The British hung onto steam power for road going vehicles lots longer than we did, especially on the heavy duty side of things. There was good reason for it. As wild as it sound to say out loud today, steam was a better option than gasoline and diesel engines for many, many years both on efficiency and power production. The physics still stand up today. For getting work done, steam is an incredible force, one that is nearly without compare in the world. Think of it, when you heat a volume of water and turn it into steam the expansion rate is nearly 1,750 times! Harnessing that force is what made most of the modern advancements in the world to happen before internal combustions were brought to a point of size, functionality, and reliability. This all brings us to the video below which shows a WW1 era British road locomotive hauling a massive gun and what must have been an artillery cart through the streets of London during a steam rally.
Outside of the fact that THERE IS A STEAM POWERED TRACTOR DRIVING DOWN THE STREET there’s lots of other cool stuff to see here. How about the way that the driver negotiates this wagon train around the tight corner and how the thing sounds when he opens the taps going up the hill and just motors along his way. The way that the trailers track is pretty cool because it seems like the little plastic signs on the traffic island are going to get creamed but they don’t.
It was not uncommon for these rigs to be driven hundreds of miles at a whack and that is one of the reasons you see what looks to be a massive auxiliary water tank under the boiler itself. The more water you could carry (along with fuel for the fire) the longer distance you could travel. The steam trip that this machine is on seems to be an awesome yearly type of deal that honors the history of these beasts. There were several different types of road locomotives built during their day (1860s-WW1 era) that included crane models with the booms mounted on the front and specials called “showman’s engines”. These units were usually decorated and all dressed up because they served as the motive power for a traveling fair or show and often when they got to the site of the event, the engine itself became the power for the rides! Belts driven off the flywheel would get that done. Pretty awesome, right?
By the time that these rigs were most common in England we had trucks being manufactured here by the likes of Mack and others. We’d love a ride on this big guy though. Wouldn’t you?!
PRESS PLAY TO SEE THIS MONSTER CUT THE CORNER AND PULL UPHILL