Meat-eating, annoys the vegans - checka nice brisk ride around some pretty parts of West Wales,
Pig meat, annoys the fundamentalists - check
Caffeine, annoys the health fascists - check
Oooh, motorcycles are dangerous - checkand several hours at the Internal Fire Museum of Power.
Wasteful use of fossil fuel - check
Fuel-heavy and self-indulgent riding style - check
It was their end-of-season rally, where all the machines get cranked up and put to use. There were people from all over the UK with their stationary engines, water pumps, power saws and generators - all diesel-powered, all very old, and all restored to working condition.
It was a real men-in-sheds environment, everyone doing totally pointless, noisy, smelly, and very satisfying stuff.
The engines all had that wonderful patina that comes with long years of use (one very early diesel engine was built in 1912), regular maintenance and attention with the oily rag. You can't make machines look like that; you have to use them and look after them for a very long time. It's the same as the difference between a Victorian brass door-knocker that has been polished twice a week for a hundred years, and a shiny lacquered one, brand new from Homebase.
I say they were all diesel-powered, but one wasn't. This one:
was a Bristol Siddely Proteus gas turbine engine, used to power an emergency generator in the middle of Dartmoor. It was one of the first unmanned power stations in the UK, and peak output was 3MW, enough to power about 3000 households. (The equivalent in wind generation would power about 700 to 900 homes, because of the unreliability of the weather. Just sayin', like.) It could be called into action just by a phone call from London - no-one was needed on site. We are used to that level of automation now, but for the 1950s it was a stunning piece of technology. They fired it up twice when I was there, and the noise was shattering - just like standing beneath a jet aircraft. The exhaust was through a hole in the wall, and the flames came out for about 5 metres (they don't show in the photo, sadly). Awesome. They only ran it at half-speed, and for about 30 seconds at a time, as each firing used 15 gallons of kerosene.
There were massive flames coming out of that hole, honest.
Best of all, from a Franny Armstrong-annoying perspective, was a twin-cylinder Allen diesel engine which needed pre-heating with two blowlamps before it started. It was reluctant to start, but eventually went doff-DOFF-doff and belched good honest diesel fumes into the sky.
Here's one of the gang, just for the record.