What's In Store... Aveling Porter Road Roller

Published: 4 June 2020

Shani, Collections Office

These are among some of the larger objects in our collection.  The largest being the four Gimson steam pumps installed at Abbey Pumping Station. We are lucky enough to work with a great team of volunteers – the Leicester Museums Technology Association (LMTA) who help maintain our large objects and keep them running.  There is a huge knowledge base among this team and we appreciate their continued support. 

The Road Roller came in as part of a 3 roller donation from Eddison who donated 2 more modern rollers along with it.

It was made by Aveling & Porter in 1893 and it is a 10 ton steam roller powered by a single cylinder slide valve engine. Its Fleet Number was 79. As its name suggests, it was designed to flatten and smooth out roads.

The living Van is by Aveling Barford and was sourced from else where but is the type of living van that was towed by the road roller. The current colour scheme is not the original but has been matched to the livery of the steam roller.

It served the same purpose as a caravan allowing the driver and often his wife and children, to live on the road on the way to different jobs. This was necessary because the road roller doesn’t move very fast and the drivers were often required to travel some distance (often to a different county) in order to arrive at the job.

Travel time had to be carefully planned because on top of the travelling speed, the driver would regularly need to stop for water. It also used to be a legal requirement that the roller had somebody walking in a little way ahead of it, with a red flag. Sometimes the driver’s wife would perform this function which would earn a little more money for the family. About a penny a mile in the 1950’s.

We are lucky enough to have an account in the files, of somebody who worked for Eddison in the 1950’s who actually drove number 79 and lived in a similar van to ours, with his wife and 2 infant daughters. Number 79 had a lot of personality by all accounts and certainly liked to challenge her driver.

The road roller is still in working order and is maintained and driven by our volunteers. If you are interested in finding out more about the LMTA please visit their website.