Aveling & Porter

It was Thomas Aveling who made most of the technical innovations that are incorporated in every 'modern' traction engine and steamroller. Aveling, a Kentish farmer, was dissatisfied with the portable steam engines then used to power farm machinery because the engines had to be hauled from site to site by teams of horses. He set out to make the engines self-moving, and in the process became known as the "Father of the traction engine".

Aveling began manufacture of his own engines at Rochester, Kent, in 1862 and quickly built up a commanding position in the field which his company never really lost. In 1867, Aveling introduced the first production road roller, sending the first example to his agent in Paris. Subsequently, rollers of this type were sent all over the world. Two of them became the first steam rollers in the United States, helping build amongst other projects the roads in Central Park, New York.

  An Aveling & Porter road roller, works number 3647 of 1895, near Winchester  

Aveling & Porter (later Aveling-Barford) continued to manufacture steam rollers until after the second world war, producing more than any other builder. Many of these rollers remained in service well into the 1960's and today outnumber all other kinds of preserved steam engines. Some people even regard them as commonplace! This is unfair, because all surviving traction engines, road locomotives and steam rollers are more or less based on the Aveling patents and are therefore in reality Aveling designs!

Without question, it was Thomas Aveling's designs which made possible mechanical road transport and created the modern highways which we take so much for granted today. In this respect, Aveling's innovations must rank as some of the most important ever made in the history of the modern world.


Aveling and Porter Ltd Rochester by J M Preston (North Kent Books, 1987): The Official History of Aveling and Porter.