Gaining traction

A venerable predecessor to some of the first engine-based vehicles, Tim Gosling profiles steam traction engines and their use in the early 20th century

Returned from South Africa as a wreck this 1901 Fowler B5 was restored by Billy Trelor as it would have appeared during the Boer war
Built by McLaren of Leeds in 1912 “Gigantic” is seen here towing the MK IV tank replica “Big Brute” from the film War Horse

As soon as the restoration of our 1918 military autocar truck was completed, we started taking it to our local traction engine rally, the Honiton Hill Show. This event has been running since 1971 and has a strong emphasis on traditional farming, vintage tractors, steam traction engines, cars, motorcycles and commercial and military vehicles. As you would expect for a small country show, the chance of running into another military vehicle from World War One would be fairly slender. However, this was not the case in 1995 – on entering the showground, we immediately spotted an enormous Fowler B6 seam road locomotive painted in army service green with the instantly recognisable WD (War Department) and crow’s foot arrow echelons and markings.

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