Traction Engine Experience Days!
What follows is a review and photo gallery from a recent Traction Engine Experience Day, compiled by Jude Braggins, who recently participated in this unique day out…
“I have recently been on a Full-Size Traction Engine Experience Day, hosted by Berrybrook Steam and Classics at their base in Exminster, Devon.
The day started promptly at 0900 with a Health and Safety briefing, important as heights and heat would be involved. We were then introduced to the star of the show, a 1925 Marshall General Purpose Traction engine – Maverick. She was the top of the range model in her day.
Our instructor for the day was Matt, who proved himself experienced, knowledgeable and friendly. His instructions were clear and easy to follow and he gave us plenty of information about the functions and history of traction engines. Maverick’s story alone was fascinating.
I’ve spent time around traction engines in the past, as a photographer, and I’d driven one once, but I’d never had the opportunity to get down and dirty with them. We learnt, and fully participated in, all aspects of readying Maverick for a run; brushing, cleaning and washing, fuelling up and eventually lighting the fire. Whilst waiting for the pressure to rise, we busied ourselves with polishing and the all-important oiling. There were three of us on the course which gave us all plenty of time to pitch in and do our bit.
At this point, I should say that it’s advisable to wear sturdy shoes/boots with grippy soles and old clothes or a boiler suit. Gardening type gloves are useful, too. Prepare to get dirty, sooty and oily, because you will!
Once steam was up, we practiced driving up and down the yard. I suspect this was so that Matt could assess us to see if we would be capable of driving Maverick on the road. A trailer was hitched up, for those not on the footplate (there is room for two only!) and carrying a bowser of water. It amazed me that you can drive a combination of engine and trailer weighing almost 15 tons on a standard driving licence. Grandfather Rights!
And then it was off to the pub (the Swan’s Nest, Exminster) for lunch. Jane took the honours first and drove there.
After lunch, we set off back to the yard. Maverick had captured the attention of a group of walkers who were enjoying seeing her and taking photos. Ken drove part of the way back, then we swapped and I took Maverick back through the village and into the yard. With 20 turns of the wheel between locks, steering is pretty physical. You are constantly turning the wheel to keep steering in the desired direction and my arms certainly felt like they’d had a workout. I think the locals are used to seeing her out and about, but she certainly got a lot of admiring looks from other motorists.
Once back in the yard, and the trailer unhitched, we were shown what is involved in putting Maverick to bed. As there was steam left, we all had an attempt to get her running on “tick over”; easier said than done. We finished off by each pulling the chain to give an enthusiastic toot on the whistle!
Whether you are considering buying an engine of your own, or like me, just a lover of these magnificent machines, this Traction Engine Experience Day is an excellent introduction to the world of steam, a fantastic opportunity to gain hands on instruction and knowledge.
I can’t think when I’ve enjoyed such a unique day out more, and the chance to drive Maverick was the icing on the cake!”
To find out more about our ever-popular experience days and courses, click here.