Saturday, 8 September 2018

Hunton Steam Gathering 2018

There is something very, very inherently English about a Steam Gathering. The smell of coal smoke lingering in the air (and sometimes choking you as you step through a cloud of it), and eccentrics dashing this way and that at speeds of up to about 3mph on contraptions that make the solid ground visibly sink underneath their bulk.

Beers in hand at noon, and stationary engines powering butter churns and spewing out washing up suds just for a bit of a laugh. Demonstrations of traditional steam driven baling, and a man with a chainsaw knocking out rough carvings of barnowls. Groups of grizzled older men on motorbikes, each one leaving a blue cloud in its wake. And that slight sense of unease about the aging process when you notice that in fact some of the “vintage” vehicles most definitely have fewer years under the belt than yourself...

There is all this and more at Hunton Steam Gathering, which met today for its 2018 meet. Under cloudy skies and persistent rain people still turned up to smell the smells and see the sights. Steam traction engines, some worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and weighing up to 20 tons, were the predecessors of tractors with petrol or diesel engines, dragging heavy equipment or powering agricultural machinery. Many also had generators attached and could produce electricity: later in the evening at Hunton the showground was lit up with the bulbs surrounding the “showman” engines (used to pull fairground rides around the country), gently dimming and brightening as they received more or less voltage from the steam driven generators.

It is a wonderfully sensory experience, with the colourful showman engines contrasting with the grizzled black painted agricultural and road engines. Who could not feel something at seeing such a machine ponderously trundling towards you over damp grass through a dark field..?

Hunton Steam Gathering is on again on Sunday 9th September.