THE SUN was beating down on Sunday when gleaming steam engines puffed and chuffed into town for the Tavistock Steam and Vintage Fair, writes Sarah Pitt.

The event in the Bedford car park saw steam engines joined by vintage tractors which once did the work on local farms and cars from an era when motoring was sedate and comfortable.

The day was organised by The Robey Trust, which restores steam engines at its base at Pixon Lane, and its volunteers —all enthusiasts for the era of steam — were taking steam engines pulling trailerloads of visitors on tours of the town.

It was hot work for those in the driving seat, burning coal in the engines to propel them forward.

Among those enjoying the day was Matt Young of Lamerton with his sons and helpmates Ruben, who brought their Burrell engine dating from 1917 into town on her maiden voyage since restoration at a stately four miles an hour.

‘This is our maiden voyage,’ said Matt. ‘It is a 1917 five-horsepower agricultural engine and it has spent its working life with three others in Southern Ireland. Its sister engines are still in Ireland. It came over in 2010 and we bought it. This is the first time I have brought it out on the road. I’ve come with the family to support the rally.’

Among those taking part in the rally were Robey Trust volunteers Graham Skinner and Martin Dart, who were at the controls of their steamroller, waiting to take their turn take a trailerload of passengers for a turn around Tavistock.

Graham said: ‘It is called Bullet because during the Second World War when it was working on an airfield it was actually shot up by a German aircraft. That was in North Devon. It has had several owners and this one was buit in 1923, so it is 100 years old now.

‘The owner has loaned it to the trust so we are allowed to use it whenver we want. We try to use it at events to help make money for the trust.’

He said the hot weather made it more uncomfortable for the crew, it makes it very hot.

Martin said: ‘Actually I’m learning to drive one of these propery on a professional licence, but I have to get a licence first to do i because a roller is a bit more dangerous to drive on the road than a normal traction engine. So I have to be accompanied by a more experienced driver, Graham, because I’m still learning to drive one of these properly!’

Also at the rally were Stephen and Clare Fryer, of RAF Harrobeer, who were all dressed up in 1940s vintage RAF uniforms, with their pride and joy, a vintage staff car from the Second World War period.

‘We kept saying we need a car for when we go to shows, rather than walking around,’ said Stephen.

‘This belonged to a friend of ours and when he sadly passed away his family let us buy her.

‘She will go at 45mph as a top speed but we try to stick to 40 as that is more comfortable.’

He is currently looking at restoring the workings of the car doors. Inside the back is a surprisingly roomy interior with an evocative smell of leather.

‘She is a labour of love because she is a lot of work and that is before you head under the bonnet. She is such fun to drive though.’