Steam Rollers in Britain


| May/June 1990



Fowler Compound cylinder

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

This is the nameplate installed on a Fowler road roller, registration number IA 6195, engine number 15965. The roller, owned by Tarmac Roadstone of Poole, Dorsetshire, England, is a compound cylinder eight ton engine built in 1923. The photo was taken by Pat Freeman at the Great Dorset Steam Fair in September 1989. For Freeman's story on British road rollers.

Fowler, registration number SR 9484, engine number 19546. Compound cylinder, 10 ton, built in 1932, owned by Trevor Ellis of Chelmsford, Essex.

'The area was in an uproar. Shopkeepers closed their stores, children ran crying to their mothers, horses bolted and dogs barked themselves into a frenzy. The world's first steam roller had made its appearance.' ' Those were the headlines of a Kent County newspaper in the year 1865. However, they were in correct, as the world's first steam roller had been demonstrated in 1860 in France, built by Monsieur Louis Lemoine; the first British built roller appeared in 1863. This latter was the result of a joint design by Mr. William Clark, Chief Municipal Engineer of Calcutta, India and Mr. Batho of Birmingham, England.

The roller referred to in the newspaper was an experimental machine made by Aveling & Porter Ltd. of Rochester, Kent; they became the most successful manufacturer of road rollers in Britain, eventually producing a total output of about 20,000 rollers of both steam and internal propulsion engines.

In 1866, Aveling & Porter took one of their standard 12 NHP traction engines and to it fitted rear wheels 7 feet in diameter and 3 feet wide and also fitted larger wheels to the front, to which attached a chain and pinion type steering controlled by a ship's wheel. It weighed 20 tons overall and provided a ground pressure of three tons per square foot. This roller was worked extensively in Hyde Park, London.