British Engine Clubs

Wallis & Steevens motor roller

Wallis & Steevens motor roller.

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'Oron' , 11 Avenue Road Chelmsford, Essex, England CM2 9TY

Readers of The Iron-Men Album magazine who are members of engine clubs or associations may be interested to read how a similar organization operates in Great Britain. As I am the Publicity Officer of the Road Roller Association, it is about this that I shall write a little.

For many years there had been in existence societies catering for the enthusiast interested in a wide range of engines, such as portables, stationary engines, tractors, heavy haulage, showmans and ploughing engines, as well as rollers, but none catered specifically for the actual science of road making and repair and the associated equipment involved with these operations. Therefore, in 1974, a group of people who had a common interest in these activities formed an association specifically to help and encourage the preservation of rollers, living vans, water carts, tar boilers, stone crushers and the like and to keep alive the old and traditional methods of road making and road repair.

A committee, elected once a year, is responsible for the organization and day to day running of the association. The election takes place at the Annual General Meeting which is held in a different part of the country each year. It is spread over a weekend and is the opportunity for the members and their families to meet socially as well as to conduct the business side of the association.

The 1991 AGM very fittingly took place at Rochester, Kent, which is the birthplace of the firm of Aveling & Porter, who made more rollers than all the other British firms put together.

The day before the AGM, members and families gathered at an hotel in Rochester and were greeted, when they entered the car park, by a Ruston & Hornsby 10 ton steam roller in full steam. It was built in 1922. Beside it stood a small Wallis & Steevens diesel roller belonging to the Road Roller Association. After a convivial evening meal, there was a get together of members for a chat about all the happenings since they last met.

The next morning most members visited an industrial museum, in nearby Chatham, which used to be a pumping station. It still has its original machinery and a rare Hayward Tyler 19th century hot air engine can be seen still pumping. However, for the RRA members the eye-catcher was a very large Aveling & Porter crude oil Roller Works No. 11192 which has been rescued from a children's playground and is now being refurbished.

After a light lunch at the hotel, the AGM was opened by our president, who welcomed members from all parts of Great Britain. There followed reports from each committee member covering sales, publicity, membership etc. Then a new committee was elected with most of the serving members being re-elected. At the conclusion of the AGM there followed a showing of various videos which delighted all present.

After a very convivial evening meal an auction took place which has become a feature of our AGM weekend. It was an hilarious event with only small items being offered by the auctioneer but it was carried out at such a pace and in such a style that all present were swept along on a tide of laughter and speculative bids. The result was a substantial sum raised which went to the restoration fund for one of our rollers.

On the morning following the AGM, most members visited the 'Historic Dockyard' at Chatham. This is now a working museum, covering a site of 80 acres, which contains 47 scheduled ancient monuments and is the most complete Georgian and Victorian dockyard in the world. Eight museum galleries have been created to tell the story of Britain's fighting ships and the lives of the dockyard craftsmen. The first ship built there was launched in 1586 and joined the fleet which sailed out to meet the Spanish Armada and the last, a submarine, was launched in 1966.

As mentioned above, there was much to be seen, including 80 muzzle loading guns of the period 1550-1860, a Ropery 1128 feet long where ropes were twisted, a Wooden Walls exhibition featuring the building of the Valiant, a 74 gun ship of the line, and many other craft workshops.

However, for the RRA members the focal point was the Steam Centre, which was a veritable Aladdin's Cave. The centre is a vast building where, in the past, complete ships were built, and in it steam engines were to be seen everywhere. All were being repaired and some were near completion whilst others were stripped down completely. The steam centre is now operated mainly as a commercial venture, and engine owners from far and wide bring their machines either to work on them themselves or to use the services of specialist restorers.

RRA members were allowed access to most of the refurbishing work to inspect and ask questions, and all thoroughly enjoyed this aspect of the visit.

For the benefit of RRA members, an Aveling geared locomotive ran back and forth along a set of rails just outside the centre; members were invited onto the tender to operate the controls during these runs. A Burrell and an Aveling & Porter steam roller as well as a Robey traction engine were also in steam.

At the conclusion of the visit members said goodbye to each other and started on their journeys home to various parts of the country. It had been a truly enjoyable, entertaining and interesting weekend where old friendships had been renewed and new ones had been made, and all looked forward to the 1991 AGM, which will be held in Manchester.

Meanwhile, members can keep in touch through the RRA magazine, ROLLING, which is sent free to all members four times a year.

The Association has an archive facility for members, from which books, catalogues, articles, etc. on any roller or associated road-making equipment can be borrowed.

Twice a year the RRA runs training courses on the practical and theoretical aspects of traditional road making, and also on how to control and drive a roller. They also organize road-making demonstrations at many rallies up and down the country.

Another facility available is the Parts Exchange system, which is run by one of the members who keeps a record of any engine parts which members are willing to sell or exchange. When he receives a request for a certain part he can then arrange for a transaction to take place.

The Road Roller Association was formed to fill a special need in the field of roller preservation and it is true to say that active and expanding membership is proof that it has succeeded in its aims. The yearly membership fee is 10 pound sterling and should you wish to join please write to the Membership Secretary, Mrs. Alison Arrowsmith, 7 Worcester Close, Lichfield, Staffordshire, England WS13 7SP. I would be pleased to hear from anyone who has a query on rollers, and you can write to me.