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  • Nigel Gamble

Steam Extravaganza 2017

Over the weekend of April 8th & 9th Steam enthusiasts and those with a curiosity for elderly machines, were treated to an event unlike any other to be held here in Canterbury this year. Organised by the Canterbury Steam Preservation Society and members of the Southbrook Traction Engine Club, this Steam Extravaganza is an annual rally and has become a premiere event for those with a liking for steam here in New Zealand. Those who attended this year were treated to an incredibly rare sight when Five 8hp, three speed, DCC Robey Traction Engines converged upon the grounds. Indeed a rare sight here in New Zealand, but even more so for the rest of the world. As it is believed that of the seven Robey engines to be imported to New Zealand of this type, the five engines that were on the grounds are thought to be the only surviving engines of their kind to be found any where in the world toady.

All of the original 7 Robey’s had been imported new to Canterbury, and spent their working lives in and around the district. This was the first time that all the surviving 5 engines had been seen together on a rally field, there fore to have all five together was a very special moment for all involved. Of the five Robey’s all were 8hp, double crank compound three speed engines.

The five Robey engines lined up for a photo opportunity.

Two of these Robey engines have connections to the South Canterbury area, one being owned by the MacKay Family and is kept on the Four Peaks farm owned by Andy MacKay. This engine is often seen at the Geraldine Christmas parade as well as other local events, the other being the Robey owned by Stewart Cridge of Leeston, the Cridge engine spent much of its working life in the Waimate district owned by a Mr Cummings.

Also displayed at this years Steam Extravaganza was another rare engine, this one being a little 3nhp Foster Wellington Tractor. It is believed that this is the only example of its kind left in the world today. Something else of interest was a recently recovered boiler from a McLaren Ploughing Engine, owner Richard Miles informed me that although the boiler was considered to be a 16nhp boiler the engine itself was only a 8nhp engine. The boiler was from one of two ploughing engines of this size to come to NZ , Richard’s boiler came out of an engine owned by J Withell and worked near Ealing in Mid Canterbury to plough 6000 acres of land. It later went to North Canterbury, and also ploughed a vast chunk of land towing sixteen furrows for Dixons of West Eyreton, near Oxford.

More of the Robey line up.

A visitor from the UK, May Queen

The wooden mill in action

Another rare sight was this little Foster Wellington Tractor.

This event just seems to get bigger and better every year, with working demonstrations of saw milling, threshing, chaff cutting, road building, blacksmithing, shearing, grain crushing, shingle crushing and screening. As well as the steam museum being open with everything running, their really is a lot to see and enjoy. The organisers spent a lot of effort in attracting families to come along and be part of the weekend. It was pleasing to see a large number families with kids in tow wandering around the grounds, enjoying what was on offer. This is a great event and one well worth a visit. This event takes place every year in April, and being the premiere steam event in the South Island, visiting is a must for the steam enthusiast.

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