Old British Engines in Steam

| May/June 1992

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

The November/December 1991 issue of The Iron Men Album contained an article by Thomas G. Downing entitled 'Where Is the Oldest Traction Engine That Is Still Running?' and has prompted me to take a look at the British scene to investigate the ages of some of the steam engines that appear on the current rally fields.

I take as a starting point the 1991 Great Dorset Steam Fair which had nearly 200 full size engines in steam (there were also over 60 working steam models), and it had a special section devoted to the products of Marshall, Sons & Company of Gains borough whose first self moving traction engine appeared in 1876. In steam in this section was the oldest Marshall engine in existence, which left the factory on the 25th of November 1886. The buyer was Mr. Seward of Peters field, Hampshire, who worked it until 1933, when it was laid up. It was not touched for the next 47 years, until it was bought by Mr. Fagg of West Sussex who has restored it to full working order. It's a single cylinder machine No. 14242.

Also present, in steam, were three other Marshall traction engines of that era: No. 14421, also built in 1886; No. 15391, built in 1887; and No. 17287, built in 1889. This latter engine is named the 'Farmer's Friend' and it was presented to Canon Bagot by the Church of Ireland in 1889 as a retirement gift. It is owned by J. Rochford & Sons of Wexford and is the oldest engine in Northern Ireland.

In the Showman's Engine section there was an 8 NHP Burrell No. 2072 that was built in 1898 and is thought to be the oldest original double-crank compound showman's road locomotive in preservation.

The oldest engine in the wood sawing demonstration was the Burrell 7 NHP general purpose machine No. 1426 built in 1889, closely followed by an 1894 McLaren No. 547.