Steam Day Classics (and Video): British Steam Lorries – Puffing Away on British Roads Into The 1960s

Steamer truck by Austin7nut

(first posted 2/6/2015)    Great Britain’s reputation for doing things a bit differently has been well earned. One of the most unusual and endearing ones is its use of steam lorries, which were extensively employed since the repeal of the Road Act in 1896, and as late as the early 1960s, although most were retired before then. Given that the steam engine was invented in England and the availability of cheap coal, it made economic sense until diesel displaced them, but some were put back into service during the Suez Crisis. These are living dinosaurs, with their roots firmly in the 19th century. And if you have the time, don’t miss the following video which is the definitive one on the subject.

It’s a bit long, but looks at the history of the steam lorry as well as a number of machines in detail. It’s Friday; who needs to get any real work done anyway?

There were two dominant builders of steam lorries; Foden and Sentinel. The one at the top is a Sentinel, with a vertical boiler in the cab and the engine underneath the chassis. It’s generally considered the more modern of the two, and more suitable for high(er) speed road work, up to 35-40 mph.

steam foden vv1283

The Foden has a horizontal boiler, and its origins are obviously in steam traction engines and locomotives. Both of these steamers are featured in the video, which describes them in much greater detail.