MP069: Ransomes' Patent Chain & Patent Gear Automatons

Ransomes Patent Chain Automaton

In 1897 Ransomes introduced two new mowers to replace its existing Automaton models. The Patent Chain Automaton (PCA) and the Patent Gear Automaton (PGA) were destined to become some of the most popular hand mowers of the period leading up to the First World War. Outwardly the mowers appear similar to the earlier models although there were a number of enhancements:

  • the rear driving roller was ribbed circumferentially to help prevent the mower slipping sideways on slopes

  • the cutting cylinder was double-angled (the left and right halves angled towards the centre) to deliver the clippings more evenly into the grass box

  • the front roller was more easily adjusted through the incorporation of a bell shaped hand wheel that eliminated the need for a spanner

  • the scraper plate behind the rear roller was more elaborate to incorporate the name of the machine. The central round motif was repeated as a transfer on the grass box.

Grass box image from Ransomes Patent Chain Automaton

The PCA and PGA models appear almost identical except for the drive mechanism. The PCA had the familiar wide "block chain" used on so many different mowers during this period. The original PGA design had spoked gear wheels (enclosed by a surrounding cast iron protective cover). On later models the gaps between these spokes were filled in, presumably to produce a more durable component. 

Although the mowers appear the same the PGA was surprisingly much harder to push than the PCA model of equivalent size. This is because it was more highly "geared" which meant that the cutting cylinder rotated more quickly for each unit of forward motion than on the PCA. This higher rotation speed requires more effort from the operator. 

Ransomes Patent Chain Automaton

Both models were available in a wide range of sizes from 8 to 24in cutting widths (in two inch increments) for the standard models.  The grass box handles and brackets on the 8, 10 and 12-inch models were different to those used on larger machines. The company's larger models for use with donkeys and horses incorporated a number of design features from the PGA model but were not referred to by this name in official literature.

Cast iron handle bars identical to those from the earlier Chain Automaton models were used on the PCA and PGA. During the Edwardian period (1901-1910) the word "England" was added after "Ipswich". 

The PCA and PGA were destined to be the last Ransomes mowers made completely from cast iron. From the 1920s onwards the company introduced more modern designs incorporating press steel, precision gears and roller chain. Both models had faded from the scene by about 1930.

The PCA and PGA were some of the most popular hand mowers made to that date and, although not quite as numerous as the Greens Silens Messor, many have survived. Complete examples in good original condition are the most highly prized by collectors.