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Of all the steam engines made to run on our roads, the steam roller is still the best known. Whenever a tarmac road was made, there would be the ubiquitous steam roller. The first steam roller was manufactured in 1866.
It was the custom of the drivers to take their wives and children with them as they travelled around the country, due to working on contract jobs for months at a time.
The whole family lived in little four-wheel “living vans” - like a shed on wheels with absolutely nothing in common with the luxurious (by comparison) Showman’s living vans of the more affluent travelling fairs.
The inside was basic, housing three or four rough sawn wooden bunks and a coal fired cooking range.
Road making led to the formation of some large commercial contractor firms who hired out their men and machines to the various local council authorities.
Many people can still remember spending hours watching these men and machines at work as many were not retired until well into the 60’s or early1970’s.
Steam Rollers are still being built and in use today in Far Eastern Countries such as India and China.
The term “Steam” roller is still used, even for the more modern diesel rollers that replaced them.