A steam traction engine was spotted in Elmswell this morning on its way from Great Barton to Stonham Barns. A great site on a strangely quiet Church Road gave us a real taste of what the village may have been like in the early 1900’s.
A traction engine is a steam-powered tractor used to move heavy loads on roads, plough ground or to provide power at a chosen location. They are sometimes called road locomotives to distinguish them from railway locomotives – that is, steam engines that run on rails.
Traction engines tend to be large, robust and powerful, but also heavy, slow, and difficult to manoeuvre. Nevertheless, they revolutionized agriculture and road haulage at a time when the only alternative prime mover was the draught horse.
They became popular in industrialised countries from around 1850, when the first self-propelled portable steam engines for agricultural use were developed. Production continued well into the early part of the 20th century, when competition from internal combustion engine.