Internal Fire Archive

Courtesy of C.J.Perkins & K.Ott


ALL material on the Internal Fire site is Copyright to IF unless stated otherwise. You may not distribute or publish any of the material without permission from the Archivist. We take this very seriously

NOTE!: There are now restrictions on the number of images and documents you can download. People are not donating and for the system to continue operating and growing we need to cover the costs. We only ask for a one-off and if you have already donated or are a Friend of the Museum just drop an email to The Archivist who will modify the account.

Background to Archive
About the Petter Archive
Searching the Archive
Searching Records
Searching Drawings
Online Manuals
Request Scanning


The archive at Internal Fire contains material on most major UK manufacturers but in particular Petter, McLaren, Fowler, Coborn and Lister.

Material has been collected and digitised since the mid 1990s. This does mean some of the older scans now need scanning again as they date from a time when bandwidth was all important so file size was kept to a minimum and the quality suffered. If a particular document is not good enough, please email us for a rescan.

At the moment the museum holds over 8 tons of documents in one form or another. There are over 100 reels of microfilm still to be scanned and around 100,000 aperture cards (single microfilm image) are waiting to be scanned from Listers following the closure of Dursley.

Books and manuals are now scanned on demand as there was no easy way to prioritise the material, see the scanning section at the end of this page for more info on how to request a scan.

Petter Archive

This priceless and unique archive was filmed onto 16mm and 35mm stock in 1955 and offers information about individual engines and a fascinating insight into the workings of Petters and some of the characters within that organisation. It covers Petters and some aspects of companies they absorbed from inception to 1955.

It is now offered freely though in view of the costs of setup and ongoing bandwidth a donation would be greatly appreciated!. In its un-indexed form it can be very rewarding but is far from easy to search. The quality of the original paper and the filming is highly variable and some wear ocurred during fifty-seven years of use. Strenuous efforts during the digitisation mean that it is mostly legible on screen or when printed out.

It does not appear to cover Vickers-Petter (Ipswich) engine records. For reasons not yet understood the coverage of horizontal Handyman engines is patchy. Records for pre-war A and PU along with post war diesels are held by Jim Perkins. A few PU engines were sold under "Show orders" and are within the archive on reels 14A and 15A mixed in with many other engine types.

David Edgington holds day books with similar coverage though he has no horizontal Handyman information. This archive does not have the first 2700 orders for the 5hp M (Junior or VF). These engines are covered by DWE's records and many of these early engines were returned for factory rebuild.

Engines were also routinely returned for reconditioning and resold. Only indexing will tie their disparate records together. Post war record keeping practices changed, the reel indices are better and the records much closer to engine number order.

Searching the archive has some issues as there were two distinct sets of data held by the museum that have been combined. This was not ideal and is still being "massaged" to make it more useable.

The simple "Search Database" is best for looking for a manual/book/engine.

There are also searches based around manufacturers or just looking through the engines on display and in store at the museum.

The Petter Archive material is slightly different as it is based around how the material arrived and was scanned.

The labels for each reel are taken directly from the boxes and are of varying degrees of helpfulness. For example those labelled VJ also contain many other types issued at that time. They will be improved as indexing takes place. The sequences reflect Petters business practices which changed over time, most notably either side of WW2.

Pre-war the basic sequence is order number though the film numbers are not so sequenced as to present those order numbers in correct order. Order number series changed and some are re-used. Filing has always been an unwelcome task and there are many examples of single documents and groups filed way out of sequence. It also appears that some batches were filmed in reverse order and others may have been dropped before filming.

Though generally running more or less contemporaneously the gap between an order number and the engine's serial can be months or even years. Note that Petter-Light sets are especially bad in this respect as many were built for stock from reconditioned engines and later removed from stock in a random order.

Indexing is the process whereby key data is added to a database and linked to each image thus enabling it to be found by a simple search. Indexing is being carried out by a small band of volunteers who always appreciate a thank you for their efforts.

Order numbers

There are four types:

Works Order or usually just Order often abbreviated to o/no within drawings. This category covers almost all normal engine orders. Format WO 99999. Post the ABOE takeover in September 1939 these had a prefix added that indicated either the manufacturing subsiduary or site (which is not yet clear). Revised format thus WO 9/99999

Show Order filed separately. (Most on reels 14A and 15A). Many engines have several Show Orders before ultimately being sold under a WO and filed within the WOs. Format SO 99999

General Order used for non engine deliveries. For example; spares orders, Export spares orders and rebuild/reconditoning work. These are not filed separately but merely referred to on a Works Order record. GO 99999

Trade Order the exact definition of these is elusive. There do not seem to be any engine records bearing TOs. though they appear often on drawings. It seems probable that the deliveries were made under WOs.

Engine record Search Strategies First use the search for the engine number or set number in case it has been previously indexed. Next for any engines where the day-books are held by David Edgington apply to him for the basic sale details including the Works Order number. Now look through the reels seeking the correct engine type and range of Order numbers. Open the selected reel and estimate your engine's position. Straddle the estimated position and narrow it down until found. Transcribe/save/print as your wishes and the quality of the record dictate. Note the reel and record numbers.

When you find your engine or an interesting document like working instructions please let the archivist know the reel and record numbers, he will index it. This will help to build up the indices and support those doing bulk indexing. No details of the finder or owner will be recorded. If you cannot obtain an order number and your exact engine number has not been indexed carry out a search with just the first 3 or 4 digits as this may show the reel number of a close number and indicate a possible start point for your search. Keep a note of where you start and the extent of your sweeps.

Engine records

Each engine usually has between 3 and 10 documents usually including a packing sheet, build details and test details. These latter include tests of dynamos and any set number allocated. A significant minority include details of special parts, engineers visits and spares supplied/fitted.

Drawings Search Strategies

Starting with the assembly drawing is generally a good search stategy.

For example to find a Calibrater part first search for "Calibrater assembly" then select the drawing numbers of the parts needed and search for those. Naturally that will be more succesful as Indexing progresses.

Care is however needed as Petter often called things differently to terms we now use. We call it a reed valve - they an air-valve. In due course, a glossary will be created.

Otherwise just search for the single drawing you need using search creatively.

Some general points. Having indexed many thousands of records and hunted through even more I'd make the following observations (with the caveat that Petters were tarts and would do almost anything for a sale)

Many engines were taken back under warranty or in part exchange. There seem to have been four types of treatment:

A. Re-sold as second-hand after servicing with no major components replaced,

B. Reconditioning where for example a rebore/regrind might be done. Generally used for engines where the build was good and the parts were not obselete. The build remaining the same(ish).

C. Rebuild - where the work was major, the required parts obselete, or the build poor. In this case engines were usually rebuilt to the then current standard. Examples of poor builds include 1922 oiling system, early 1923 style with single scroll crank, CAV and Wico EK magnetos.

D. In extreme cases rebuilt engines were issued with new numbers.

If you need help with data-interpretation or searching-strategies please contact the archivist.

Online Manuals

The museum holds over 10000 manuals and parts lists and is busy cataloguing these. Searching for a document may well bring up an entry that has not been scanned yet. At the bottom of the record on display there will be a Download link or a Request to Scan. A listing of all manuals/parts lists/catalogues currently catalogued can be found under the IFOD menu in the menubar at the top of the screen.

Request a Scan

You can request a scan of any document but the workload at the museum means it could take days to weeks to complete. The manual has to be found, checked, scanned and uploaded all of which takes time. The form that comes up on requesting a scan allows you to make a one off donation which will put your request to the head of the queue. It will normally be scanned within 24 hours but if there is an event at the museum or we are off-site on a recovery it might take a little longer.