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Watch 20-Ton Steam-Powered Tractors Hold Up Traffic to Pass Each Other

She cannae go no faster, Captain!

byJames Gilboy|
A steam tractor changing lanes in the British countryside, with anime-inspired speed lines overlaid on top for comic effect
starline via Freepik (foreground), YouTube | John Eastwood (background).


Passing on a two-lane road can be a harrowing experience, even without oncoming traffic. Passing in a 21-ton machine that only makes an estimated 16 horsepower is another matter entirely, but sometimes it's your only option if you have cars backing up behind you. It was for the operators of a Fowler steam tractor, who were caught on video making a pass more exciting than almost any made in Formula 1 so far this season.

The overtake is shown in a video reportedly taken near Cromford, U.K., the site of a major British steam engine gathering since 1970. It was filmed from on board a vintage Ruston & Hornsby steam tractor—about which almost no information is available—leading a pair of Fowler "ploughing engines."

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Garmendale reports that these early British steam tractors could plow 20 times faster than a horse and work every day instead of just three days weekly. The plaque on the side of the lead machine identifies it as "Tiger," which Garmendale says weighs 21 tons with a full load of coal and water. Various sources estimate that it produces only 16 to 18 nominal horsepower, a rough early metric for power output with no direct conversion to horsepower as we know it today, so its actual power output does not appear to be known.

Whether due to a power advantage or just being at full throttle, it's enough to pass the Ruston & Hornsby steamer, carving a path for its sister engine to follow, blowing its whistle as it goes. It's what any of us would do if we had a steam whistle in our cars, which reminds me, I've gotta install that train whistle on my blowoff valve before my next date.

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