Steam Exhibitions & Demonstrations


The fabulous showman’s engine line up at the Great Dorset Steam Fair is World renown. For many visitors, these wonderful engines with their gleaming, twisted brass, really are the stars of our show standing proudly in front of the Old Time fairground rides and majestically lighting up the Great Dorset Steam Fair sky line.

It is indeed at night when the Showman’s Engines are really working hard generating power for the old rides and roundabouts to operate that the showground transforms into a magical electric city of lights and sounds. With the authentically re-created Victorian and 1920’s variety stage shows fronting the large fairground organs, it all makes for a fascinating spectacle which is widely recognised as unique in steam preservation circles.

The Old Time steam funfair at the Great Dorset Steam Fair includes two sets of Gallopers (carousels), Steam Yachts, Chair-o-Planes, Noah’s Ark, Skid, Cakewalk, Big Wheel and a Light House Slip.

Showman’s Engines are a variation of steam engine, 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.

In commercial use, the larger Showman’s Engines (the Showman’s Road Locomotive) would have hauled the heavily laden trailers from show to show and some, fitted with crane jibs, would have been used to erect the rides. The smaller counterpart to these locomotives, known as Showman’s Tractors were useful for hauling support vehicles out on the road and powering lights in the fairground.

Over 60 Showman’s Engines appear at the Great Dorset Steam Fair each year.

Some may argue that this is the most spectacular feature of the Great Dorset Steam Fair and there is no doubt amongst steam enthusiasts that the Heavy Haulage Arena at the Great Dorset Steam Fair cannot be rivalled at any other steam event in the World.

Over 20 steam heavy haulage road locomotives appear in the arena pulling vast loads of granite & machinery on huge trailers. They really are the big boys of the show, very powerful and originally built for commercial use for moving heavy loads on trips of tremendous distance that used to take days or weeks.

These locomotives are highly geared, have rubber tyres and sprung suspension. You will see them working at the Great Dorset Steam Fair in twos and threes and often with an engine on the rear of the loaded trailer to act as a brake.

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 Heavy Haulage demonstration area.
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 Heavy Haulage Arena.

Steam Road Rollers were amongst the last steam engines to be built – some surviving well into the 1960’s, contractors and local councils using them as heavy plant for road building and repairs. Around 25 steam rollers will be present at the 2017 show fully participating in the very popular authentic road making demonstration area.

GUINNESS WORLD TITLE ACHIEVED AT GREAT DORSET STEAM FAIR 2013

Great Dorset Steam Fair is delighted to be a GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS holder for the 'Largest parade of steam rollers'! Our World Record certificate states; ‘The largest parade of steam rollers consists of 103 vintage steam rollers and was achieved by the Great Dorset Steam Fair (UK) in Tarrant Hinton, Dorset, UK, on 31 August 2013’.

The “Roller Special” at the 2013 Great Dorset Steam Fair has been widely regarded as one of the best special events ever held in the show's history.

Managing Director, Martin Oliver commented after the 2013 show “We have held some memorable “specials” at the GDSF over the years, the Burrell year of 2000 and McLaren year of 2010 particularly come to mind and in my opinion the 2013 “Roller Special” was as good as any I can remember”. The unique gathering consisted of a range of steam, petrol and diesel rollers covering the history of road rolling. What really made the display “special” was the variety of makes and models on show, some being particularly old and rare and therefore particularly interesting to visitors. Indeed, some of the rollers hadn’t been seen in public for any years with others never having been seen in public before.                          

Martin added “It truly was a fantastic spectacle with the icing on the cake being the breaking of our own World Record for the greatest number of steam rollers going over a newly laid piece of road. The old record of 32 rollers set at the GDSF back in 2003 was completely “smashed” as over 103 steam rollers rolled themselves down in  history on the Saturday morning of the show. Fittingly, the roller that actually broke the record was my late father Michael’s Fowler roller “Lord Jellicoe” passing over the “new” road as number 33 in the procession”.              

Four pairs of ploughing engines with ploughs and implements and can be seen at the Great Dorset Steam Fair in the most westerly field of the showground in the Steam Ploughing and Cultivating Area.

Ploughing Engines 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.

In the Threshing Area you can see general purpose steam engines working the equipment that was used during harvest each year on farms the length and breadth of the country before the invention of the modern combine. For this threshing drums, elevators and balers 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. Six large corn ricks will be threshed at this Great Dorset Steam Fair.
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 located in the Steam Woodsawing Area.
Demonstrations of steam timber loading and Haulage can be seen in the Heavy Haulage Arena.
Miniature Steam Engines are accurately built scaled down versions of the full size engines you will see at the show. You will find around 100 miniature Steam Engines this year. Visitors are warmly encouraged to ask questions - model engineers are a very friendly bunch - youngsters are particularly encouraged to ask and, since the models are much nearer to their size, it is much easier to show them the fire, explain how water is boiled and how steam pressure pushes a piston along.
In this area of the show you will find a superb selection of Steam Cars on display including types from the World renowned Stanley Steam Car Company. As the steam cars are being driven around our Heavy Haulage Arena, you will notice how quick and nimble they were during their heyday years of the early 1900's. Furthermore, steam cars had the advantage over some of the early internal combustion engine cars in that they were a lot quieter, had less vibration and had an an ease & smoothness.