Fowler traction engine, 1910.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Model (scale unknown) made in 1930 of a traction engine based on designs by the English engineer, Sir John Fowler (1817-1898). A traction engine is a road locomotive on which the road wheels are gear-driven by a steam engine. The earliest portable steam engines were not self-propelled but had to be pulled by teams of horses. Cornish mining engineer Richard Trevithick built the first self-moving steam engine in Britain, but it was not until the middle of the 19th century that makers such as Ransomes and Aveling began to produce them with any real commercial succes. By the end of the 19th century, traction engines were being put to use on many farms, but by World War I tractors were replacing them.