ROLE IN ROAD LAYING
The story of steamrollers begins with the development of asphalt as a road surface in the 1830s. To compact it, a heavy roller was needed. Initially, this was done by dragging such a roller behind a traction engine. Thomas Aveling of the traction engine manufacturers Aveling and Porter is believed to have been watching this system in 1865. He noticed that the broad wheels of the engine were doing a better job than the roller it was pulling. As a result, he decided to build a powered roller. The main problem was that early engines had difficulties with steering. At that time, the best solution was to have a small wheel in front of the main engine, that could be easily steered. This would not have worked on soft asphalt, so instead he designed a new system. This was the chain arrangement seen today on the Hurleys’ engine. It was so successful that not only was it used for all future rollers, but for virtually every other traction engine as well.