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The Fowler Traction Engine

The Fowler Traction Engine

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Fowler's ploughing engine dragged itself across the field on rollers, pulling the mole plough as it went. The engine was driven by a team of horses that walked round a capstan, winding in a rope which was passed through a pulley securely anchored at the far end of the field. The mole would have a string of drainage pipes attached at the rear end and these would be dragged through the channel created by the mole. On completing each length of drains, the engine would be turned, the rope would be let out and the pulley repositioned ready for the next length. Fowler had trouble with the capstan gears and with the rope slipping on the capstan,] but was able to demonstrate his engine at a meeting of the Royal Agricultural Society of England at Exeter in 1850. He was able to lay a drain at a depth of 2 ft 6 in (0.76 m) in heavy clay. His invention was awarded a silver medal and was reported as "altogether the most important feature of the exhibition.

A traction engine is a Victorian-time self-propelled steam engine used to move heavy loads on roads, plow ground or to provide power at a chosen location. They became popular in industrialized 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-powered tractors saw them fall out of favor, although some continued in commercial use in the United Kingdom well into the 1950s and later. The name derives from the Latin tractus, meaning 'drawn', since the prime function of any traction engine is to draw a load behind it. 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 heavy, slow, and difficult to maneuver. Nevertheless, they revolutionized agriculture and road haulage at a time when the only alternative prime mover was the draught horse. Several thousand examples have been preserved worldwide, many in working order. Steam fairs are held throughout the year in the United Kingdom, and in other countries, where visitors can experience working traction engines at close hand.





Bernard Spragg

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