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A glimpse into the past of the Handley Page ‘Atlantic’ aircraft – Part 2

Kerwin Davison looks over a replica of the Handley Page Atlantic engine he has constructed in his Greenhill workshop. Gale Boland photo
Kerwin Davison looks over a replica of the Handley Page Atlantic engine he has constructed in his Greenhill workshop. Gale Boland photo - Contributed

A century ago, in the early morning hours of July 5th, most of the town of Parrsboro was awakened by the sound of a four-engine bomber circling overhead, in obvious distress. In a world still shaken by the horror of the First World War, the sight and sound of this enormous warplane must have been as shocking as a UFO landing! The Handley Page ‘Atlantic’ was damaged during its emergency landing and remained in the community for several weeks for repairs.

To commemorate the anniversary of that event Kerwin Davison has dedicated countless hours designing and constructing a full-sized replica of that 375 horse power Rolls Royce airplane engine. It is one of several projects planned by the 689 Handley Page Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron and the Ottawa House Museum.

Davison’s latest project began with nothing more than his clever idea and a photo of a Rolls Royce engine. From there, he studied the engine design, made sketches and outlined his plan of action, all the while collecting the ‘nuts & bolts’ to make this idea happen. Notably, the engine parts Davison has collected include the magnetos from an antique Hart-Parr tractor; the bellhousing from an International truck; North American Zenith carburetors as well as fittings saved from his years in the heating business. If Kerwin couldn’t find the necessary parts, then he made them. The actual construction began when Kerwin’s friends, at Parrsboro’s Granby Furnace plant, cut and bent the steel chassis and rolled the steel for the engine’s 12 cylinder.

Since September 2018, Davison’s typical work day, at his Greenhill workshop, began at 5 am, taking a 10 o’clock break to have coffee with his wife Anne. Dedicating at least 5 hours each day, and often 7 days each week for the past 6 months to reach his July deadline, is no small feat for a man in his 85th year. When completed, the engine and propeller will be encased in heavy glass with an accessible control panel, allowing visitors to see the wooden propeller spin and to hear a simulated engine roar.

During this summer, the engine will be unveiled during a ceremony at Parrsboro’s bandstand, and will also be an entry in Parrsboro’s ‘Old Home Week’ parade.

Be sure to visit Parrsboro this summer for several other opportunities to experience ‘a glimpse of the past’. While here, check out Kerwin’s antique cars and his full-sized replica of the coal train which once ran between Springhill and Parrsboro.

- Submitted by Gale Boland

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