Steam Engine: King of the road

Labman team send model steam engine through Billingham.
Labman culture 8 min read

Katie SimpsonPublished 20th Jun 2013

Labman Business Development Manager Jo was away on holiday when her dad ‘Tab’ celebrated his 77th birthday. So when colleague Richard Frank offered to mark the occasion on her return she was delighted. So on Saturday 25 May Richard’s white van pulled up outside her unsuspecting parents Billingham home and '‘King of the Road’ emerged from it,  gleaming in the sunshine. After two hours of admiration and tinkering, amid the glorious smells of steam and oil, she was ready. A second birthday cake was sliced, though Richard adds he wishes he’d brought the bacon shovel and made bacon sarnies in the fire box, the staple lunch at every rally. Well by this time Tab was rather enjoying his celebrity status, he explains  “People were stopping their cars and coming across to talk to us, I’d never met some of my neighbours until today!” He was then at the helm, navigating King of the Road skilfully up Conifer Grove!

King of the Road was built by a model maker in 1997 unpainted. Richard then stripped it and painted it which took about 9 months. It has been rallied in the north of England since. It is a model of a Burrell Road Locomotive and is a single crank compound meaning it has one crank but uses the steam twice i.e. it has a high and low pressure cylinder.

Richard’s interest in traction engines came about when his father bought a full size Garrett Road Locomotive in 1968, it had spent all its life in Belfast docks. Vera was a monster weighing about 17 tons. The back wheels were a ton each and were 7’ diameter. It was a wreck and took 4 years to rebuild and restore. It really was too big as it burnt 50Kg of coal to travel 4 miles and boiled 60 litres of water to a mile. The family sold Vera and bought a smaller engine which only weighed 7 tons. This was again restored.

Afterwards Richard gave Jo a tour across Billingham, past the Station pub and up Sandy Lane to Wolviston Court. If you saw us please let us know. And if you share Richard’s passion for traction engines likewise, Labman is really interested so please post your comments here.