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Engine Information

General Purpose Traction Engines

These engines were built primarily as self propelled power plants, mainly for farm use. They would be used for driving threshing machines, sawmills and other plant by means of a belt from the flywheel, and could be used for winching by use of a wire rope on a winding drum fitted to the rear axle. They were also used for hauling threshing equipment from farm to farm. The coming of more powerful diesel tractors after the last war, and later the combine harvester, saw the end of commercial work for this type of engine by the early 1950's.

Steam Rollers

A development of the Traction Engine, these engines were used for road building and repair, being fitted with heavy but smooth wheels to compress the new surface. They were occasionally used for driving a stone crusher, breaking up the stone to be used for road construction by means of a belt from the flywheel. Some rollers were fitted with a scarifier for ripping up old or damaged road surfaces to be repaired. Steam rollers were the last type of steam road engine to work commercially in this country, a few continuing into the early 1970's.

Road Locomotives

These engines are more heavily built than a traction engine, and normally have additional water capacity and higher gearing, they were used mainly by contractors for heavy haulage work over long distances. National firms such as Pickford's continued to use them until the 1940's for haulage of loads such as transformers and other indivisible plant that would not fit within the railway loading gauge.

Showman's Road Locomotives

These engines were a development of the normal road locomotive specially adapted for the travelling showmen. By the addition of a bracket to carry a dynamo and a full length canopy. Normally these machines where highly decorated and polished to the owners taste being used to haul fairground equipment from one fairground to the next. When the engine was on the fairground it would then drive its dynamo, via a belt from the flywheel, in order to produce electricity to power the rides.

Steam Tractors

A smaller, lighter version of the road locomotive used for light haulage work including timber and stone. Many steam tractors ended their working days engaged in pulling felled timber from woodlands and forest, or hauling roadstone to road repair jobs.

Steam Wagons

These were the forerunners of the modern diesel lorry and were used for general haulage, furniture removal, food distribution etc., in much the same as the modern lorries of today. There were two main categories of steam wagon; the 'overtype' with its engine on top of the boiler in the same manner as a traction engine and the 'undertype' with its engine underneath the body and often fitted with a vertical boiler in the cab. Sadly a revised road tax system introduced in the 1930's penalised steam wagons, which are inevitably very heavy even when unladen.

Steam Cars

Although there were very few attempts by British manufacturer's to design and build steam cars, in North America firms such as Stanley built cars up to the 1920's that were competitive with the contemporary petrol. Some were imported at that time, but in recent years many more have been imported into the U.K.

Ploughing Engines

These powerful engines were used in pairs for ploughing and cultivating. One engine would be placed at one side of the field with the other one on the opposite side and would draw the implements across the field with a wire rope fitted on a winding drum under the boiler. A steam plough team normally consisted of five people, two drivers, two steersmen and a 'cook boy'.

Portable Engines

These engines were built as a stationary power plant for use mainly on farms for driving machinery and were the forerunners of all road engines. They had to be towed about from farm to farm by means of a team of horses. These were once the most numerous type of engine but, surprisingly, few have survived.

Miniature Traction Engines

Miniature traction engines have a large following amongst road steam preservation enthusiasts. They are usually accurate copies of the full size, ranging from half size (6" scale), to third size (4" scale) and quarter size (3" scale). They work in exactly the same way as the full size, but because of their size, require close attention to keep them in steam. They are immensely powerful and are often registered for road use. Most of the engines will have been made from castings that are machined by the builder or are available as pre-machined kits.