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Q: Do you need a licence to drive a steam engine on the road
(Full size or miniature)?

A: A traction engine of any size can be driven with a B licence, with the exception of the road roller which requires the G category. The only limitation to size will be the insurance, so make sure you talk to your insurance company first.

Q: Is there a minimum age before you can start learning to drive one?

A: They can be driven legally on the road at 17 with a B license. 

Q: Is there a maximum age limit?

A: No but standard rules for car drivers apply

Q: How do steam engines work?

A: Very basically water in a boiler is heated by fire until steam is produced. This steam contained in the boiler under pressure is passed through a valve mechanism into the cylinder where it expands and alternately acts upon both sides of a piston. The movement of the piston is transmitted via a piston rod to a crosshead where another rod (the connecting rod) is attached to a flywheel where the straight line movement is converted into a reciprocal movement.

Q: What is the correct name for them? I.e. steam engines, traction engines, locomotives?

A: The term Traction Engine is a generic one used for all road going steam engines. However there are agricultural traction engines which as the term implies are used mainly on agricultural duties. Road locomotives are used as road haulage engines. Showman's engines are used for hauling the fairground rides from town to town and then used to power the rides via a belt driven generator. Steam rollers are used for rolling in hardcore and packing and then tarmac for road building. Steam tractors tend to be small engines designed for one person operation. There are also steam wagons or lorries.

Q: In what sizes do the miniatures come in?

A: Miniatures vary from ¾" to the foot through anything up to 9" to the foot. The most common size is 3", 4" or 6" to the foot.

Q: How is size defined? Boiler capacity / horsepower / wheel size or what?

A: Normally by what is called "Nominal Horse Power". This term is in fact somewhat of a misnomer as the true horsepower of an engine is roughly seven times its nominal horse power. The term was introduced at the end of the 19th century to get around road legislation of the time.

Q: Is it fairly simple for a non-mechanical person to build a
miniature from scratch?

A: Yes, but with the right training and equipment.

Q: Do you need a very large garage and lots of special tools?

A: No, I have even known some people who have built small scale engines in a converted bedroom! However there are certain items of equipment required.

Q: Do you need any special skills?

A: certain amount of engineering knowledge is required. The easiest way to learn these skills is to join a model engineering evening class at the local FE College - most colleges run these courses. Joining a local model engineering club will also be of great benefit as well as the fun of being with like minded people.

Q: Are there companies that will build them on one's behalf?

A: There are a few and adverts for these can be found in steam preservation magazines e.g. Old Glory, Vintage Spirit, Model Engineer, Engineering in Miniature etc.

Q: How much does it cost?

A: Prices vary according to the scale of the engine but they can start from around £1000 up to £80,000.

Q: How are all steam engines tested? Do they need a sort of MOT?

A: Two tests are required. A hydraulic test every 5 years, then a cold exam and steam test every year on a steel boiler and every two years on a copper boiler.

Q: Do they have to pay for a tax disc?

A: Steam vehicles are road tax exempt; however it is a legal requirement that a current road fund licence is displayed if used on the road.

Q: How are they insured and with whom? Is it expensive?

A: There are specialised insurance brokers that again advertise in the steam preservation magazines. Prices on miniature engines tend to be cheaper than the family car.

Q: What is the horse power of the various size types? (If its horse power that is used to define the power?) If not, what is?

A: Power output on miniature engines is not normally described in terms of horsepower as being scaled down from the full size equivalent, this is impossible to evaluate. One can scale down the physical size but not the power - the boiler pressure remains a constant factor.

Q: Where can I see these vehicles in action?

A: Any of the numerous vintage rallies that take place all over the country see our Events page.

Q: Are there any clubs for steam engine enthusiasts? And magazines?

A: The National Traction Engine Club caters for all road steam enthusiasts including the steam apprentice club ( S A C ) and they also run an excellent "apprentice" scheme. The Road Roller Association deals mainly with rollers as the name implies. There are also a number of local model engineering clubs around the country that can be very beneficial to steam enthusiasts whether they own an engine or not. As previously mentioned magazines specialising in steam traction engines include Old Glory, Vintage Spirit, Model Engineer and Engineering in Miniature.

Looking to sell?

MAVWe sell full size & miniature engines on commission

Looking to sell your full size steam traction engine? Then BerryBrook Steam can help.

In recent years we have sold, on behalf of their owners, a Foster Showmans' Road Locomotive, two Burrell Showman's Road Locomotives, a Marshall General Purpose traction engine and two Aveling & Porter rollers to list just a few. We offer a bespoke service to assist owners with the sale of their traction engines.

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We are forever looking for good quality engines to replace our stock.

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Dawlish Road
Exeter EX6 8DN

Tel: 01392 833301
Fax: 01392 833177
Email: steam@berrybrook.co.uk

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