Author Topic: Joseph Barter and his Fe motorcycle  (Read 9012 times)

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Offline Dave

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Joseph Barter and his Fe motorcycle
« on: 08 Feb 2010 at 09:52 »
Many thanks to Doug Frost who kindly sent in this interesting article about Joseph Barter and his Fe motorcycle. The photo is of a replica Doug has completed in 2009.

Towards the end of the Victorian era, the diamond frame bicycle had been established as the latest novelty in getting from A to B. At about the same time, along came the internal combustion engine and it did not take long for many inventive engineers to realise that a small engine fitted to the bicycle might save some pedaling.

One such inquisitive creator was a Bristolian called Joseph John Barter. Joseph Barters main obstacle was finance as his first working single cylinder engine designed to be attached to a bicycle had to be produced by a company and was short lived.

He obviously had ability and some creative knowledge of the internal combustion engine. His second effort again he mounted in a bicycle but had to rely on others and where he worked for machinery.

1905 is the year under the spotlight when Joseph Barter had built his first twin cylinder prototype horizontally opposed engine and called it the "Fe" which is French for "fairy".

My findings lead me to the guess that the bicycle chosen to house his engine was French with its Latin named saddle, "Siderum" and the name perhaps due to the small size of the engine.

Joe possibly intended the 16 long engine to be sold to fit in existing bicycle frames, but at the running stage probably had to admit that the building of motor cycles proper had over taken his intentions.

We know that the engine worked alright after some adjustments to the distributor as the machine began with both plugs firing at TDC, and the use of a round leather drive belt was not the right choice.

The prototype engine was a 200cc four stroke with cam operated exhaust valve, automatic inlet valve, bore and stroke 2 3/16, cast iron barrels, total loss oil lubrication from a hand pump, 18mm plugs, twin ended trembler coil, wipe contact breaker, battery recharged off the machine, single speed, surface carburetion and a Bristol registration AE 692.

It is not known why surface fume carburation was used as this crude method was considered inefficient and obsolete by 1904.

Including BSA there were many companies even at this early stage who were making components such as coils, accumulators, handle bar controls, plugs and spray carburetors.

Joseph had been apprenticed in the steam locomotive industry and by 1905 at the age of 46, would know where to get parts like the engine to wheel clutch pulley, which may have been from an industrial source. The bike was black as were any new additions such as fume and oil tanks, with the bought in coil attached by nickel plated straps.

Top speed was claimed by the builder to be 20 mph although there was no speedometer.

Joseph Barter learned a lot from this single prototype and by 1906 was producing by his company called Light Motors, the next step, a 240cc motorcycle called the Fairy.

There are a few Fairy engines in existence and one complete original machine on display at the Solihull National Motorcycle Museum.

The engine from the prototype probably went into the first Fairy, so there is nothing left except one near side photograph which is sharp enough to reveal details, and what cannot be seen can be accurately deduced.

By 1907 Joseph had to close down and was invited to join the Douglas Brothers foundry in Bristol to design and get the ball rolling on the first Douglas motor cycles, which were virtually Fairy machines with a Douglas transfer.

A replica of the prototype has just been completed using a 28 wheeled bicycle and will be displayed at London Douglas Club events. Maybe six months to make in the beginning, but a two year period for me to make a copy of a prototype machine, where an imaginative engineer learned as he went along knowing what not to do, for the time when he could make his efforts count - to produce the grandfather of the Douglas motorcycle.

It is quite daunting to have the grandson (a 1957 Dragonfly) in the garage with a copy of his 1905 grandfather which covers the fifty year period of Douglas production. But then the Dragonfly works and the replica is a full size model with a wooden engine.

Doug Frost LDMCC