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Thread: A peculiarly British obsession with steam?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    SW France

    Default A peculiarly British obsession with steam?

    We British are an interesting lot. We have an enviable heritage of which we can be and are truly proud; many facets of which we actively pursue obsessively on an individual basis to the detriment of home life and marriage!

    We rebuild old cars, we call them vintage, that should have been scrapped years ago and the component parts recycled into more efficient machinery, and drive them around the countryside in the summer to “rallies”.
    We have museums filled with relics of the past which we visit on Sundays, we fly 60 year old aircraft over wedding celebrations, and we venerate our older engineering triumphs by restoring surviving examples to working order despite the cost to our ailing finances. Windmills, watermills, coal mines and water pumping stations come to mind. But for me the most important British invention is, after the Harbeth loudspeaker, the steam engine.

    It is preserved in more guises in Britain than almost anywhere else in the world. In the UK there are over 300 preserved steam railway locomotives, the majority rebuilt from scrapped wrecks rejected in the early 1960s by British Railways, and on most weekends of the year there are steam-powered charter services running the length and breadth of the country.
    There are also a large number of steam powered road and farm vehicles, rebuilt and in full insured working order, which can be seen at rallies up and down the country nearly all year round.

    Recently a quite special event was organised as part of one of these rallies. For a long time there has been a vintage car rally and now a vintage commercial vehicle rally from London to Brighton, co-incidentally passing within a few miles of the Harbeth factory. This year a group of owners and enthusiasts of steam road haulage, the Horsham Traction Company, decided to emulate what was once a common event on the UKs roads, and transport an electrical power supply transformer on its 1930s trailer, from London to Brighton on 1st May. This group of enthusiasts based at a modern day plant hire and heavy haulage business in Surrey have at their disposal the means to organise an event such as this and regularly entertain enthusiasts at the rallies they visit, with prodigious feats of haulage. One of the engines, Boadicea, has pulled a 145 ton load unaided up a 1 in 12 slope (8.5%) at the great Dorset steam Fair!

    There were three road locomotives taking part, Burrell 6NHP Road Loco ‘ His Majesty’ taking the lead , then Mclaren 10NHP Road Loco ‘Boadicea’, and Fowler 8NHP Road Loco ‘The Great North’ as brake engine at the rear. There was a crew on the trailer to man the brakes too.

    There are several privately taken videos on (search for Horsham Traction) which will give you a sense of the power and fascination of these machines, once the epitome of British engineering.

    There is also a page on Facebook for those with access:

    For UK steam railway videos on YouTube try or for starters! There are hundreds of enthusiast videos there.
    Last edited by Paul G Smith; 14-05-2011 at 06:02 PM. Reason: added info

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