Recent Roller Sales in The United Kingdom

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Fowler 5 NHP, Works No. 17234, built in 1927.
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Fowler ploughing engine, Works No. 15227 (shown on back cover), on the low hooder which brought it to the rally.
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Fowler ploughing engine, Works No. 15226''Tiny Tim.''
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Fowler ploughing engine, Works No. 13877, ''Sir John,'' shown with a dredger at the 1992 Barleylands Museum Rally.
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‘Oron’, 11 Avenue Road, Chelmsford, England CM2 9TY

In the UK the normal way to sell a steam vehicle has been to
advertise it in one of the national preservation magazines, such as
Old Glory, or in one of the specialist journals like Rolling,
published by the Road Roller Association. However, just recently,
the method of auctioneering has come into vogue and, quite
surprisingly, one of the leaders in this field is none other than
the world famous Sotheby’s, which has its headquarters in 34
New Bond Street, London, with fifteen offices across the States
with the main one in 1334 York Avenue, New York.

Established in 1774, the name Sotheby’s has been synonymous
with quality, professionalism and service in the world of fine art
auctioneering, so it was something of a surprise to find out that
it now handles auctions of collectors cars, commercial, military
and steam vehicles and automobile. Moreover each auction is
preceded by the issue of a superbly designed and extensively
illustrated catalogue which contains detailed descriptions of every
sale item together with historical notes and the estimated price
range. Indeed these catalogues will most certainly be kept as
valued reference books by collectors and museums throughout the

A recent auction was held in October 1992, by the Royal Air
Force Museum, Hendon, when over 600 lots were offered up, including
several steam vehicles that I was interested in.

One was a 1927 Fowler steam roller, Works #16961, which was
initially bought by the Aberdeen, Scotland, County Council and was
used on road construction and repair throughout the county. After
that it provided the source of power to drive a sawmill and was
then used to steam-aerate the soil in a garden nursery. This roller
sold for 7,500 sterling.

Another was a 1923 10 ton Arm-strong-Whitworth compound
piston-valve roller, Works #10R35. As there are only about seven of
this type in this country, it was surprising that it only made

Another relatively rare engine to go under the hammer was an
1899 7 NHP Robey general purpose tractor, Works #19435, which was
sold for 16,500.

One of the most interesting items was an American 1909 Stanley,
Model E-2, 20 HP steam car, two seater, runabout. The catalogue
stated that it came from the family of cars built by the twin
brothers F. E. and F. O. Stanley. One such car, named the
Woggle-Bug, in 1906 reached 127.66 mph at Daytona Beach but a
spectacular crash the following year at 150 mph destroyed the car.
The steam record has never been broken.

The particular car auctioned was owned for many years by Ken
Maxwell, of Tucson, Arizona, before passing to the Harrah Museum in
Reno, Nevada, where it was restored. About three years ago it was
imported into the UK, where it had additional work done on it,
including having a new boiler. It was auctioned off for 17,000.

The highest price at this auction was obtained for another
American item, a World War I Riker Open Staircase Double-Decker
Omnibus Engine #1045. This was built by the Locomotive Company of
America and was known as a Riker to honour the name of the company
founder Andrew Riker. This old bus, which had been making celebrity
appearances at several UK rallies, was sold for 48,000.

Early in 1991, Sotheby’s auctioned the Norman Ball Transport
Collection, in the Isle of Wight, and this also included two steam
rollers. One was an Aveling & Porter, 8-ton machine built in
1929, Works #12502, and the other was a Wallis & Steevens
#7745, made in 1923.

A 1930 Foden Sun Type steam tractor #12846 was on offer, and
this was probably the rarest of all the Foden products to survive,
as only three were ever sold. it was made in an attempt to maintain
the farmer’s interest in steam traction, and it was claimed to
be able to haul loads of 12 tons or plough 12 acres a day.

Also auctioned was a pair of steam ploughing engines, Works
#15226 and 15227, both built by John Fowler of Leeds in 1918. These
engines were not used for direct traction ploughing but were used
in pairs, one either side of a field, taking it in turns to haul a
plough back, then forth. I was particularly interested in this pair
of engines, as I had just researched their history from the time of
manufacture through all the various owners, up to the present

Haleson steam motor cycle, reg. #3562, 206 cc, built 1903. Hash
steam generator, paraffin fired. Single cylinder, poppet valves,
operating at pressure up to 1000 psi. Maximum speed 30-40

In 1917 the Agricultural Machinery Branch of the Ministry of
Munitions placed a large order with Fowler’s to enable food
production to be increased, as the United Kingdom government feared
a famine due to the enemy blockade. This particular pair was
delivered to a farmer in Leicestershire on October 8th, 1918. By
the time they reached this auction they had had eight different
owners. The previous one had, in 1983, used them to dredge a lake.
The same principle as for ploughing was used except that one engine
would do the actual dredging and the other one would then haul back
the empty dredge ready for the next pull. This job took four months
to complete, mainly during the winter months, and on average 70
tons of mud and silt were moved over a distance of 300 yards.

At the auction a lot of interest was shown in these engines, and
they were sold for 44,000.

Pat Freeman is the Publicity Officer for the Road Roller
Association of Great Britain and would be pleased to answer
questions on rollers. He will also answer any queries on steam
ploughing. Cost of joining the RRA is 10 sterling per 12 months,
and includes the journal Rolling four times a year post free. Send
queries or remittances to him at the above address.

Stanley Steam Car, 10 HP, Registered No. 7831, built in 1908.
This car was imported to England from Florida in 1987. It is shown
here at the 1992 Great Dorset Steam Fair, as is the motor cycle
shown above.

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