Tuesday, 10 September 2019

A Head Of Steam

A fine day with patches of sunlight drifting over the flat fen towards the Isle of Ely. Also floating on the wind were wisps of smoke, the scent of steam coal and the sounds of a friendly and informative country voice carried from the public address system....."a foine owd tractor that, owned by a chap lives just down the road. Probbly built about 1958, somewhere round that toime. "

Yes, we're at the annual Haddenham Steam Rally, just south of Ely. There are of course a large number of steam traction-engines present, but even more tractors of various vintages, some restored to look as though they've just rolled off the production line, others in what might be called "farmyard condition". I've often wondered what happened to all the old rusty tractors that used to stand, covered in nettles and ivy, behind every shed in the fens. I think I may have found my answer.

Here they are, fully functional and spruced up enough to win cups. 

Here's a bean drill that lacks a steering wheel but is controlled by a bar which can be moved left and right.  But we'd better have a look at the steam engines...

....like this showman's engine that would have been used to tow fairground rides from town to town and then to power the roundabouts and big wheels. 

There's an awful lot of cleaning and polishing involved in keeping such huge machines in tip-top condition. There were also some smaller representatives of the brotherhood of steam....

These are often home-built by enthusiasts who may spend years on a project. They work just like the real thing and are correct in every detail. Some are even based on plans of machines that have not survived the intervening decades.

Where to next?

Commercial vehicles from the past are well represented. There were also plenty of vintage cars and motorcycles on display.

All this shininess is hard for the photographer to resist, even if some onlookers think you're crazy!

Fish and chips are difficult to pass by too, especially when served from a converted London Transport bus. You can even go upstairs to eat if you want.

After eating you might like to wander around some of the stalls...

…..where all that rustiness calls out to be photographed, if not purchased.

It's amazing what some people will sell - and buy!

These stylish figures were part of one of the fairground organs that were pumping out their jolly music across the site. I always get home wishing I'd taken more close-ups of these ornate creations, maybe one day I will.

Over in one corner of the showground there was a demonstration of road-making machinery, some of the workers labouring much harder than others.

Abel's World Wide Furniture Removals brought several vehicles of differing ages, but I was rather taken with this splendid bicycle - though I'm not sure how much furniture you could move world-wide with such a machine!

Take care.

(there were also lots of heavy horses there, but nobody wants to see them, do they?)   😉


  1. It is amazing how old junk at some point gets to be spelled A N T I Q U E and suddenly assumes great value. If i had my first car, which at the time was simply what I could afford, it would now take its place in these shows, yet when I sold it the dealer gave me a few dollars to take it off my hands!

  2. Well John I'm lucky enough to live in an area that is ful of steam engines, Just around the corner is a guy who has an egineering workshop and just beside it is a building where they retore the engines. During the summer you can see a whole load of steam engines parked up between shows they attend. The first thing I drove was Fordson Major and my uncle was over the moon when I fixed a busted hose on it, saved him getting the engneers out.

  3. Fantastic...I would love to stroll among all those strange engines, use being their main purpose, not beauty...ha ha, then again there were some real beauties you captured.

  4. That looks like a very interesting show especially for boys.

  5. Yes - being a woman I much prefer heavy horses to smelly steam engines.

  6. What a cool gathering of interesting old vehicles and stuff. But really, I loved the accent in your writing. It was grand, almost like being there.

  7. Oh, that was fun! I could practically hear the old codgers reminiscing about their machines. Thanks for taking us along.

  8. Oh, I love these events. You really bring it to life too. And yes, heavy horses as well please!

  9. That looks like a fantastic event to attend. I love those old tractors, we seem a few of them driving around town here but the ones you photographed are much nicer in the looks department. A traveling fish and chips bus, how unique.
    Thanks, John and enjoy your evening.

  10. My little grandson would love that place and I’d enjoy his reaction to everything.

  11. Hi John - I think they're amazing ... personally can't get my head around petrol-heads ... but do understand how wonderful they are and how much 'they' all enjoy reviving these early machines. Great selection you've got up there ... thanks for all the info and photos -cheers Hilary

  12. Oh yes! I love them all! Especially the huge organ, there was one just like that that came to my home village in North Devon for the annual fair, Anderton and Rowland's Fair. And I have some old tins like that! I remember traction engines, rolling the roads. Crikey I must be really old.

  13. Oh, my, I so love to see all this stuff....I keep wondering if Roger would be able to survive another trip to that Skinner Farm museum, if we were so lucky as to catch him home. I would love to go back...there was just so much stuff there and I only photographed a bit of it.

    I hope you were teasing and that you got the horse, too. Been watching videos of the Gypsy Vanner horses, and was telling my granddaughter about them and she already knew what they were and loves them.

  14. Yes please! Show us the heavy horses. I'd love a show like this over here.


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