The Robey Traction Engine.
Robert Robey started business in 1854, manufacturing portable steam engines and thrashing machines. His range of agricultural equipment rapidly expanded; in the Great Exhibition of 1862 "fixed engines, traction engines, ploughing tackle, corn mills, saw benches etc" were on display and soon a complete range of mining equipment was on offer from winding and pumping engines to locomotives, cages and kibbles..Robey was an innovative firm. Traction engines were built to their own designs and to the patents of others, such as Thomson (road steamers), Savory (ploughing engines), Wm. Box and others. The fixed 'Undertype' was introduced in 1872 and electric motor pumps were on offer by the 1890s..By the turn of the century the firm had been incorporated into a limited company, the works had expanded to cover 15 acres and 20 000 engines and plant had been built. Stationary engines of many types were added to the range, such as the 'Quick Revolution' vertical, for electrical generation. Indeed Robey's 'Globe works' was said to be the first factory in the U.K. lit by electricity.
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.