Steam traction engine school a “first”

Press Release – Steam School

Driving a steam traction engine on busy modern roads is not for the faint hearted but ten steam enthusiasts have just qualified to take the ancient machines on the road at a Traction Engine School in Nelson, New Zealand.15 February 2012

Steam traction engine school a “first”

Driving a steam traction engine on busy modern roads is not for the faint hearted but ten steam enthusiasts have just qualified to take the ancient machines on the road at a Traction Engine School in Nelson, New Zealand.

It is thought to be the first time a formal traction engine school has operated in New Zealand. The school was run by Tai Poutini Polytechnic’s (TPP) Steam School at Nelson’s Pigeon Valley Steam Museum.

Steam School tutor Ian Tibbles says driving a traction engine on crowded roads requires considerable judgement and skill.

“Although the average speed of a traction engine is only around 7 to 13 kph the driver must be able to steam and manage the engine as well as giving attention to other road users,” he says.

“It was great to see so many students interested in learning how to drive a traction engine, even though the steam engine has been around for 150 years people still get enjoyment from them. The old time skills are rapidly being lost to the computer age, through the traction engine school we are doing our bit to keep the old world alive for the future.”

As well as a current drivers licence drivers need to hold a qualification to operate a steam boiler and a specialist qualification for driving a traction engine.

The ten students are all graduates of TPP’s Steam School at Greymouth’s Shantytown and have already qualified to operate a steam boiler as part of their locomotive training. They expressed interest in also studying the unit standards to drive a traction engine so TPP asked Nelson’s Pigeon Valley Steam Museum if it could use its facilities and traction engine for the school.

Pigeon Valley Steam Museum’s Peter Tait says there is currently only one person who can drive the museums traction engine so he and two other members signed up for the course.

“None of us are getting any younger, so having someone with a back-up ticket will be useful. It’s a lot of fun, most of the world is rushing ahead into the 21st century, and we’re rushing the other way.”

A traction engine usually has a crew of two persons, both of whom need to be suitably qualified. The ten students came from Auckland, Timaru, Canterbury Nelson and Greymouth.

ENDS

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