Interview by Gary Radice
: Added November 2002, updated December 2003, July 2006, July 2009
Fast Forward to July 2006:
I think the last time themagiceye interviewed you, you were looking for a new house. Did you move and if so in the process did you manage to find a new storage place for the Ark?

Yes I did move house after a long process of having two mortgages. The Ark is stored safely but I'd rather not say where.
Were you successful in obtaining Heritage Lottery Funds (HLF) for the project?
No, I gave up on the HLF bid after reading the small print which basically said that if I sold the ride then I'd have to return the money.
Readers can read progress to date in detail on your website ridersofthelostark.co.uk [2009 Note: This link is now obsolete] but can you summarise the highs and lows of the last few years?

Highs - Building up the bottom of the ride at the end of last year and seeing all the individual parts I'd made or repaired all fitted together.

Also seeing the motor and rheostat running after teaching myself about 110volt DC electrics and fitting the safety cut-out devices myself.

Lows - finding that much of the timber I initially though was OK was in fact rotten. This has meant that nearly all the bottom timber frame of the ride has had to be replaced.
I also felt like packing it all in when I found that the 12" diameter centre column on the centre truck was rusted right through and was paper thin elsewhere. This was an expensive and difficult item to replace. But it's done now.

Building the sleeper frame and finding it was about 4" too short when I got round to the other end.

I was slightly ragged off to see that Carter's Steam Fair had bought an ark the same as mine and rebuilt it calling it the 'Lost Ark'. But they say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

What has been the response for offers of help? Is there anyone you wish to particularly thank?

I've had numerous people contact me with offers of help. Some have offered assistance but never kept in touch.

A guy from Newton-le-Willows called Tony has kept in touch and comes down to see how things are going on and a mate called Wes from Blackpool who has a ride (not Ark) himself has been a great help with all sorts of things.
Despite me asking for help I've enjoyed working by my self at my own pace.

Ark no. 126 built by Orton and Spooner in 1932...Have you learnt anything more about its history since you purchased it that has particularly surprised you?

Not really. It's had quite a quiet life travelling round the south coast. I've been in touch with several of the previous owners and have been sent many photographs of the ride from the last 73 years. I even got sent an old VHS video of the ride open for the last time in 1991. It was amazing to see it moving rather than static in a photograph.

How much has the restoration project taken over your life and has it been a costly exercise?

When I bought the ride, Adrian the previous owner said to me 'be careful because it will get under your skin and into your blood'. I took it with a pinch of salt but he was right!

I find my mind figuring out how I'm going to make new platform hinges or cheap paint brushes, my desk blotter is full of doodles and diagrams of electric circuits and designs for brackets, etc.
I get calls at work from other people wanting to do the same thing as me. A guy over in Wakefield has just bought an old ark to rebuild after seeing my website last year.
As for cost, yes it's costing a fair bit, although I worked out estimates for everything before I started. However, despite a few surprises it's all (nearly) on budget. 


Photograph: Paul Grimshaw

Photograph: Paul Grimshaw

Photograph: themagiceye

Photograph: themagiceye


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