National Traction Engine Trust

Posted by Chris Graham on 16th February 2021

Paul Ritchie reports on important developments arising from the National Traction Engine Trust’s recent AGM.

Last November the National Traction Engine Trust (NTET) held its annual general meeting and, like so many organisations unable to meet due to Covid-19 restrictions, it was forced to conduct the event on Zoom, rather than in Swindon, as planned..

Established in 1954, the National Traction Engine Trust (known as the ‘National’) has members of all ages living in more that 20 countries across the world, and has become the umbrella organisation for the steam traction movement. As such, it enjoys affiliations with over 30 organisations in the UK and elsewhere. These include the Road Locomotive Society, the Road Roller Association as well as many regional clubs and associations. The NTET itself is affiliated to the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs, the Heritage Railway Association and to the Heritage Fuels Alliance.

National Traction Engine Trust

Rob and his son Jack at the controls of Clinker in the ‘play pen’ at the Great Dorset Steam Fair in 2013; the year the engine appeared without its canopy.

At the meeting, the acting chairman, Bob Siddall, officially handed the reigns to current vice-chairman, Rob Clifford-Wing. The chairman of the Trust serves for a three-year period, and leads both the general council and the executive committee.

Rob is a well-known and respected member of the steam community, and has owned 1911 7nhp Burrell No. 3257 Clinker since 2004. A popular engine on the rally field, Clinker was new to Wingham Agricultural Co. in Kent, where it was used for road haulage until the early 1920s. It entered preservation in the 1960s after being bought by Fred Jackson. In 1972 the engine was sold to Michael Ward of Nottinghamshire, and rallied extensively.

Before owning Clinker, Rob was the owner of 1931 Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies 6nhp nine-ton, single-cylinder traction engine No. 42013 Sister Wendy, which was sold to David Tremain of St. Columb Major, then moved to Lester Solomon, keeping the engine in Cornwall where it has spent much of its preservation life. Rob is a regular attendee of the Great Dorset Steam Fair, bringing his Cornwall-based crew including his son, Jack, with him, and is a great supporter of the charity trailer rides, where Clinker is often to be found. When he’s not driving his engine, he’s usually to be found it the commentary box, helping the team out.

National Traction Engine Trust

Rob entertaining the spectators at the Great Dorset Steam Fair from the commentary box, alongside Andrew Semple, president of the Trust. (Pic: Clive R Flack)

Rob’s other passion is vintage cars, and he’s currently the owner of a fine 1926 Bentley 3-Litre ‘Red Label’ Vanden Plas-bodied car. He enjoys taking it to regional and national gatherings, as well as using it as a regular car for driving to work, and trips out to the pub. He says that there must be something in the letter ‘B’ – Burrell and Bentley – as it’s provided him with the finest in steam engines and cars!

Away from steam engines and cars, Rob has turned a lifetime of living in Cornwall, and an interest in fine, locally-sourced food, into a successful business; he’s The Cornish Fishmonger – a fish merchant supplying fish across the UK and internationally. In fact, he’s become something of an internet sensation, with his enthusiasm for sharing his recipes for fish dishes, filmed in his own kitchen.

His status in the industry has led him to be invited to be part of the All-Party Parliamentary Group supporting the passage of the Fisheries Bill through both houses of government. All great experience that will, no doubt, help him in his role with the NTET. Rob is also the chair of the National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow, and chairman of Newlyn Harbour Commission.

Rob sees the role chairing the NTET as being an important one for the movement, as he helps the organisation continue to evolve and face the current challenges. The ‘National’ has done such an important job for over 60 years, providing everything from support networks, organisation, advice and rally support. It’s this that has allowed road steam preservation to continue to flourish. Rob says he’s fully prepared to ‘get stuck in’, listen to and engage with members. He appreciates the hard work ahead, and is equally appreciative of all the work that has already been undertaken by his predecessors, together with their officers and committees.

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