The International Steam Pages

A Preserved Garrett Portable in Thailand

Thai resident Michael Pass is probably best known for his voyages of discovery in search of preserved steam locomotives in that country. However, he has now been coaxed into looking for and investigating other forms of steam power including steam rollers and road engines. Now he reports on a fascinating discovery. Let Michael describe the moment of discovery...

On my way home from Laos I noticed a couple of low-loaders, off-loading modern bright yellow road rollers and so my brain immediately switched to roller-search mode, when I noticed, almost completely hidden by a 3rd low-loader, something silver painted/not yellow, which looked remarkably like a steam engine. I screeched to a halt and backed up the dual carriageway to the front of the low-loader (no sign of its road roller) - here's what I found :

A very heavy and substantially built portable engine, painted silver-gray and in surprisingly good condition, both inside and out. Just in case you don't have it on your records already - here's what I found 

Stamped on the firebox, below the nuts & above the rivets, on the right hand side : PG REG No 140
On the left side was stamped : TEST 550 LBS, 12.5.1924, V.B.&G.I.CO.LTD, J.E.T.
Centrally above the firebox door & below the rivets were the stamped numbers : 16714 H5

I found 1, 2 & 3 digit cast numbers all over the engine, mainly prefixed SK, which I took to be part reference Ns, as on the case of the rollers. Perhaps the most significant of which was the cast number at the bottom of the cylinder head front : SK 591 7039.

Photos are attached and I have many more of the cast numbers on various parts, should you need them.

I've had a quick look on the Internet, but have found no trace of this engine, nor its builders : V.B. & G.I. Co Ltd or PG or J.E.T. - all "Double-Dutch" to me, but I'll bet that you have some answers !

Location: about 22 km east of Ubon Ratchathani on Highway 217 (on the left of the dual carriageway, travelling West towards Ubon, and on the verge, by the entrance gate to the Department of Agriculture Crops Research Centre - all in Thai!). In all my excitement, I completely forgot to check the GPS co-ordinates - sorry!

History : My step-daughter very kindly translated the information painted on a 2 metre long sign under the rear of the engine, which basically says that the engine was used for crushing sugar cane for the Thailand Sugar Organisation (but no date !) in Ban Nong Kin Pel, Warin District of Ubon Ratchathani Province until 1948, when it was moved and re-installed in another sugar factory at Ban Khom Nok Pao (same district & province). In 1956 this factory had to close and in 1957 the engine was given to the Department of Agriculture, under the control of the Agricultural Station of Ubon Ratchathani. No reference as to what it may then have been used for during the following 40 years, is on the sign. It was then moved to its present location in 1997. There was also no indication as to when the engine (built 1924 ?) was acquired. It was always fuelled by wood & from the looks of the chimney, probably had an extension on top.

Michael sent this first to Derek Rayner who passed it to another expert who commented:

"The portable is a Garrett 'SS VI' type portable (single cylinder, piston valve, superheated about 6NHP). This information is deduced from the pattern number prefix SK.

16714 is the boiler number and 7039 is the cylinder number.

I think I might be able to make the connection between the cylinder and boiler numbers with the works number next time I visit the archives.

Garrett's built 119 'SS VI' portables and most of these went to the Borneo Co. Ltd, Malaya and the Straits Settlements. I would assume that the build date will be close to the boiler test date - in 1924.

(To which I (RD) might add that the Borneo Co was active in Thailand as well, some narrow gauge steam locomotives were delivered to them. The superheater system I believe is contained within the large box under the chimney.)

Rob and Yuehong  Dickinson