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Steam on the Land

Discussion in 'Everything else Heritage' started by Johnb, May 17, 2017.

  1. Johnb

    Johnb Part of the furniture

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    It was back to the 1940s yesterday with a very well run Timeline Events Charter in Suffolk at Fen Farm, Weeting.
    A selection of many images I'm gradually ploughing through. Thanks to Timeline, the the farm owners the Parrott Family and of course the 'Land Girls' _DSC4020.jpg _DSC4032.jpg _DSC4074.jpg _DSC4097.jpg _DSC4115.jpg _DSC4142.jpg _DSC4146.jpg _DSC4166.jpg _DSC4184.jpg _DSC4190.jpg
     
  2. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    A very early harvest in that part of the field John, most of the crop is far from ripe. :)
     
  3. Johnb

    Johnb Part of the furniture

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    I wondered if someone would pick up on that, it's also a bit early to be doing ploughing. Could be something to do with global warming
     
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  4. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Well-Known Member

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    When were the last traction engines used in service in the UK?
     
  5. Johnb

    Johnb Part of the furniture

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    Interesting question, almost certainly the last road steam engines were rollers, I believe one or two survived in commercial service into the early 70s. The last steam ploughing contractor operated in Bedfordshire until about 1960. I don't know about general agricultural use but I can remember a portable engine (i.e. one that couldn't move under its own power ) threshing on the farm where's my uncle was manager in March Cambs when I was a young child in the mid 50s and it stood out of use for many years after that.
    It's a pity Flaman no longer posts on here as he may well know more
     
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  6. flaman

    flaman Well-Known Member

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    Fear not @Johnb; like King Arthur and Gen. de Gaulle, I was only awaiting the call to return in my country's hour of need;).

    I think you are right as to steam rollers, which lasted, IIRC and in Essex at least, into the early '60s. My recollections of serious working agricultural steamers are vague and probably from about 1950. However, there were a pair of Fowler ploughing engines working into the 1980s on dredging work; they were dredging Earl Ferrer's lake at Ditchingham Hall, near Bungay about the time I moved from Suffolk to Essex in 1984.

    I shall continue to make occasional contributions to NP where I feel it is worthwhile, but that clearly excludes NGC , at least for the present. Perhaps, post June 8th, realism and sanity may return there. Though I'm not counting on it:(.
     
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  7. Johnb

    Johnb Part of the furniture

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    Good to see you back, I think your knowledge on farming matters is greatly appreciated. I didn't know that ploughing engines lasted so long although not on ploughing. I only know about Bedfordshire contractor as I used to deal with the son in law of the contractor. He had a picture of four Fowler BB1s on his office wall and told me that his father in law and brother were the last steam contractors in the country, unfortunately I can't remember the family name.
     
  8. Spamcan81

    Spamcan81 Nat Pres stalwart

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    A long gone customer of mine claimed his family were using steam machinery on an early part of the M1.
     
  9. flaman

    flaman Well-Known Member

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    I don't doubt it; steam rollers were still in common use in the late 1950s, when the M1 was under construction. There was also a national tarmac contractor, Glossops I think, who used steam lorries until about that time. It was quite efficient- steam from the lorry boiler heated the tar.

    Seeing @Johnb's photos reminds me of a visit I paid some years ago to Richard Parrett, founder of the Weeting Rallys. The drive to the farm was lined with traction engines, many with Essex registration numbers. "I expect you recognise them" he said, "they come from your neck of the woods, I bought them from Keelings of Wickford" I did indeed; they were quite a local landmark, stood for years on the road verge between Wickford and Billericay.
     
  10. Brakeman Bob

    Brakeman Bob New Member

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    I have finally broken cover from lurking on this forum to contribute something. Beeby's of Rempstone used a pair of Fowler ZZ1's into the 1980's on mole draining and lake dredging. They were regulars at the Birmingham Science Museum traction engine rally and they used to have a display board showing what they did. I believe that the advantage of using a steam hauled mole drain was the ability to create a drain at a depth of 2'3".
    I also recall that they were also employed in laying buried pipelines using mole drain techniques but I may be wrong.
    Other than that I believe that steam on the road's last fling (other than steam rollers) was the use of Sentinel steam lorries during the Suez crisis.

    Sent from my SM-T550 using Tapatalk
     
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  11. flaman

    flaman Well-Known Member

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    Welcome, @Brakeman Bob! I suspect that it was the same firm that were dredging at Ditchingham. Whoever it was, I recall that they used to advertise in the Country Landowner's Association Journal.

    Although they were extremely expensive to run- they required a crew of at least four men for moling- ploughing engines certainly did the best job; firstly, they could exert great pulling power without running on the land that they were draining, thus avoiding compacting the land and spoiling the soil structure; second they exerted a very steady pull, which avoided the tendency of wheeled and, to a lesser extent, tracked tractors to cause the mole to jig about- undesirable because for a mole drain to last for several years without cracking or silting-up, it needs to have perfectly smooth sides. Lastly, for the best results the mole should be pulled uphill, that is, against the flow of the water. This is because as the mole expander passes through the clay (mole-draining only works satisfactorily in clay soils) the clay tends to curl back on the expander and form cracks in the wall of the mole passage as it passes through. This is not too much of a problem if the water runs in the same direction as the mole, but in the opposite direction the curling and cracking effect impedes the flow and the "curls" break off and form silt, eventually blocking the drain. Thus the mole, having been pulled uphill, is turned and run back, in railway terms, "light". This is relatively easy with steam engines, since both machines stay on the "headland" and only one of them does nearly all the work. When using a crawler tractor, the main replacement for steam from the 1940s until the 1990s, the whole tractor had to be run back, a 10 to 12 ton lump, usually at a speed which causes excessive wear on track parts. It's also a very noisy operation, especially in dry weather- I blame much of the decline in my hearing on the many hours that I spent mole draining with a Cat D7 between 1970 and 2000!

    I reckon moling at 2'3" is a bit risky- you're very likely to hit the tile drains that take the water from the moles, which can be an expensive mistake. I've seen evidence of this happening- mysterious holes appearing in the middle of fields and ditches half-full of silt! I've always preferred to play safe and stick at 2 feet max.!

    On the subject of steam lorries, I think that some were used in and around the steelworks in Sheffield until the 1970s- Brown-Bayleys I think- and there was a haulage firm in the Sheffield/Rotherham area-Harrisons?- who still had some in the 1980s, though by that time they were possibly the last operators of long-nosed Scammells. Perhaps @Victor knows?
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2017
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  12. The Saggin' Dragon

    The Saggin' Dragon Nat Pres stalwart Staff Member Moderator Friend

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    Interesting stuff; everyday an education on NP :)
     
  13. I. Cooper

    I. Cooper Member

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    I understand Sentinel 8122 was still being used commercially into the 1980's by the Lloyd Jones Brothers on some contracts, although I accept it wasn't a regular performer by then.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    and as mentioned by others, I'm aware of a few ploughing engines that were used on commercial dredging contracts in more recent years.
    I suppose the question is how you define 'commercial' usage.

    Tarmac still own the 'Nash Rocks' Aveling, although not used commercially except as a rarely seen mascot at some quarry open days.
    [​IMG]
    ...although I have a vague recollection hearing in the last year it had been loaned out to someone now?
    Either way, its use hasn't been on true commercial rolling jobs for many a decade.

    Herefordshire County Council still own an Aveling roller as well, which is on long term loan to a group that run it on the 'preserved circuit' - so again not really 'commercial' in the true sense.

    Edit: Of course both Beamish and Blists Hill are commerical enterprises that use road steam vehicles on a regular basis as part of their business, and there are other similar commerical operations that use road steam as part of their living - Carters Steam Fair is another example, Jack Schofield (ok, technically a set of gallopers isn't really 'road steam', but running those is his job and source of income)

    2nd Edit: ...and then there was the Whitby Sentinel Bus that was run commercially up until a couple of years ago when the council made continued operation unsustainable and they sold up and wound up the business.
     
    Last edited: May 18, 2017
  14. William Fletcher

    William Fletcher New Member

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    Gosh, traction engines on NP, nice to see the interest!

    I went to see a pair of ploughing engines dredging commercially near Ludlow I think it was in 1996, they were owned by a Mr Lowther of Sussex who I think worked them for at least another 10 years after that. An amazing thing to see as they were filthy and up to the front axles in mud, chained to trees to stop them sliding.
     
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  15. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Well-Known Member

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    Anyone know what happened to Elizabeth the Steam Bus after it went to Crossville at Weston?
     
  16. GWR4707

    GWR4707 Part of the furniture

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    Doesn't the owner of Crossville (and 7027) have an account on here, perhaps ask the question directly?
     
  17. I. Cooper

    I. Cooper Member

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    Quite a nice clip of road steam doing some proper hill climbing last weekend <clicky>.
    ...real hills and gradients :)
    (I may not be totally unbiased though)



    I think Jonathan Garman was still doing commercial dredging jobs with ploughers into the 90's as well.

    As you say, I've seen photos of them filthy dirty with the wheels sunk right in from the sideways loads.
     
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  18. Copper-capped

    Copper-capped Member

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    Thanks for that clip. Very :cool:

    I can't help but think we would all be less stressed if the world still moved at that speed!
     
  19. I. Cooper

    I. Cooper Member

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    Oh I dunno, I think there were a few concerns from those who'd never driven the route before and didn't know what lay ahead of them
    ...and some of those who did drive the route a few days before and learnt for the first time what actually lay ahead stressed even more!
     
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  20. pmh_74

    pmh_74 Active Member

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    Beeby's last pair of Fowlers were only actually sold relatively recently (last 5 ish years at a guesstimate) and Mike Beeby's last engine has been advertised for sale recently. I don't know if it's found a new owner yet but if so this year's Rempstone Rally is going to be probably the first one ever without a Beeby owned engine. Shame really, but from what I can gather the next generation of the family are not interested.
     

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