The Collection

The Collection

No. 42693, Tandem Roller "Stumbles," 1925

8-Ton, Tandem Roller

Boiler Pressure: 200 lb/

Cylinder (HP) 4 ¼" dia. (LP) 7 ¼" dia. x 7" stroke.

Power: 4 Nominal HP

It was the acquisition of a Tandem Roller that led to the creation of the Robey Trust in 1983. Damaged and corroded after 20 years in a playground, the roller was donated by Tavistock Town Council to The Robey Trust, formed to restore it to original condition and full working order, a task that took 11 years.

This firebox failed the 10 year Hydraulic exam and as such a new one will be required. The engine will now be stripped and given the heavy overhaul she so deserves. Fundraising is ongoing.

No. 45655, Tri-Tandem Roller, Built 1930, Converted 1937

Boiler pressure 250 lbs/

Cylinders: (HP) 4 ¼" dia. (LP) 7 ¼" dia. x 7" stroke.

Power: 4 Nominal HP

The design is based on the standard Tandem Rollers (See Stumbles) but was converted in-service with an extra rear roll supplied from Robey &co. The idea was that the second roll would stop the Tandem's habit of rocking back and forth whilst rolling long sections of Tarmac thus giving a better surface. The second roll could also be driven using a second chain giving better traction. In practice it was found that the enormous extra weight of the modifications was too much for the chassis extensions that had simply been welded onto the original chassis. Over the course of its working life, the chassis was progressively strengthened including a whole new bar welded on top of the extension. Although only three were ever built, they proved capable engines in-service.

Wirksworth Quarries Ltd. in Derbyshire ordered three normal Tandem Rollers from Robey in 1929/30; Nos. 43755, 44083 and our 45655. Due to the aforementioned tendency to rock, The company approached Robey with a view to converting them into Tri-Tandems. After discussions however, Robey only agreed to supply the parts so, Wirksworth had them converted into this new form by Harry Goodes of Royston. No. 45655 is known to have rolled the Hertfordshire section of the M1, Britain's first motorway, and various by-passes and trunk roads hence its name, 'The Hertfordshire Wanderer'

In 1965/6 Walter Lisle, an employee of Wirksworth Quarries, bought 45655 (and 44073 for spares) on his retirement. He took 45655 to rallies from the later 1960's and was based in a yard in Great Wymondley. Because of this, the engine gained the unofficial name of 'Hertfordshire Wanderer'. Due to ill health, Walter sold it in May 1976 (for about £100) to John Mayes of Luton who kept it until July 1977 whereupon it was sold to a dealer called Richard Parkinson who was based in Exeter. He then sold it to John Woodley of Ipplepen in North Devon. When John wished to sell, it was offered to the Trust who raised the funds through a share issue in 1992.

The Tri-Tandem Partnership was established to manage the share holders and 45655 was delivered to Tavistock on 4th April 1993. Since then she has been a regular at Trust and Local events.

No. 32387, Prototype Ten ton 3-Point Roller, Built. 1913

Boiler 200psi

Cylinder HP 4.25" LP 7.25" stroke 7"

5NHP - Compound

Steam Rollers

Although the first Steam Roller was built 1863 for export to Calcutta, the first really successful one was built in 1866 by Thomas Aveling and was used for rolling roads in Hyde park, London. By 1893 the steam roller had taken on the shape and characteristics of the type right that can be seen right to the end of steam rollers in the 1960s and even into modern diesel rollers. Aveling's continued to be the most prolific manufacturer, followed by Fowler's of Leeds, and a few other minor manufacturers. Steam rollers were used for compacting stones down into the road surface before the top layer of Tarmac was applied. Most manufacturers made rollers rating them by weight with the most popular being 8 to 15 ton models but, rollers could be purchased weighing just a few tons to over 30!

The Robey Rollers

Although Robey made virtually every type of steam engine design, they came rather late to the roller market. This is believed to be the prototype roller, the first they ever built. Sales never were brisk, as makers like Aveling & Porter dominated the market.


The roller is an otherwise conventional design with a compound engine and a Locomotive boiler. However, there are several Fowler design features mentioned in document obtained by the trust including photographs, that seem to suggest that Robey were copying aspects of their designs and mating them to standard Robey components. Further evidence of this is that the engine has a virtually identical headstock to a Marshall Roller. One unusual feature of the design is that the steering wheel is on the Right-hand side. This was so the engine can be operated by one person but does make doing the edges of surfaces challenging.

Know History

Purchased by J. Stevens & Son, Contractors, and used all its life in Pembroke, South Wales. Fitted with a scarifier for ripping up the road surface. Considering the extent of the repairs to the rear rolls, the roller had a hard life.​

History in Preservation

Reputedly acquired by a farmer in Pembroke, who stored it in his yard. It was then sold on to a ship's captain who lived locally, but because of his infrequent homecomings, decided to sell it into the Trust collection. Tuesday 16th August 1994: collected from Pembroke and taken to Dingles for temporary storage till The Robey Trust works was finished. The engine failed an hydraulic test in 2004, so she was completely dismantled for a full scale restoration, including extensive boiler refurbishment at Roger Pirdham's Boiler works at that time located just outside Tavistock. The roller is gradually being restored to an authentic appearance, which has recently included the addition of a Canopy.

This is a privately-owned engine.

No. 40991, 10-ton Tractor/Road Roller, "Shamrock"

HP Cylinder: 5" dia. LP Cylinder: 8¼" dia. x 9" stroke.

Boiler Pressure: 200 lb/

The two speeds are quoted as 2 and 3½ mph, but the engine is evidently quicker than that.

Built as a steam roller, owned by Lisburn UDC, Northern Ireland, till 1935. Sold to James Warke Ltd., Contractor, Co. Derry, till after 1948. Then to Ingram Wallace in Co. Antrim in 1952. Laid up, and became derelict in a quarry in the 1960's, but rebuilt by them as a tractor in 1972.

​1985, bought by Freddie Frost, Scotland, and registered as DS7819. 1988, bought by Robin Munday, then in 1997 to Martin Hunt. Bought by Brian Sismey, who continued ongoing restoration work including fitting a set of rubber strakes. After Brians untimely death, 40991 was left in the care of the Trust and purchased by Norman Emmett and John Turner, 2006

​Restoration. 40991 was extensively rallied by Brian, so it arrived here, somewhat worn in places but in full working order. Ongoing maintenance, including a full overhaul of the valve gear, has continued

No. 42522, 6-ton Steam Wagon, 1924

Purchased from Alan Rundle in 2013. One of only 266 Robey wagons built.

​Originally built as a six wheel articulated tanker wagon the engine and boiler were later used in a Robey tandem roller. However the numbered chassis remained and it was back converted as a 6-ton wagon.

This is one of the later Robey Wagons with Ackerman Steering. The Engine unit is the same as the Tandem Rollers but comes with three gears as well as rubber tyres and drum brakes on the rear wheels.

​A superb addition to the collection of a rare vehicle type.

This is a privately-owned engine.

6-ton Tandem Roller, 1924 - Bullet

This engine was new to R. Dingle and Sons, contractors in Stoke Climsland, Cornwall, and was used for all of its commercial days. The Engine was even registered in Cornwall, being given an 'RL' number plate as opposed to the FE plates for Lincoln registered vehicles.

The engine was shot by a German plane while working for the War Office at RAF St. Eval (now RAF St Mawgan) probably in 1940 or 41 as there are a couple of accounts of the Luftwaffe strafing the airfield. Steam Rollers were essential during the war in repairing and maintaining runways for the RAF and the USAAF. Bullet, received shrapnel damage to her coal bunker, dashboard, oilers and steam fittings. Some of which she carries to this day.

She appeared at the very first West of England Steam Engine Society Rally in 1956 whilst still in active service with Dingles.

She was purchased out of service by Joe Deacon and then sold to Mike Parsonage who, after about 2 years sold her to Paul Richards of Camborne. She was then bought by the late John Williams in 1989 and sent to Roger Pridham’s works in Tavistock in 1991 to receive boiler work including a new firebox. It was reassembled and attended its first rally in 2005 since the late 1950's.

It was bought by Lester Soloman of Truro in January 2009 and has had a major overhaul with the help of Peter Phillipps.

In 2019, she was bought by Steve Parrott and moved to the Robey Trust after that year’s Great Dorset Steam Fair. In 2020, she received a new set of boiler tubes and now regularly can be seen around Tavistock.

No. 19xxx, Twin Cylinder Undertype, c.1900

Cylinders: (2x HP) 12" dia x 18" stroke

Owned by Mashford's boatbuilders, Crenyll, Torpoint, Cornwall

An 'Undertype' is a self-contained steam power unit where the engine is set under the boiler barrel. This engine is known as a 'semi-portable' engine where the boiler and engine were sold as a complete unit, transported to their place of work and then spent their entire working life in the same spot. The advantages of being an under-type were that the engine didn't take up too much space in the smaller factories in which they were installed and, beyond digging a wheel pit for the flywheel, not a lot of effort was required to install them.

This particular engine was installed at the Mashford's Brothers Yacht and Boatbuilders in Cremyll on the Cornish side of the Tamar opposite Devonport Dockyard. The boiler only ever burnt offcuts of wood and was used, not only to drive machinery through line shafting, but also provided the steam to bend planks of wood. The engine was also used to haul boats up the slipway into the boatshed. After the end of its working life, the boiler was used as an incinerator for years meaning the internals are beyond repair.

The engine is the only one to have survived into preservation in the UK and was kindly donated to the Trust by Mashford's. The removal happened over 5 months in 2010 and restoration has been ongoing ever since. One of the largest new components has been a new crankshaft.

The restoration work has been aided by a generous donation from the Association for Industrial Archaeology and the kind donation of a flywheel by an individual.

No. 12787, Class A, 1892

Supplied new to Pearson's Pottery, Chesterfield, in 1892, this engine was rescued from the derelict remains of the pottery in 1972 by a local haulier. Due to ill health etc he sold his business and this engine was purchased by the Trust.

This is a 16nhp engine, weighs 5 tons and has an 8ft diameter flywheel. Its maximum speed is 88 rpm.

No. 18921, Class B, 1899

One of three (No's 18921, 18922 and 20039) purchased by Truemans Black Eagle Brewery, Brick Lane Stepney, to drive hoists which lifted beers kegs from the cellars to the loading dock. 20039 was donated by the brewery to Kew Bridge Museum in 1975 and restored in 1987 where it is to be seen, often in working order under steam.

​18921, the last of the three to remain in use (also for raising casks) was taken out of use in 1970, mounted on a purpose built substantial steel table and placed on display in the foyer at the brewery. On closure of the Brick Lane site, 18921 'disappeared': it was thought to be still in existence, but no-one knew where. Eventually, after many years of persistent research, it was found, with the help of Richard Albanese, of Kew Bridge: it had been donated to the Ragged School Museum, Copperfield Road, where it lay in store, in pieces, for many years.

​It was collected by the Trust, and on 7 Aug 2005, brought to Tavistock.

No. 50571, Class C, 1935

Cyl 5¾'' dia x 8" stroke.

Supplied to an Oxford University college, together with vertical boiler 50572.

Purchased by a collector in Oxford (presumably direct from the college). He also took the condenser, (the pump for which is still attached to the bedframe and driven by a crankshaft eccentric), decided he didn't want to keep it, and as it was full of copper condensing tubes, weighed it in at a scrapyard to realise the value of the copper. This engine was the second Robey engine acquired by the Trust, and our first stationary engine. As soon as we acquired it, a letter to the college enquiring about the boiler elicited the reply that it was still in use. However, a few years later we acquired that, too, and so engine and boiler were re-united.

No. 38315, Class D, c.1919

This 99% complete engine was purchased from a farmer in Honiton who had owned it for approximately 20 years. He had bought it with the aim of restoring it but had never got round to it. This particular example is an 8nhp engine with a flywheel of 5 1/2 ft diameter and, weighing in at 2.5 tons, is the smallest of the Class D range. It will undergo restoration in the near future.

24462 Class E Drop Valve Single Cylinder Fixed Engine 1904

Purchased in 1905 by 'The Three Countries Asylum' in Stotfold near Hitchin, Hertfordshire and installed in the laundry. When inspected prior to removal in 1985 the three-throw pump was still in existence and the remains of line-shafting through the wall was evidence of further machinery that the engine drove.

​This was the second engine acquired by the Trust. Advertised in SERG Bulletin, Summer 1984, Dave Davies and Nigel Bowman visited the Asylum 7-9 May, 1985 to dismantle it. Arrived at Launceston Steam Railway, June 1985.

​Restoration of the large components was done at the Launceston Steam Railway, the liftable items at Marjons.

(number unknown) 6 or 7 HP Portable, Single Cylinder c.1875

This is the oldest Robey portable known to exist in the UK. Acquired in 1996 from a farm in Leicestershire where it had lain derelict for about 50 years. The wrought iron boiler has been repaired, a new front carriage made and new wooden cartwheels have been made by a wheelwright. The motion is largely complete but there is work to do on the water pump, smokebox door and boiler cladding.

The engine is being restored by a team including our young apprentices.

3331 Thrashing Machine c1880

This is the oldest Robey thrashing machine to survive, by far, yet discovered anywhere.

​Purchased from Aberdeen, unseen (too far to go!). Chap phoned up, "Would you like a Robey Thrasher?". Arranged transport as a return load; delivered to Dingles as our Works had at the time, not yet been built.

​Generally, in fair condition but new wheels have had to be made by Gavin Graham who started in late 2004 and delivered them in 2008. Restoration proper has to wait till we find a competent woodworker to make a start on the top boards. Otherwise, it needs a good clean, rub down, varnish, etc.

32243 Double-Diagonal Textile Mill Engine 1913

A 9" x 14" Double-crank Diagonal supplied in 1913 to Calico Printers. The cylinders are at ground level, pointing up at 45-degrees to a common crank about 6ft from the ground, driving the rolls. The engine is about 9ft wide and 9ft high and, with rolls 14ft long and the weight 8-10 tons.

37035 3.5'' x 3'' SCOF Vertical High-Speed Engine 1918

A small, inverted-vertical, single-cylinder, single-acting high-speed engine, originally mounted on a cast-iron baseplate integral with a dynamo which was coupled directly to the end of the crankshaft at the flywheel.

We have no idea from where it originated, and as whatever it drove didn't make it into preservation, we have no idea what it was used for.

We had a phone call out of the blue from a gentleman in Surrey who had a small steam engine in pieces, but as he was to move house, he couldn't see that he would ever get around to restoring it so he was looking for someone to give it to. The engine was collected by Robin Luff. It arrived in cardboard boxes and biscuit tins, looking the worse for wear, with parts quite rusted, so much so that there was no original paint left. The baseplate and dynamo did not come with the engine.

Member Simon Williams took on the restoration.

37530 5.5" x 5" Open Crank Vertical Engine 1919

Purchased new by the Rickmansworth and Uxbridge Valley Water Company, but it is not known what it was used for.

The engine was removed by collectors from the water works but the bedplate and whatever it drove were left.

The engine was given to a Mr D. in Buckinghamshire in thanks for his assistance in removing a number of other engines. It was stored in an outhouse on a farm 'til Aug. 2004 when it was purchased, bought to the Robey Trust works and restored.

​Restoration. The engine has been totally restored from derelict condition. The piston valve was completely rusted into its bore, and a new one has been made for the rebored cylinder.

37679 3.5" x 3" SCOF Vertical High-Speed Engine 1918

With Lancashire Dynamo & Motor Co. Ltd. Manchester.

Dynamo. Size 4. No.4000. 1918. 2.5kW. 100V. 25A. 700 revs.

41200 Class AP 4.5'' Single Cylinder Vertical Engine 1922

Cylinder, 4½ x 7". Stroke 36" x 5". Length over crank, 40". Width 36". Height 52"

Purchased by Oxford University and fitted with some interesting experimental equipment for use in research and teaching in a heat engines laboratory. Subsequent history is unknown

Purchased from Robert Jameson (of the steam plough club), Billingshurst

41560 9'' x 7'' Enclosed High Speed Vertical Engine 1923

Made in 8 sizes from 4½ x 3 (2 bhp @ 500 rpm and 50 lbs pressure to 7½ bhp @ 800 rpm and 100 lbs) to 12½ x 9 (27 bhp @ 250 rpm and 50 lbs pressure to 93 bhp @ 375 rpm and 100 lbs).

​Of fairly robust construction. All working parts enclosed, except for a portion of the piston rod. Pumped lubrication system fitted with a pressure gauge. Supplementary mechanical lubricator.

Cyl 9"dia. x 7" stroke. 2'6" dia. disc flywheel. Size 5th out of 8. This engine can develop 13 bhp @ 300 rpm and 50 steam pressure up to 48 bhp @ 500 rpm and 100 lbs. pressure. Weight 30 cwt. (3360 lbs) or 1½ tons.

Purchased from an engineering firm in Southampton, who had acquired it in pieces . The piston valve was found to be missing.

42759 4.5'' x 4'' SCOF Vertical Engine 1926

Generator by Telford Grier Mackay & Co Ltd. Engineers, Electricians. Glasgow. No WS3925

100 volts. 32 amps. 3.5 kw.

​Obtained from a collector in South Wales 2007. Evidently, the engine has been dismantled previously, as one or two components are not original, and the paint scheme was certainly not Robeys.

​Has been totally dismantled, appropriate castings shotblasted, repainted. The armature has been professionally rewound.

​This engine is privately owned.

51097 Enclosed Vertical Engine 1945

Supplied with an Aveling vertical boiler this small engine awaits its turn to be restored to display condition.

52309 Single Cylinder Oil Engine 1951

Bought by Southall Technical College heat engines laboratory. It was supplied with a rope drum attached to the flywheel and the remnants of some associated test equipment survived.

Flywheel: dia 5'6" x 5'' wide. Fitted with a friction rope drum so that experiments on power output could be made. Weight: 42 cwt.

​When no longer part of the curriculum, the College dismantled the engine and sheeted the parts over in an outside yard. They contacted Kew Bridge museum who, as it wasn't really their thing, offered it to us. Alan Jones and Dave Davies collected it on 8 Sept 1986.

54192 Enclosed Vertical Engine 19xx

Acquired in 2016 in fully restored condition.

In its working life it was used at Queen Mary college in conjunction with a waterbrake, presumably for thermodynamics experiments. The waterbrake was separated from the engine some years ago.

Robey Stone Crusher c1910

50572 Watertube 'Vebac' type Vertical Boiler 1935

Height 7' x 2'6" dia, sloping tubes, 17 @ 2 ¼ " dia. Working pressure 100 lbs sq in.

Purchased by Oxford Technical College. Boiler 50572 supplied steam to Class C engine 50571. The engine was sold to a collector but the College retained the boiler for other purposes. The College was informed of our interest, and in October 1994 we were advised that it was no longer required.

Collected by Eddie Heywood in 1995 and reunited with Class C engine 50571.

As we have another boiler of this type (No. 52442) it was decided to restore this one as an educational exhibit. Thus, it was shotblasted inside and out and painted, so that the interior construction of this type of boiler can be studied.

The outer shell has been repainted as original, ie. in a sort of 1950's college green!

57193 Portable Loco Boiler 1955

Used originally as a portable steam raising plant, this item has been cosmetically restored and is outside the works as an external exhibit.

(number unknown) Living Van 1913

Found on a farm at Woolsthorpe-by-Colsterworth, near Grantham. Placed next to a Fowler living van, the two were nailed together and 'doorways' cut through the sides for family accommodation, probably during the 1940's.

​17th September 1993: advert in OG. Collected by Eddie Heywoods Hiab-equipped Leyland truck on Saturday 2 October 1993

​Because of the extent of the deterioration, restoration will be extensive. However, despite appearances, quite a few parts will be saved, rather than replaced.

40513 Compressor 1922

Vertical, single cylinder (8'' x 5''), water cooled.

​Used by Messrs. Triggs Monumental Masons at Newton Abbot. Was found on a farm stored in a barn near Bovey Tracey. By 1988 it was stored at Powdermill Forge. Came into the ownership of Dartmoor National Park. By then, the electric motor which drove it had been removed, as was the original switchgear. The water in the jacket surrounding the cylinder had frozen and cracked the outer shell.

​Acquired by the Trust, Summer 1998. Originally painted in light green with traces of yellow lining.

​Frost damage to the water jacket has been repaired and the compressor has been generally overhauled. Crankpin was seized, crank was precision ground and bearings remachined. A new motor has been provided and suitable period switchgear added.

Robey Wooden Framed Trailer

A new private purchase for the Trust.

A removable body is being built on the frame to enable us to carry passengers.

Non-Robey Items

Fowler/Crompton Parkinson Diesel-Alternator set 1944

Nothing is known of its early life but it was latterly located at Forges Cross Nursery, near Newton Abbot, as a back-up supply. It was acquired in a 'frosted' condition (cracked block) when the site was cleared for re-development and has subsequently been restored to running order. The engine is a Fowler 4-cyl diesel and the alternator is a Crompton Parkinson 3ph, 400V, 27 kVA, separately-excited machine. The switchgear is also manufactured by Crompton Parkinson.

Gardner Diesel/Holman Compressor Unit

Matbro C60 2.7 ton Counterbalance Forklift

Ferguson TEA-20 Tractor - The Little Grey Fergie