Traction engine heading for Winton
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.