IN the first part of Yesterday Once More this week, we take a trip back in time to the days when steamrollers weren’t country fair attractions, but working machines.

According to research by local transport historian Derek Rayner, who lives in Acomb, the York Corporation (later to become City of York Council) owned seven of these magnificent mechanical workhorses at one time or another down the years.

Derek, a stickler for detail, has actually managed to unearth photographs of several of them, by drawing on his own collection, that of other steam enthusiasts, and the help of York Explore’s excellent Imagine York website.

The first of these ‘new’ mechanical steam-powered rollers to appear in York was a 15-ton Aveling, made in Rochester, Kent, by Aveling & Porter, the firm which had supplied the first-ever steam roller to be used on Britain’s roads - in Liverpool, in 1867.

York Corporation bought its first Aveling in 1886 and there is a wonderful photograph from Imagine York showing it at work on Lawrence Street, presumably some time in the 1880s or 1890s. The Corporation bought a second, slightly smaller 10-ton Aveling in 1889, and a third, also 10 tons, in 1903. This third machine carried a brass plaque with the name ‘City of York No 3’.

York Press:

The 'City No 3' on Blossom Street

Another Imagine York photograph shows the City of York No 3 chugging up Blossom Street towards Micklegate Bar in 1903, the year it was bought. Tramlines for horse-drawn trams can be seen in the surface of the road, but the photograph was taken before Queen Street was widened to allow electric trams to operate.

Derek has also managed to source a couple of photographs of the road-making gang which operated the City of York No 3. One, from his own collection, is labelled ‘The Tar Babies’ and is dated 1929.

York Press:

The 'Tar Babies' in 1929

The City of York No 3 was given the registration DN 2002 some time after 1921. It was taken out of service in 1927 (so by the time of that Tar Babies photograph it had already been mothballed) and was eventually sold to dealers A & M Cole of Sleaford, Lincolnshire, and subsequently re-sold to the Wingham Engineering Company of Wingham, Kent.

Derek has sourced a photograph of it there (with its DN 2002 registration still clearly visible) standing next to a Burrell ‘Gold Medal’ tractor.

The York Corporation’s fourth steam roller was a tandem 7-ton compound steamroller made in Leeds by T Green & Son in 1907. It was registered DN 2000 on December 23, 1924, and was last licensed in 1929.

Another 10-ton Aveling compound also came into service in York and was formally registered (as DN 2002) at about the same time as the tandem, in 1924. It was sold out of council service on March 12, 1937, to contractors Dalton & Higgins, of Water Lane, Leeds.

York Corporation steam roller no 6 was a 1923 ‘F’ type piston-valve Aveling, which was sold on to contractors W&J Glossop at Osbaldwick in 1938. The corporation’s final steam roller was a Wallis & Steevens machine - registered as DN 2005 - which was supplied from Basingstoke in 1927. It too was sold on to Glossop, this time in 1955.

York Press:

The Wallis & Steevens roller bought in 1927 at work near Cromwell Road

In September 2012 this last Wallis & Steevens machine made a sentimental return to York. It had been brought here from Leeds where it had undergone a lengthy restoration by owners Eric Robinson and John Knapton. It stopped briefly for the crowds to admire it outside York Minster and also posed in Tower Street in front of Clifford’s Tower and at the junction of Skeldergate and Cromwell Road, with the Baile Tower in the background.

York Press:

The restored Wallis & Steevens at Cromwell Road on its return to York in 2012

“It’s understood that the council yard where the roller was kept was on Foss Islands Road close to the incinerator and so a short diversion was also made there for old time’s sake to picture her with the incinerator chimney in the background,” says Derek.