Trac­tion en­gine head­ing for Win­ton

The Southland Times - - FRONT PAGE - EU­GENE BONTHUYS

A 1924 trac­tion en­gine with a proud his­tory will be on dis­play in the Win­ton Open Day pa­rade on Sun­day.

Owen Ben­nett, of Bluff, has re­stored sev­eral trac­tion en­gines over the years, and done some fairly more fan­ci­ful things with steam as well - even cre­at­ing a steam-pow­ered bi­cy­cle.

‘‘I’ve got one of my own [trac­tion en­gines], and helped with the restora­tion of four or five,’’ he said.

In spite of all the ex­pe­ri­ence he has with trac­tion en­gines, Ben­nett said the trac­tion en­gine, which will go on show in the Win­ton pa­rade, is spe­cial.

‘‘It has only had three own­ers since brand new and ar­riv­ing in New Zealand. It was built in Eng­land in 1924, I think it ar­rived here as a brand new en­gine for the great ex­hi­bi­tion in Dunedin in 1926 and it fea­tured in that,’’ Ben­nett said.

Dunedin hosted the New Zealand and South Seas In­ter­na­tional Ex­hi­bi­tion from Novem­ber 1925 to May 1926, a world fair ex­hi­bi­tion that drew more than 3 mil­lion pay­ing vis­i­tors in its time.

‘‘It is re­puted to be the last one to come to New Zealand, a very late model one,’’ Ben­nett said.

Ben­nett said he met the own­ers at the South­land Steam Club and they wanted to get the en­gine back in work­ing or­der af­ter it had been re­stored about 20 years ago.

‘‘They’ll drive it back up from Bluff to Win­ton and then to Lochiel to its usual shed. It will prob­a­bly make the In­ver­cargill Christ­mas pa­rade as well, and Crank Up day in the new year,’’ he said.

The ma­chine is cer­tain to gar­ner its fair share of cu­ri­ous looks as it trun­dles the al­most 60km from Bluff to Win­ton.

In spite of the age of these trac­tion en­gines, Ben­nett said they are more than just cu­riosi­ties and a relic of a by­gone era.

‘‘They are still quite handy for cer­tain jobs on the farm. They can still do jobs like winch­ing out big trees that a lot of the other ma­chin­ery can’t do even to­day,’’ he said.

Ben­nett’s own ob­ses­sion with steam power goes back many years.

‘‘I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in them. I worked on the steam tur­bine ships in the early days, when they were tak­ing frozen meat to the Amer­i­cas,’’ he said.


Owen Ben­nett and Ray Hard­wick, of Bluff, restor­ing a 1924 Burrell trac­tion en­gine.

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