Traction engine comes out of retirement

20:42, Jan 24 2013
Owen Saunders
PROUD: Owen Saunders with his 1911 Burrell traction engine at his Winton farm. Mr Saunders will be one of hundreds of exhibitors at this weekend’s Crank Up event in Edendale.

A 1911 Burrell traction engine that once pulled gravel out of the Oreti River has been resurrected from a Winton paddock after a 40-year retirement.

This weekend, after nearly 8000 hours of labour, 1400 new rivets, a belly tank and piston rings, plus a trip to England to fetch a crankshaft, engine owner Owen Saunders is finally ready to roll the three-speed, six-horsepower double-compound traction engine to the Edendale Crank Up tomorrow.

Only six out of 30 Burrell engines made the journey from England to New Zealand.

Mr Saunders bought the engine in 1973 intending to use it to cut chaff on his Winton farm, however the time and knowledge needed to get it going had not been available.

It was not until a hunt for parts for a Ford V8 three years ago that he met a Timaru man who knew how to get the Burrell back in the fields, he said. By then, the engine had been nearly forgotten and was just one of many "treasures" around the farm.

Mr Saunders' wife, Margaret Saunders, said she had always known how much the engine meant to her husband.


"Every now and again there would be this longing sound in his voice when he'd talk about it."

She believed in the project so much that she and Mr Saunders' son, Brendan, looked after the lambing in August 2011, while Mr Saunders went to England to pick up a crankshaft after being told one was being sold "through the bush telegraph".

He shook his head when asked about the amount of money that had gone into repairs - "I don't want to know" - but the pride in finally getting it out of the shed was evident.

It would take about two hours each morning to get it going - which would mean a 5am wake-up - but Mr Saunders said he still intended to use it for cutting chaff.

Mr Saunders' engine will be one of hundreds at this weekend's Crank Up at Edendale.

The event starts tonight at 7pm with a street parade in Edendale and continues tomorrow with a grand parade, food and craft stalls, country music, lawnmower racing, and helicopter rides.

Crank Up secretary Julie-Anne Clark said the event attracted people from around the world.

"Over the years there have been so many highlights - the atmosphere, the participation from people."

This would be the first year the Penny Farthings vintage bike club would be at Crank Up - it was another way to keep the event fresh and full of variety, she said.

Crank Up will be on tomorrow and Sunday from 10am. Adults $15; children under 16 free.

The Southland Times