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Portable Engine


A portable engine is essentially a small agricultural engine that is not self-propelled. The engine is towed to a work site, by horses or a traction engine, where it can drive machinery using a belt from its flywheel.


The engine may have one or two flywheels mounted on the same crankshaft. Where two are provided, they are of different diameters, mounted either side of the engine. The larger flywheel provides a slower speed for farmyard work (eg chopping feedstuffs) than is required for driving a threshing machine (for example). The crankshaft also drives a boiler feedwater pump which draws water from a barrel placed alongside the engine. Many engines have a simple, but effective, feedwater heater which works by blowing a small portion of the exhaust steam into the water barrel.


The engineering company Clayton & Shutteworth built hundreds of portable engines, and an example can be found at rally sites. 



Clayton & Shuttleworth Portable Engine, 43151 - Clabensa  


Ploughing Engine


A distinct form of traction engine, characterised by the provision of a large diameter winding drum driven by separate gearing from the steam engine. Onto the drum a long length of wire rope was wound, which was used to haul an implement, such as a plough, across a field.


The winding drum was either mounted horizontally (below the boiler), vertically (to one side), or even concentrically, so that it encircled the boiler. The majority were under-slung (horizontal), however, and necessitated the use of an extra-long boiler to allow enough space for the drum to fit between the front and back wheels. These designs were the largest and longest traction engines to be built.


Mostly the ploughing engines worked in pairs, one on each side of the field, with the rope from each machine fastened to the implement to be hauled. The two drivers communicated by signals using the engine whistles.


A variety of implements were constructed for use with ploughing engines. The most common were the balance plough and the cultivator - ploughing and cultivating being the most physically demanding jobs to do on an arable farm. Other implements included the mole drainer, used to create an underground drainage 'pipe', and the dredger bucket, used for dredging rivers or castle moats.


The engines were frequently provided with a 'spud tray' on the front axle, to store the 'spuds' which would be fitted to the wheels when travelling across claggy ground.


The man credited with the invention of the ploughing engine, in the mid nineteenth century, was John Fowler, an English agricultural engineer and inventor.


Ploughing engines were rare in the ; ploughs were usually hauled directly by an agricultural engine or steam tractor.



 Fowler Ploughing Engine, 15364 - Windsor


Steam Tractor UK


In , the term steam tractor is more usually applied to the smallest models of traction engine -typically those weighing seven tons or less - used for hauling small loads on public roads. Although known as light steam tractors, these engines are generally just smaller versions of the 'road locomotive'.


They were popular in the timber trade, although variations were also designed for general light road haulage and showman's use.



Mann Tractor, 1386


Road Locomotive


Used for haulage of heavy loads on public highways, it was not uncommon for two or even three to be coupled together to allow heavier loads to be handled.


A particularly distinctive form was the Showman's engine. These were operated by travelling showmen both to tow fairground equipment and to power it when set up; either directly or by running a generator. These could be highly decorated and formed part of the spectacle of the fair. Some were fitted with a small crane that could be used when assembling the ride.


Burrell Road Locomotive, 3593 - Duke of Kent

Burrell Showmans Road Locomotive, 4030 - Dolphin




A distinct form of the steam traction engine, used for road building and flattening ground. Typically designed with a single heavy roller replacing the front wheels and axle, and smooth rear wheels without strakes.


Some traction engines were designed to be convertible: the same basic machine could be fitted with either standard ('treaded' or tyred) road wheels, or else smooth rolls - the changeover between the two being achieved in less than half a day.


Armstrong-Whitworth Road Roller


Steam wagon

These were the earliest steam lorries and came in two basic forms. The earlier over-type designs resembled traction engines by having a cab built around a horizontal boiler with a round smokebox and chimney (eg Foden). And they resembled lorries in having a load-carrying body and being built around a chassis (so they cannot really be called traction engines).


The more modern under-type designs have the engine under the chassis (although the boiler remains in the cab), and generally resemble lorries rather than traction engines.


Early examples of either type had solid tyres, but various developments, including vertical boilers, enclosed cabs and pneumatic tyres were tried by companies such as the Sentinel Waggon Works in a bid to compete with internal combustion engine -powered lorries.


   Sentinel Wagon, 9293