers, Reg
 
John Chaplin says: John, For a start (no pun intended), I resent the implication that I am 'too young' to remember concrete and tarmac starting areas. { John Skinner says: oops sorry didn't think you would be so touchy!}
I saw them up until 1956. I have always advocated a return to either them or the technique used when they were in use. Riders would come up to the two yard line (about the length of a bike back from the tapes) where they would be stopped by the starting marshall. When the Steward (referee) put the green light on the riders were allowed to move up to the tapes. they were then 'Under Starters orders'. They remained still until the tapes went up. As I recall there was no tape pushing and there was certainly no point in 'gardening' at the gate. However, if a rider miscalculated and looped, it hurt to fall on the hard surface. Few did.
Regards, John Chaplin
 
 
New Cross Concrete
Starting Area
 
 
John says: Ron Johnson on concrete at New Cross in 1946 curiously it shows the concrete extending well before the starting gate, why was that? and as the track appears to be wet I wonder that if the concrete wasn't laid properly that puddles would appear on wet nights?
 
If you have any photos or views on starting areas please email me John
 

 
 
Lenningrad USSR
 
 
 
 
Courtesy of Graham Gleave
 

 
 
Bob & Gil
 
 
Bob Andrews sent the above photo, he says: Here is a photo of Gil Goldfinch and myself taken in 1954 at Eastbourne. I had just won the Silver Helmet Championship there.  He was giving me “a man hug” in the pits, my ex. Army van is behind us. An Austin.
 

 
Old Bike Makes Prior To UK Speedway Starting
In 1928
 
As a biker as well as a speedway fan I am interested in the makes of bikes used on Dirt Tracks prior to racing commencing in 1928 in the UK.  I asked Aussie Tony Webb for info on bikes in use when Dirt Track racing was Australia's private property.  Tony sent me a scan from a 1926 Sydney, Australia programme.
 
 
The 1926 Australian programme shows the bikes each rider was using.  Glancing through the list of machines the vast majority of bikes were British with a couple of American machines Harley-Davidson and Indian added in!  Douglas and Rudge are listed too.  The two British bikes went on to dominate a couple of years later.  I notice two machines Ogden Triumph and Ogden Norton.  I presume Ogden added some improvements to the standard Triumph and Norton.  I also note James and Royal Enfield. Which were makes I enjoyed owning in the 1960s.  My James and Royal Enfield bikes were road going machines though.
 
My understanding of the top1920s dirt track machines was that Harley Davidson was the first winning machine, with AJS also having some success. Followed by the very successful Douglas and the Rudge, then in 1931 the British made JAP came along and swept all the earlier opposition away.
 

 
 
Obituary
Bob Sharp
 
VSRA News desk 13 September 2012
Very sad news from Tara, Queensland, Bob "Cowboy" Sharp, former Australian Champion has died following a heart attack at on September 12 2012. Bob is well remembered in Great Britain for his time at White City Glasgow and Ipswich 1952-1958.
According to Bob’s son, Ron Sharp, his dad had visited the local hospital regarding a knee replacement. He suffered a heart attack at a friend’s house later.
It is understood that Bob has a burial plot in his home town of Tara which is . approx 300 k west of Brisbane

VSRA Editor

 

 
Eastern Speedways, Norwich on Sunday Independent & Journal
10th September 1932
 
A great picture from Speedway Researcher Jim Henry.
 
Competitors line up for the start of the grand parade of the riders at the Eastern Speedways, Norwich on Sunday Independent & Journal 10th September 1932) On the front row are Number 3 Jack Smythe and 5 Geoff Pymar
 
 
Another Great Picture From Jim Henry
 
 
Another Picture from Jim Henry Speedway Resarcher.  Jim says: Final of the Big Twelve. 14 - Hal Herbert, 8 – Fred Wilkinson, 2 – Wally Banner, 12 Arthur Johnson.  Result - - - - - First Wilkinson 87.1/5 seconds, second Banner, third Herbert

Riders who took part in this meeting taken from the program are

1-Arthur Reynolds, 2-Wally Banner, 3-Jack Smythe, 4-Reg Stanley, 5-Geoff Pymar, 6-Jack Allby, 7-Wal Smith,

8-Fred Wilkinson, 9-Jim Milward, 10-Don Dimes, 11-Don Boswell. 12-Arthur Johnson, 14-Hal Herbert, 15-S. Gardner,

16-W. Phillips, 17-C. S. Gill. 18-Johnnie Glass, 19-Jack Eldon.

It was reported in the press that Fred Wilkinson won five out of his seven races, but the filled in programme gives him four wins and three seconds. Without doubt Fred was the top rider in this meeting and from the programme he would have won £8.10.0 (£8.50) in prize money. This was not a bad payday as in the programme a Hercules bicycle was advertised at £3.19.0. A Two Seater Morris Minor Car at £100 and a 250c.c. Rudge Motor bike cost £38. The admission was 7d & 1/-. As there were 20 1/- to a £, it would equal to 170 fans paying 1/- for Fred’s winnings that day.

 

 
 
Jack Sharp In Singapore
 
 
Before Australian Champion Jack Sharp arrived in England in 1931 he rode a season in Singapore and left winning a Silver Gauntlet and  holding the track record.  If anyone has info regarding racing in Singapore please email me John
 
 

Advert For Singapore Meeting

 
 
 

 
 
John (Jack) &
Frank Chiswell
 
 
A truly great example of a 1929/1930 'ish photo which would have been black and white, hand tinted with colour.  The photo was sent to me by Mike Darby who is the nephew of the two brothers shown above.  They are John and Frank Chiswell from Loughton Essex.  The bike is a Douglas which had its day around that time.
 
Mike Darby says: Dear John, My late Uncle John Chiswell was an early dirt track rider and with his brother Frank rode at High Beech, as they came from Loughton Essex where the family ran a garage, and I believe Belle Vue, Manchester.
My uncle was born 1908 and married my fathers sister Constance Darby, who was pioneer ladies biker in her day.
Uncle John died in 2001 aged 93 and although he showed me these photographs he never really told the full story of their dirt track days.
The cartoon was I believe published in a magazine of the time, 1920/30’s, but I know very little else.
Have you heard of the Chiswell Brothers?
Kind regards
Mike Darby
 
John says: Can anyone supply any more info on the Chiswell's ? email me John
 
 
Not sure which of the brothers this one is.  The bike is a bit strange to me so if you can identify it send me and email John The strengthening strut along the frame may be a clue.
 
Nigel Bird says: Sorry can't name which Chiswell brother it is but the machine is an AJS road bike converted for speedway, Track High Beech1928
 
 
John may have used the name Jack as in this sketch.  Mike and I would love to hear from anyone whom can supply any info on the Chiswell brothers.
 
 
John or Frank Chiswell could be at High Beech?  Great pictures Mike:  if you find anymore send them in please
 

 
 
Speedway Cricket Match
 
 
From formbyfalls:1938 Fred Mountford

Fred Pallett says: Hello John, May I offer the following small correction to Miscellaneous Part 4. Under the heading of “Speedway Cricket Match”, there is a photo of a man in cricket whites with the caption “Fred Mountford”. This should read Fred Mockford, who was the promoter of Crystal Palace Speedway in the 1930s, before moving his operation to New Cross, where he was still the promoter after World War 2

 

 
 

Arlo Bugeja's Wedding 2011

 

Arlo recently married Claire Fearnley the niece of my friend and Redcar supporter Colin Greenwell. Colin has sent the following photographs of Arlo's and Claire's big day

 
 

Claire and Arlo

 
 

Jordan Frampton, Matthew Wethers and Shane Parker.  Arlo and Mathew have been best friends since childhood

 
 
This photograph includes Matthew Wethers (best man), Jordan Frampton, Shane Parker, Jade Mudgway, Paul Cooper, Jitendra Duffil, and Barry Simpson (Redcar starting marshall)
John says: Best wishes go to Claire and Arlo
 

 
 

Ukraine Speedway Rovno

 
Igor Sokolovskiy says:  Hi John, I hope that you may be interested.  Best regards, Igor Sokolovskiy. Ukraine, Rovno.  
Hi, my name is Igor Sokolovskiy. I live in Ukraine, Rovno.
Speedway in our city came in 1959 when in Rovno was opened the first in the Soviet Union a special stadium for races
on speedway It is Rovno in his debut in speedway Viktor Trofimov, and it happened April 30, 1960. He appeared in 1962 in the USSR national team 15 times in a row started in the Individual World Championships.
 
I do statistics Rovno speedway, and I can clarify about one race in England next.  June 9, 1976 the USSR national team played its third match in England. On the track at Belle Vue Aces were stronger.
But the items in the guests a little incorrect.
 Vladimir Paznikov claimed in the race for number 8, three starts in place of Nikolai Kornev. But all the time, finished fourth. That he is pictured in the fight against Kristian Praestbro. But Viktor Kuznetsov - teammate Vladimir Paznikov in Novosibirsk Sibir', then do not got 2, and 3 points. The remaining riders are unchanged.
 

 
 

Ronnie Hynd's 1940/50s Pictures

 
 

Ken Le Breton, Arthur Forest and Bruce Semmons.  A great shot showing Arthur's steel shoe circa 1940/50's

Ken seen here wearing Ashfield Jacket, left Newcastle for Glasgow Ashfield Giants in 1949 and died in 1951 so this photo must have been 1949-1950
 
 

Dick Campbell & Jack Young

 
 

 
 

Rocket Bike !

 
 
 
Courtesy of Graham Gleave
 

 
 
The Crocker USA!
 
 

I think this picture is pre war USA showing a Crocker apparently locking up

 

 
 
Speedway News Thrills & Spills
 
 

Above  item courtesy of Jim Henry


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