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The largest and heaviest of all the traction engines, a ploughing engine can weigh in at over 20 tons.
Several features make these engines distinctive but they are largely characterised by the addition of a large diameter winding drum that sits beneath the extra long boiler in between the front and back axles and is driven by separate gearing.
Ploughing engines worked in pairs, one on each side of the field with the wire ropes from each fastened to the balance plough or cultivator to allow it to be drawn backwards and forwards between the engines. Communication was by means of the engines whistles.
The balance plough has two sets of ploughshares (metal edges used to turn the soil) facing each other and arranged so that when one is in the ground, the other set is in the air when going in one direction and reversed for the return run.
The man credited with the invention of steam ploughing engines is John Fowler. A member of a leading Quaker family he was determined to find a way in which to cheapen food production not only at home but abroad and steam ploughing had the added advantage of being better for the land and allowed faster cultivation. A horse and plough could do around 1 acre a day but a steam ploughing contractor could complete up to 15 acres in the same amount of time. Steam ploughing remained in use from the 1860’s to the late 1930’s.