Steam Traction Engines John Fowler & Co Charles Burrell

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Steam Traction Engines

This is one of many illustrated classic transport guides I've created for the community. I hope you enjoy it. If you wish to find out more about the classic steam traction engine art featured in this guide please click here.

Steam power was once a very common sight on the farms and highways of the British Isles being developed over the years to perform various tasks, ranging from driving simple equipment on the farm to hauling huge loads across the length and breadth of the country. Sadly, with the march of time, steam power was replaced by internal combustion powered equipment and had almost completely disappeared from our lives by the 1960s.

Ploughing Engine ( John Fowler & Co (Leeds) )

On the farm the steam engine was used for many duties including haulage work and providing power to threshing machines, saw benches and other items of agricultural equipment. Ploughing was done by steam tractors pulling direct ploughs, but more often by a pair of ploughing engines using equipment especially developed for this work. The Leeds based company, John Fowler & Co. (Leeds) Ltd, led the market in this area and over the years introduced a very comprehensive range of equipment to use with steam power.

Steam Roller ( Wallis & Stevens Ltd, North Hants Ironworks, Basingstoke)

The firm of Wallis and Stevens of Basingstoke became well known for their steam rollers over the years. They produced their first roller in 1890 and introduced in the early 1920s their "Advance" design. This revolutionary model had two high pressure cylinders and no flywheel, principally to avoid risk of depression on new road surfaces. The Advance continued in production until 1939, with engines of 6, 8 and 10 ton weights. In keeping with steam rollers in general a great number of these engines have survived into preservation with nearly eighty examples in Britain alone.

Road Locomotive ( Charles Burrell & Sons Ltd Thetford, Norfolk)

A large engine designed for moving significant loads over early roads. Even if a load was transportable by rail, it would still need a road locomotive and its crew, to cover the distance from the station to the final destination. If the load to be moved was too large for the railway, then the road locomotive was probably the only option and huge distances could be involved. Road locomotives had their moving parts covered like tractors and were available as single crank or double-crank compound engines, though mainly the later. Later years saw the fitting of solid rubber tyres.

Showmans Engine (John Fowler And Co (Leeds) Ltd, Steam Plough Works, Leeds)

On the roads undoubtedly the finest engines were the Showman's Road Locomotives. These were road locomotives adapted to the needs of the travelling showman by the addition of a full-length canopy, a dynamo mounted  on a platform in front of the chimney, and often much brass ornamentation. Showman's Road Locomotives were responsible for hauling the fairground rides, which often comprised of several heavily loaded wagons. Once at the fairground, some engines were used to  assemble the rides using a jib crane fitted to the tender. They also provided the power for the rides and the lights.

Traction Engine (William Allchin Ltd, Globe Works, Northampton)

William Allchin started his business in 1847 at Northampton and made a wide range of agricultural machinery including saw benches, mortar mills and portable engines as well as the well known 7-horsepower tractions. Today, the term "traction engine" has become the colloquialism to cover all forms of steam road and agricultural engines.

Traction Engine (Robey & Co. Ltd, Globe Works, Lincoln)

The country of Lincolnshire had a long history of steam engine building. One of the four major companies based in Lincoln itself was Robey and Co Ltd who built their first agricultural engine in 1862 and later developed a range of single cylinder and compound engines. "Compound" means the steam is taken from the steam chest at high pressure, does its work on the high pressure cylinder, and then is exhausted into the low pressure cylinder, which is the larger of the two, where the steam's expansive powers are used again to drive the low pressure piston.

Road Locomotive ( Wallis & Stevens Ltd, North Hants Ironworks, Basingstoke)

Road locomotives usually had their moving parts covered like tractors, to avoid frightening passing horses when on the highway. They were available as single-cylinder or single-crank compound engines, though the majority were double-crank compounds. The single-crank compound was a Burrell patent design in which the two piston rods were connected to a common crosshead which in turn was connected to a single connecting rod and crank.

Steam Roller (Aveling & Porter Ltd, Rochester, Kent)

Mention Aveling and Porter to any steam enthusiast and they will immediately think of steam rollers, although of course they were by no means the only type of steam engine built by this famous company. Avelings were however the market leader in steam rollers and the first to become involved with this type of engine. Travelling the highways of the British Isles during the 1950s and 1960s, you would be likely to find steam rollers still at work, including many Avelings. Rollers were the last type of steam power in regular use, until the diesel-powered alternative replaced them often as late as the mid-1960s.

Road Locomotive (John Fowler & Co. (Leeds) Ltd, Steam Plough Works, Leeds)

Fowlers are one of the best known names in the steam engine world, having produced a wide range of engines for both hoe and overseas markets. Their Steam Plough Works in Leeds began production in 1861 and in its heyday provided employment for over 2500 men on a 15-acre site. Leading the market for many years in the production of ploughing engines, the first of which were produced in 1870, the company soon progressed in to the traction engine and road locomotive market.

Thank you for reading my guide and I hope you found it interesting!

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