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85/220 Racing sulky, for Australian harness racing, 'RJW De Luxe' model Regal, wood / steel / leather, made by Reginald (Reg) James Walsh, Forest Lodge, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1963. Click to enlarge.

“Regal” racing sulky made by R.J. Walsh, Sydney, 1963

Made by R J Walsh & Son Pty Ltd in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1963.

This Australian-made, ‘RJW De Luxe’ model, Regal brand racing sulky was hand-made in 1963 by Reginald (Reg) James Walsh in the Sydney suburb of Forest Lodge. Its shafts and frame are made of flexible American hickory with stitched leather straps. It was used briefly by a Mr M.J. Speers and donated to the Museum in 1985 by R.J. Walsh and Son of Padstow, New South Wales. The vehicle is typical of sulkies used in Australian trotting races from about 1920 to 1950. During the 1970s wooden sulkies wer...

Summary

Object No.

85/220

Object Statement

Racing sulky, for Australian harness racing, 'RJW De Luxe' model Regal, wood / steel / leather, made by Reginald (Reg) James Walsh, Forest Lodge, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1963

Physical Description

Racing sulky, for Australian harness racing, 'RJW De Luxe' model Regal, wood / steel / leather, made by Reginald (Reg) James Walsh, Forest Lodge, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1963

The racing sulky is made of a hand-shaped wooden (Hickory) frame. The sulky features hand-painted lettering and line decoration in black, white, red and green. Along the side is the wording 'R.J.W. De Luxe' and on the top is 'Made by R.J. Walsh 837104 / [worn away]'. The end of the frame is tipped with metal and wrapped in red leather with leather straps and metal accompaniments to attach the harness. The black seat and green mud flap are of polyvinyl chloride. It has chrome-plated steel brackets, springs, nuts and bolts. The wire wheels are shod with thin rubber tyres. Its dimensions are approximately 2.5 metres long, 1.2 metres wide and 0.8 metres high.

Marks

Painted on frame along side 'R.J.W. De Luxe', on top 'Made by R. J. Walsh 837104 / [worn away] M J Speers'.

Green vinyl mud flap across centre has white print 'REGAL / Sulky'.

Dimensions

Height

950 mm

Width

3100 mm

Depth

1250 mm

Production

Notes

This racing sulky was handmade by Reg J. Walsh in the loft over Les Edward's stables at 6 Wood Street, Forest Lodge, an inner-Sydney suburb. Prior to becoming involved in sulky manufacturing, Reg was engaged in a number of other occupations. It was Reg's uncle, the Sydney saddle maker, J.P. Tatty, who suggested that Reg, then of a mature age, could make trotting sulkies. In 1961 there were no sulky manufacturers in Sydney whereas just prior to this there had been three of them including Joe Clarke at Marrickville, Brewer at Petersham and Egan in Sydney. All three had died within 12 months of each other which left the market wide open for Reg to proceed.

Reg's first factory was the Wood Street loft where he worked there for five years gradually building up his expertise and business although conditions were far from ideal under a corrugated iron roof which was stifling during the summer months. Reg's early sulkies cost 95 pounds each whereas by 1985 they sold for between $650 and $950.

In 1967 Reg moved his factory into larger premises, a former bakery building at 1A Fore Street, Canterbury, in Sydney's inner-west which had been converted to stables. An increased work load saw Reg begin to employ staff. In 1974 he moved again to even larger premises at 126 Woids Avenue, Carlton. At this time he also bought Glenleigh Products, who made the undercarriage and steel fittings for the sulkies.

As imported Hickory for the sulky frames became harder to source from the USA and decreased in quality, Reg began using Australian spotted gum instead. Reg then noticed the economic benefits and durability of stainless steel as a material for frames and began to experiment with this new material. Unfortunately, stainless-steel framed racing sulkies were not permitted in races by the Australian Trotting Association. However, demonstrations of their safety and constant lobbying by Reg eventually resulted in them being permitted in 1979, six years after Reg's first stainless-steel prototype. About this time, Reg was joined by his son, James (Jim) Stephen Walsh, who had been working in the aluminium industry.

In the early 1980s R.J. Walsh and Son moved into a new factory at 122 Gow Street, Padstow. In 1984 Reg retired and by this time the business had grown with some 70 percent of sulkies at trotting meetings being the Regal brand. A total of some 7,500 sulkies had been made until then with a monthly turnover of about 120 produced by a staff of six. Clip-on mudguards were introduced about this time and sulkies for the then developing sport of mini-trotting, which used Shetland ponies, were being made. In 1992 the firm launched its Regal Mini Sulky for dog racing in the USA which has subsequently opened more markets.

Information derived from an oral history interview with R.J. Walsh and his son in 1985.

History

Notes

The trotting horse as a breed emerged in England in the mid. 1700s and was known as the Norfolk Trotter. The first trotting event in Australia was held at a carnival at Parramatta in 1810. Whereas galloping horse races were very popular here, trotting was not. The first successful Australian trotter was called Norah, owned by Alexander Tolmer of the South Australian Police Force in Adelaide. After losing a steeplechase in 1846 Tolmer found his bay mare was unbeatable at trotting, and was said to be the fastest in the colony.

In 1861 the first trotting club in Australia was formed at Ballarat, Victoria, and the sport became strongly associated with goldmining townships including Bendigo, Maryborough, Kalgoorlie and Bathurst. Trotting under lights began in 1890 at the Lillie Bridge track in Sydney, later called Harold Park, but it was the bicycle wheel sulky, introduced in 1893, which assisted the sport to grow in popularity during the 1900s.

Since harness racing began in Australia there have been three Australian innovations in sulky technology which are said to have been of considerable importance: the "offset sulky", Australian patent No.580409 of 1985; the Hittite Special team-to-pole sulky of 1993; and the Brumby suspension sulky of 1997. The first two designs have been distinguished by numerous world speed records set over the most internationally competitive distance of one mile. The third one, the Brumby suspension, was used on a light sulky which was said to give a more superior ride due to its independent suspension system. This gave rise to a new class of light sulky called the "suspension sulky" used in both racing and pleasure vehicles. To achieve this, it was necessary to invent a new form of vehicle suspension, the "Floating Link Suspension" (FLS) which could work effectively when attached to the chassis of a light sulky which normally warped and twisted. R.J. Walsh and Son Pty Ltd made the Regal Brumby light training sulky with the special suspension which was available by 1999.

Source

Credit Line

Gift of R J Walsh & Son Pty Ltd, 1985

Acquisition Date

25 February 1985

Cite this Object

Harvard

"Regal" racing sulky made by R.J. Walsh, Sydney, 1963 2018, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 8 December 2019, <https://ma.as/38352>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/38352 |title="Regal" racing sulky made by R.J. Walsh, Sydney, 1963 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=8 December 2019 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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