Henry Zehr







The Baron reminds me of the happy time, when Second World War ended, electricity, water and all supplies were restored. A sergeant of a newly formed army approached me to join as a volunteer (and gave me a red band with two letters on it – RG – Revolutionary Guard). He also gave me a firearm with two cartridges and a rather inebriated Russian soldier and send me to a railway siding with instructions to guard it. However, he did not make it very clear as to who I was to guard it against. The 16 year old youth that I was felt delighted to be given such a responsibility and proceeded to roll a cigarette.

 The soldier pulled out his cigarette tobacco pouch, declared that my cigarette paper and tobacco were for sissies and proceeded to tear up a page of a newspaper into quarters. He then rubbed his thick tobacco in his hand, rolled it into a cigarette and declared: “now this is a cigarette”. The tobacco he used is called Machorka (pronounced Muckhorka).

 A strange contraption was sitting on the rails which I discovered was called a “Two-person rail cycle” – a draisine. It was simply a platform with four wheels and a steering wheel which also acted as a pump – to drive forward.

 Here we were – with the whole nation’s rail network and a vehicle to propel us anywhere – as long as the railway department did not restart operations.

The good Baron invented a laufmaschine – a “running machine” in 1817. It was probably the first bicycle and the press called it Draisine in German and Draisienne in French.

You can add to it any chassis you like – a Rolls Royce – and run it along the countryside – they do this in Finland. You can follow the varieties of vehicles on Google. Just enter DRAISINE, then go up and click IMAGES.

 (With apologies to Baron Christian Ludwig Drais von Sauerbronn).