Farm Collector

British Engine Clubs

‘Oron’ , 11 Avenue Road Chelmsford, Essex, England CM2

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

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.

  • Published on Nov 1, 1991
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