Derek Rayner reports on a very rare French-built steam roller that was spotted at this summer’s Bloxham Rally.
Enthusiasts visiting the Bloxham Steam Rally, near Banbury, at the end of June were treated to a huge surprise in the shape of a steam roller, the likes of which had never previously been seen in this country.
The roller in question was constructed by JB Aillot in Montceau-les-Mines, in the department of Saône-et-Loire, in eastern France; a manufacturer of other road-making machinery such as self-propelled stone-breakers and motor rollers.
This example, Works No. 402, had been found by owner Martin Shepherd in an underground bunker in France, where it had been squirrelled away for some 55 years, and was brought into the country in relatively recent times. This was the first occasion it had been displayed in public, and its presence generated much head-scratching among people who spotted it at the show. It’s equipped for using a trailed scarifier from either side, if required, and Martin is searching for such an implement to use with it. Should any reader know the whereabouts of an appropriate example, please contact the editor.
The roller’s age has been something which has been speculated upon since, as far as is known, no works records still exist – unless readers know different, of course. The only thing which Martin has to go on in this respect at the moment are entries in The European Traction Engine Register, 2015, which lists 12 Aillot steam rollers built by the firm from No. 52 in 1907 to No. 413 in 1928; the majority of which are tandem compounds and all of which are located in France. This information therefore appears, by interpolation, to suggest that the roller was constructed in 1928.
The firm manufactured both single- and compound-cylindered steam rollers; these latter models having the two cylinders in line. All are listed as compounds, with only one single-cylinder example which is to be found in the south-west of France. The appearance of No. 402 thus increases the known number of single-cylinder machines.
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