The Galloper
Derbyshire Life|March 2017

Mike Smith tells the tale of a great feat of model engineering from the 1940s – now back on display close to the maker’s home town of Chapel-en-le-Frith.

IN 1942, Herbert Slack, a shoemaker based in the High Peak town of Chapel-en-le-Frith, embarked on an ambitious project that would occupy much of his spare time over the following nine years. Inspired by the elaborate and highly colourful Victorian fairground ‘galloper’ he had seen at the annual fair that took place on land close to his home, Herbert decided that he would make a steam-driven model based on the kind of fairground carousel that had caught his eye. Working on a scale of 2.25 inches to one foot, he would try to ensure that his model would be perfect in every detail.

When his project was finally completed in 1951, Herbert wrote out a detailed summary of his achievement: ‘My reason for making this model is that I thought a model set of steam-driven galloping horses would make a very good subject for a model to have a go at. As there are no drawings or blueprints to be obtained for such a project, all the designing and the planning etc. had to be done personally by me. The model has all been made in my spare time, covering a period of about nine years, including nearly a year to paint it. The model weighs 5½ cwt and measures 6 feet 8 inches in diameter and has all been made on a 60-year-old homemade treadle lathe. The horses are cast from my pattern in six sections in aluminium and fitted together.’

For ease of transportation to shows and exhibitions, the various parts of the Galloper were stored in nine large packing cases, with the case containing the central engine requiring no fewer than four strong people to lift it. Several of the packaging cases were used to house the 30 galloping horses, with each animal being named after a famous general. The horses were designed to take up position on the roundabout with three horses making up each of ten rows. 

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