Great Dorset Steam Fair


© Author: www.gdsf.co.uk

Heavy Haulage Road Locomotives

Some may argue that this is the most spectacular feature of the show! Over 20 steam heavy haulage road locomotives will be at the 2013 show and you can see most of them in action in the heavy haulage area pulling vast loads of granite & machinery on huge trailers. They really are the big boys of the show, very powerful and originally built for moving heavy loads on trips of tremendous distance that used to take days! These locomotives are highly geared, have rubber tyres and sprung suspension. Sometimes they worked in twos and threes and often with an engine on the rear of the load to act as a brake! At the show you can enjoy Locomotives built from the 1890s and early 1900’s such as the Burrell 'Lord Kitchener' and the McLaren 'Boadicea'.

Alongside the steam road “locos” you will see the display of the more modern diesel heavy haulage featuring some of the biggest internal combustiBildon engine haulage lorries built. Look out for Geoff Nurse's ‘Scammell Explorer’ heading up Mike Fincher's ‘Thornycroft Mighty Antar’ as they cross “Watford Gap” for the accent of the Haulage Hill. One and all having fun in the Heavy Haulage Ring (affectionately known as the playpen)!

Steam Tractors

Steam Tractors are traction engines with special gearing to make them suitable for lighter haulage work. Often very nippy they were ideal for pulling one or two heavily laden trailers from field to farm or from railway station to goods yard and vice versa. Over 30 of these engines can be seen in the haulage demonstration area.
Showman's Engines & Old Time Steam Funfair

One of the highlights of The Great Dorset Steam Fair is the old time steam Funfair. Annually, over 60 Showman's Engines with their gleaming, twisted, brass appear generating the light and power for the old roundabouts and swing-boats, and with 60 merry organs playing, it makes for a fascinating spectacle, especially at night. For many the nightlife of the show is the highlight of their visit!

The showman’s road locomotives really are the stars of the show standing proudly in front of the fairground and majestically lighting up the Great Dorset Steam Fair sky line. These engines are a variation of the big road locomotives adapted for showman’s use by the fitting of a dynamo on the front perch bracket; this is operated by a flat belt from the engine’s flywheel. The power is then used to drive and light up the old time fairground. Showman’s Road Locomotives would haul the heavily laden trailers from show to show and some, fitted with crane jibs, even helped to erect the rides!

The smaller counterpart to these locomotives are known as Showman’s Tractors and were also useful for hauling support vehicles out on the road and powering lights in the fairground.

The fabulous showman’s engine line up at the Great Dorset Steam Fair is world renown and together with the rides in the Old Time Fairground including two sets of Gallopers (carousels), Steam Yachts, Chair-o-Planes, Noah’s Ark, Skid, Cakewalk, Big Wheel and a Light House Slip, will give you an almost mystical experience that is difficult to define.

Steam Lorries

Steam lorries were amongst the most flexible of road steam vehicles, revolutionising local delivery services. Articulated versions also appeared for a while until the modern diesel lorry took over. More than 20 steam lorries will be present at the show, performing in the steam arena.

Steam Rollers

Steam Road Rollers were amongst the last steam engines to be built - some surviving well into the 1960’s and contractors and local councils used them as heavy plant for road repairs. Around 25 rollers will be present at the show either parading in the ring or demonstrating road making in the Road Laying and Making section.

Ploughing Engines

These include some of the largest and most powerful types of traction engine ever built, Fowler of Leeds being the most prolific manufacturer. Usually operated in matched pairs of left and right-handed engines, they would perform a variety of tasks including ploughing, dredging and mole draining. Four pairs of ploughing engines with ploughs can be seen in the most westerly field of the showground in the steam cultivating area.


In the threshing section you can see general purpose steam engines working the equipment that was used to bring in the harvest each year on farms the length and breadth of the country. For this threshing drums, elevators and binders would be belted up to the engine’s flywheel. Contractors would take their sets from farm to farm to thresh the corn, especially to smaller holdings as it was only the bigger and wealthier farms that could operate and maintain their own sets. Ten large corn ricks will be threshed at this year’s show.


In this area you will find saw benches and cutting machines of all sizes and types, driven by general purpose steam engines and portable steam engines. Some machines were designed to rough-cut small pieces of timber for making stakes or posts as opposed to the precision machines that were designed to cut fine panels and boards. A dozen saw benches will be in the wood sawing area.

Timber Loading & Haulage

Demonstrations of timber loading can be seen regularly in the Heavy Haulage Ring.
Specialist Restoration Service Marquee

Over the years we have listened to suggestions made by some specialist companies to create an area away from the standard trade aisles during the show. In answer to their requests, 2007 saw the launch of the Specialist Restoration Services Marquee. The marquee highlights some of the specialist skills, tools and services essential to the varied aspects of restoration and engineering.

Veteran, Vintage & Classic Cars & Caravans

The Great Dorset Steam Fair is always privileged to welcome a wide range of veteran, vintage and classic cars, particularly exhibiting examples from the dawn of motoring up to the 1960’s/early 1970's. These are brought to Dorset from all over the UK and abroad by their enthusiastic owners. Over 100 cars will be on display this year.

There is a daily parade of cars in the main ring that is really popular with visitors. Coupled with the caravans on the site they're sure to bring back happy memories of days gone by. Many makes of car are displayed - here you will see history in motion- a moving picture of the development of car vehicle manufacture in the UK. Walk among them, which you are welcomed to do, as they stand on display between parades, you could easily come face to face with reminders of times past, those memories special to you.
Commercial Vehicles

At the Great Dorset Steam Fair nearly 400 commercial vehicles, great and small, are on display - bearing a wide selection of familiar names in British road haulage. Names of manufacturers and operators that bring back memories of days past and almost forgotten, when British lorries and workmanship served the transport needs of the nation and beyond.

Vintage Veteran & Classic Motorcycles

Motorcycles are as much an important part of the country’s engineering heritage as traction engines, tractors and other working vehicles and equipment that visitors can also see at the Great Dorset Steam Fair. Not only did they transport Britons to their places of work; motorcycles also served as working vehicles themselves. At this year’s show it is possible to see a large number of machines from what were once leading manufacturers. Numbers of motorcycle exhibits will be in excess of 140!

Military Vehicles

Preserved Military vehicles have attended the Great Dorset Steam Fair since the earliest days. Here you will find a vast range of over 100 military machines including tanks, trucks, jeeps and motorcycles.

Working Vintage tractors

The Great Dorset Steam Fair provides ample opportunity to see these fantastic tractors at work, whether the implement is a simple trailed plough or hay rake; a baler or hay tedder worked by the power take off shaft (we’d best leave out the slurry-spreader!); or a hydraulically-mounted plough, drag or inter-row cultivator. Older tractors were also equipped to belt-drive machinery like threshing drums, grinding mills and saw benches in exactly the same way as their steam-powered ancestors. Enjoy over 120 exhibits on show.

Static Vintage tractors

Enjoy a superb selection of vintage tractors, from every corner of the British Isles. These tractors are displayed in a static display but do parade in the ring everyday. There are over 150 tractors in this section.
Horticultural Tractors

These are the small tractors and rotavators generally found in market gardens or nurseries. Over 100 exhibits will be on display ‘working’ the ground.

Tractor Pulling

Great fun for spectators, the idea is to see which tractor can pull the weighted sledge the farthest, or in the shortest time over a measured distance. At the start of the pull, the weights are at the back of the sledge over the wheels. As the sledge is pulled forward the weights move towards the front thus increasing the downward pressure on the runners. Therefore it can be seen that as the sledge moves forward the resistance to being pulled is greater. Modern competitive tractor pulling utilises very special highly developed tractors, some even with aero engines. Over 60 tractors, both old and more modern, will be taking part in this section that has become increasingly popular at the show in recent years.
Rural Displays

Heavy Horses

The heavy horse section is one of the most popular areas at the show. Over 100 heavy horses take part in the many displays. Each day, in the working area, heavy horses will be working the land using various cultivation implements. On Wednesday (28th August) in the working area there is a friendly ploughing match. On Saturday (31st August), the ring is reserved for the showing classes which begin at 9.30am with the presentation of trophies at around 3.30pm. All of the horses involved in both the working and daily displays will be groomed to their finest and dressed in their best harnesses to vie for the winning spot.

The Sheep Show

The sheep show is a fun and educational look at nine different breeds of sheep with the emphasis on wool. As each of the nine breeds of sheep is introduced to the audience, learn about each one’s attributes and how wool from the sheep’s back becomes a jumper for you to wear. Meet Nobby the Norfolk Horn, Susie the Southdown and their woolly friends. The shows are presented by New Zealanders; Richard Savory and Stuart Barnes, and are fun whatever your age. Don’t miss the famous ‘Sheep Show Shuffle’ and the fascinating live shearing demonstration. Each show lasts around 30 minutes and there will be four shows performed each day with the first show starting at 11am.

Countryside Arena

Eagle ShowA new arena was introduced in 2007 for rural displays and proved to be very successful. Named the "Countryside Arena", this will again feature at the 2013 show with displays including Sheepdogs, an Eagle and Vulture Show and The Adams Axemen.
Rural Crafts
One enormous craft marquee houses a whole range of traditional rural country crafts, including stained glass, dried flower arranging, the making of walking sticks, leather products (handbags and belts etc.), pottery and oil paintings. There is also an Outside Craft Area where you will find rope making demonstrations, wood carving, turning and wheel-righting, thatching, fencing, hurdle making, chalk walling and cider making.

Food Hall

Food HallThe Food Hall provides a fine selection of wholesome country ‘tucker’ including fresh cooked bread, cakes and pastries, home made speciality sausages and pies, strawberries, cream teas, local jams, cheeses, pickles and ploughman’s lunches – it’s irresistible!
How 'Twer Done in Granfer's Day

A unique collection of working farming bygones from the days of yesterday when “Granfer” was in his hey-day. The display includes corn grinding and stone milling machines driven by shaft gearing plus water pumps, generating sets, horizontal and vertical tree sawing, a barn thresher, cleaning and winnowing. There is also a Ross and Hutchinson 30” thresher driven by a 1958 Ferguson with a barn baler from 1934. The complete cycle from sheaf of corn (cut on site) to organic flour for bread is demonstrated at the show. Most of the staff using the machines can be seen wearing traditional clothing adding authenticity to the display.

Forest & Farm

Presented by the South Wilts Agriculture Preservation Society (SWAPS). This small friendly society was formed in 1971 by a number of enthusiasts whose aims and objectives were, and still are, to preserve some of the country’s forestry, agricultural and rural heritage. This was at a time when obsolete forestry and farming equipment and associated tools were usually destined for the scrap dealer or left in the hedge to deteriorate. The items displayed and demonstrated include examples of some of the members’ restoration and preservation projects in an attempt to save a little of the country’s forestry and agricultural heritage. Likewise the working demonstrations also portray members’ interests in preserving some fascinating rural skills.

Dairy Collections

A unique collection from dairy production bygones that include butter, cheese, cream and even the delivery of fresh milk through the ages. People who are interested in preserving the history and relics of the old dairy industries put this section together.
Vintage Collections

A fascinating display of collections of old objects and artefacts, both from daily life of years gone by and from specialist trades and occupations. Many are items you will remember, however many you may not have heard of.

Stationary Engines

There are over 120 stationary engines at the show with many different makes and variations. These small engines were generally used on farms and in light industry to drive items such as water pumps, corn mills and saw benches.

Model Tent

A visit to the Model Tent is so interesting, everything from working engineering models and a blacksmith’s workshop to boats, trains and aeroplanes – a great diversity of exhibits, there is something for everyone.


© Images: Volker Westphal

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Last Edit: 04. Aug. 2016