Graham Pugh’s


Charles Burrell of Thetford Norfolk was one of the most prolific manufacturers of showman’s engines, but after World War II hundreds of cheap and powerful ex-military lorries replaced the showman's engines, making them obsolete. Many were scrapped, but a good number of them have survived into preservation. Many appear at rallies all over the UK, notably the Great Dorset Steam Fair which can muster up to 30  showman’s engines. Others can be found in museums such as Thursford, or the Hollycombe Collection.

Of all the steam traction engines, the ones that had the hardest life were the wonderful showman’s engines. They were not just transport motive power, they were the power source for the fairground and site, too, meaning that they were run more or less continuously. As a result, at the end of their working lives they were truly clapped out. You could have bought a full size version of this Burrell model in 1958 for the princely sum of £40. Today you would probably have to pay 10,000 times that for a good example.

Graham Pugh’s 1:6 scale model of the Gold Medal engine, photographed at Bristol 2014, is immediately recognisable as a Burrell with its standard ‘crimson lake’ paintwork with ‘deep yellow’ wheels, the basis for rich decoration by individual owners. Twisted ‘olivers’ support the roof. Brass stars and other decoration were often mounted on the motion covers and water tanks. The dynamo was driven by a belt from the engine's flywheel and powered the lighting on the rides and stalls, and often the rides themselves.