The happy, sooty man in this picture is PK Smith. I met him while he and his fellow steam enthusiasts were working hard in a local lay-by, having watered their tenders, chocked the wheels of their trailer caravans and parked up for the night near a pub.
I went to investigate because the registration number of
this road roller, called Sarah, is PB 9801. I don’t often see my initials on
vehicles and if they’d been stuck on the vanity plate of yet another
unnecessary four-wheel drive fashion statement I’d have simply ignored them. But I have an almost
genetic fondness for steam-powered transport which is rooted in my
grandfather’s influence on me when I was a small boy and he was driving main
line steam locomotives on the railways in the North of England. At that time I was
living in the South of England in a county called
This fine example of a fully restored steam roller was first built in 1894. Over a century later, for me at any rate, she still has all the smut-smudged charm and mechanical magic which the little boy in me adores.