The Leeds and District Traction Engine Club

This website has been produced by former members of the Leeds and District Traction Engine Club. This was a club for owners of traction engines and those interested in traction engines in the Leeds area. It operated from 1963 to 2022. The club organised several large events around Yorkshire including a number of traction engine rallies.
In the early 1960s, enthusiasm for traction engines was in its infancy in West Yorkshire. To promote this interest, in 1963, a few engine owners and others decided to form the Leeds and District Traction Engine Club. This title and location was most appropriate, for the area is rich in Industrial Archaeology and contained a number of steam road vehicle manufacturers.[1]
The first rally was held in the autumn of 1963 at Harewood House near Leeds, home of the Queen's cousin and was attended over the two days by an astounding 25,000 visitors. The fledgling society held similar events in the following years, although 1966 was a blank year and in 1967, an alternative site was found at Pudsey. The Club returned to Harewood in 1968 and several successful three-day events took place there. The attendance peaked in 1970 at 48,000 when two visiting John Fowler Showman's Engines Supreme and Renown, were invited from the south of England, thus cementing relationships with similar clubs in that area.[1]

Below - Film from the 1972 rally (click to run the video).

Some less than successful two-day shows and a change in policy at Harewood resulted in a new venue being found at Bramham Park in 1977. A road run in conjunction with the unveiling of the Fowler Works Memorial in 1979 took place to this location in Hunslet, commemorating the largest and best known of the Leeds-based traction engine manufacturers.[1]

Below - Film from the Fowler Works memorial and road run (click to run the video).

In 1984, the rally moved back to Harewood where it flourished again for some years. The thirtieth anniversary event in 1993 included a further road run, similar to the Club's Silver Jubilee event in 1988.[1]
In 1998, the August Bank Holiday event moved, for financial reasons, to the Great Yorkshire Showground at Harrogate [2]A combination of the population's leisure activities - and other reasons - made a change of date necessary and in 2000, the event was held in June. This proved to be financially unsuccessful and no rally took place the following year. However, a link-up with the Middleton Railway was achieved in the Leeds Steam Festival and Vintage Transport Day on three sites in 2001 - which included The Royal Armories Museum and Thwaite Mills Industrial Museum.[3]
Subsequent years saw events at Thwaite Mills and also at the National Coal Mining Museum of England near Wakefield and again at Harewood.[4] The final rally took place at Pontefract in 2011 when it became obvious that enthusiasm for organising such large scale events was rapidly declining and there was also a problem with the hugely increasing costs involved.[1]

Below - A line up of engines at the final Harewood Rally the club organised in 2010 (Photo - Kris Ward)

Visits by coach were later organised for Club members and friends[5] and also there was involvement from the early 2000s, in conjunction with the Leeds Civic Trust in the erection of Blue Plaques with due ceremony at the locations of the five major road steam engine builders in the city.[6]

Below - Unveiling of the blue plaque at the former Fowler works site (Photo - Kris Ward)

Organisation of very successful Steam Apprentice Club training days for youngsters were held at Otley and at Rufforth[7] and the Club also staged annual events at Armley Mills Museum in Leeds over several years where steam toys and constructions from Meccano were displayed.
With a declining and ageing membership and with many members being resident away from the immediate Leeds area - plus a marked reluctance of anyone wishing to take up vacant committee positions - members at the 2020 AGM agreed to hold the constitutionally-required Extra Ordinary General Meeting which was necessary to dissolve the Club. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and several other reasons, this meeting didn't take place until April 2022 and at that meeting, the 24 members present unanimously agreed to wind up the Club and split its accumulated assets five ways - Air Ambulance; Friends of Pudsey Roller; Middleton Railway; Martin House Hospice, Boston Spa and the Road Locomotive Society.[8]

Archive Photographs, Leeds & District Traction Engine Club, ISBN 0-9545351-0-3.[1]Look for this book on Amazon
Yorkshire Evening Post article[2]
Program of the Vintage Transport Day[3]
Tractors and Plant Wiki[4]
Traction Talk forum[5]
Steam Plough Club website[6]
Steam Apprentice Club section of the National Traction Engine Club website[7]
Minutes of the club's EOGM.[8]

This article was produced by L&DTEC president Derek Rayner and edited for website use by Kris Ward