‘Steam team’ at Weald and Downland attracts thousands of visitors

An impressive display of steam engines being showcased at the steam festival
An impressive display of steam engines being showcased at the steam festival

It was full steam ahead over the weekend, as flocks of people descended on the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum for the fifth annual Festival of Steam.

More than 5,000 visitors flocked to the event, held on August 18 and 19 at the award-winning museum.

Visitors enjoyed a host of exhibits, including 20 full-size road steam traction engines, road rollers, agricultural traction engines, road locomotives and motor tractors.

A popular attraction among younger visitors was the steam-powered carousel gallopers, the most popular of fairground rides of the steam era.

The traditional fair also featured a coconut shy and hook-a-duck which were popular with youngsters.

“The museum are delighted to host the event which is now the fifth one we have held here. It is always very popular with visitors, particularly the children who love some of the exhibitions, such as the fairground gallopers.

“It is also great to be able to demonstrate some of the agricultural historical elements of the steam age,” said Richard Pailthorpe, director at the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum.

An attraction which generated a lot of interest was an exhibit showcasing a steam-powered gramophone, with many people queuing to speak to the creator of the impressive invention. 
Around 30 accurate scaled model engines roamed around the site over the weekend and model boats were also showcased on the lake.
“It is a lovely event in a great setting and it is well run.

“We think it is very good value for money. We’re impressed by what is being exhibited today and we would absolutely come again,” said Mr and Mrs Mowbray, from Sandhurst. Among the exhibitors was Colin Hazlehurst, 39 from Rochester, Kent who was showcasing his 1905 portable steam engine which was driving a Ransom threshing machine.
“It is the first year I have been to the festival and it looks very good. There are a lot of people here which is great,” said Mr Hazlehurst.

A number of stalls, from crafts to portraits, jewellery to paintings were also at the festival. “The setting is lovely. It is lovely to have a mixture of vintage machinery along with the buildings, so that gives a lovely feel to the show.

“Steam has been in our family for years and has been passed on through the generations, it’s a big passion of mine,” said Mrs Kate Russell, 39. owner of the 1926 Burrell agricultural traction engine.