Traction Engine

We have been asked about the traction engine in the first photograph of ‘Our History’ slideshow.  It is an Aveling and Porter ploughing traction engine.  It was built in 1918, weighed 16 tons, was rated at 8hp with compound cylinders.

Hannah nursery purchased this traction engine in approximately 1947 from a farm, which grew mainly peas, on Wallasea Island in Essex.  It was one of a pair of these traction engines used on the farm which were sold at the time.

Before completing the journey to Hannah Nursery, under its own steam, the tubes in the boiler had to be replaced.  The journey from Wallasea Island to Hannah Nursery took three days and was not without problems en route.

At Hannah Nursery its function was to provide high pressure steam for the process of  ‘sterilising soil by steam’.  This involved injecting high pressure steam into the soil of the glasshouses to kill soil born diseases and weed seeds prior to planting a new crop, usually tomatoes.  The idea was to control these problems; not to make the soil clinically sterile.

The picture to the right is from a 1948 pamphlet and shows a method known as the ‘Hoddesdon Pipe System’, much used in local nurseries at that time for ‘sterilising soil by steam’.

On Hannah Nursery ‘sterilising soil by steam’ started in November and took about six weeks to complete.  The ploughing engine was kept in steam at a pressure of 150 p.s.i. 24 hours per day and took two shifts of three men to complete the process, one on the ploughing engine and two in the glasshouses.

Unfortunately, the traction engine was only used for two years after purchase as the fire box needed replacing.  This traction engine, like so many, was sold for scrap.  Two examples of this type of ploughing engine are preserved at the Thursford Steam Museum in Norfolk.  They are named ‘Field Marshall Haig’ (No. 8890) and ‘General Byng’ (No. 8891).

Hannah Nursery continued to ‘sterilise soil by steam’ and purchased a boiler used in a laundry factory in Colindale.