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Traction Engines

The Big Interview by Pat Nasmyth August 2010

Traction EngineDid you know there is a slate finished cottage in Whitstone, with original pigeon holes from the time when these birds were kept in captivity for food? The cottage was built circa 1600 -1700 with Cob and has very thick walls.

Gordon and his wife Valerie (who was born in this Parish) moved to this dwelling shortly after their marriage. Plumbing was the family trade, Gordon became apprenticed to his Father to begin his working life. There was an engineering workshop where they worked and this sparked an interest in engines.

In 1983 Gordon bought a Dragonfly motorbike (from a man who lived in Birmingham). The transaction took place at Gordano Service Station on the M5 motorway. He stripped and rebuilt the bike, making the brakes and hubs. Attending “Steam Rallies “ with his motorbike, he became interested in “Steam Traction”.

His son Kevin and wife Lucy gave Gordon a puzzlingly shaped Christmas present in 1995; a long tubular shaped parcel looking remarkably like two bottles of Whiskey! It was in fact the plans for a Garrett traction driven engine, which Gordon subsequently built and finished after he retired.

The next project was a Ruston - Proctor engine which a family friend had seen as a partially constructed 6 inch scale model. This was in very poor shape and had to be dismantled, several parts (wheels, tender) rebuilt, and was finished last year. It has been Rally tested, shown at meetings and now has a trailer that is capable of carrying 4-5 passengers. 

Mr Burrow senior helped with all these challenges Gordon set himself, now his son is as “hooked “, working together in their suitably equipped workshop, a wonderland of tools, and housing the two engines.

The whole family are enthusiasts, hill climbing all round the West Country on motorbikes, which needless to say are serviced, rebuilt and transported with great encouragement going as far Swindon, Castle Combe and St. Agnes to Lord Fortescue’s Estate. Gordon‘s pride, not only in his engines but in his family was shown by driving his eldest Granddaughter to her School Prom on his trailer.

It was a great privilege to visit Mr Burrow and his family, I wait now with baited breath to be invited to experience the joy of a ride on one of these fascinating engines.

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