Monday, 17 October 2016

From consternation to celebration

More from Chipping Steam Fair.... This huge traction engine, an 1889 Marshall engine named Mary Margaret, was a star exhibit. Owned by M Davison, it usually 'lives' in Co. Durham at the Beamish Museum. It had been planned to demonstrate how it could power a saw mill. These big steam-driven machines were mostly used to pull heavy loads or to run agricultural machinery, by means of a continuous leather belt attached to a flywheel. They were first produced in the 1850s and their use had died out in the UK by the 1950s, though many have been preserved and maintained by enthusiasts. 

The day was dry and bright but the previous few days had been wet and the ground was soft. This massive machine (which weighs 10 tonnes) therefore had a great deal of difficulty manoeuvring and its huge wheels were sinking into the mud. There was much consternation, and then a great deal of effort and concentration, using wooden sleepers to try and gain some purchase on the turf. Eventually - celebration! They got it into place and attached the huge belt from the flywheel to the circular saw, which was powered up. It then sliced through enormous tree trunks like they were butter. Aside from a pair of goggles, there was not much 'elf and safety' in evidence for the operators!


  1. These belt-driven pieces of machinery look so "Heath-Robinson" that I'm always surprised that they work at all. Why doesn't the belt slip or just fly off? There's a show near me where all the exhibits are shown working - sawing, threshing, or ploughing - I really must take some photos there one day.

    1. From watching the whole series of manoeuvres, I concluded that it is the exact alignment of engine and machinery, and thus the way the belt sits on the wheels and its tension, that is the critical element in the whole thing. That's why they need jacks and such careful positioning. Fascinating, even to a non-practical person like me.

  2. Beautifully looked after Jenny, they were tres clever way back then too ☺sometimes I think we are a little too smart for our own good today, we take things too far!

  3. What a powerful machine that is!

  4. You couldn't get me anywhere near that thing when the saw blade is spinning!


No WV here but I've enabled comment moderation on older posts so I don't miss any of your messages. I love reading them - thank you! And thanks for visiting my blog.