TADCASTER is, as everyone who lives in these parts knows, a brewing town. At one point there were no fewer than five breweries in Tad - and there are still three to this day: Sam Smiths, the Tower Brewery (Coors) and John Smiths, owned by Heineken.

There's clearly something in the water, people like to say. Well, yes there is. "The water quality is rich in sulphate of lime and with its particular hardness is said to be superior even to that of Burton-upon-Trent," says York-based transport historian Derek Rayner.

One thing about any ambitious brewery is that it needs to transport its beer to rail hubs, so that it can then be sent on its way to the pubs where drinkers can enjoy it. And in the early days of Tadcaster's breweries, in late Victorian times, it just so happened that the best way of doing this was by steam.

All three of the town's surviving breweries had fleets of steam-powered wagons and road locomotives used to transport heavy casks of beer. Austin Windle, who was an inveterate collector of photographs of steam and traction engines, put together quite a collection in his lifetime.

He has sadly now passed away. But Derek used several of Austin's photos for a magazine article he wrote a while ago. And he has generously allowed us to reproduce some of them here.

They provide a wonderful glimpse of the breweries in the early days - as well as of the machines they used to haul their beer, and the people who used to work for them.

Today, we tend to talk nostalgically about the great age of steam. But steam-powered road wagons had their problems, Derek points out.

Tadcaster's largest brewery is John Smith's, completed on its present site in 1883. Over time it assembled quite a fleet of road steam engines and wagons. One of them was a powerful Fowler B5 road locomotive bought in 1902, which was specially designed with a short wheelbase so it could be more easily controlled in confined areas. It was used to deliver barrels of beer to Tadcaster railway station - and then to bring back coal to the brewery.

"During the course of these activities, this large engine churned up the roadways and caused problems for residents in some... narrow streets," Derek writes. "Their doorways were very close to the road and the... mud from the dirt roads of the time, which was then trodden into their houses, did not go down well with the householders." We bet.

That doesn't make these photos any less fascinating, however. We have seven for you today - and might well bring you some more in the future. Here they are:

1. Tower Brewery’s 3-ton Foden wagon, bought in August 1913, outside the brewery

2. In December 1927, Tower Brewery bought a new, 6-ton Sentinel Super, seen here in what is obviously a posed photograph whilst the waggon was still on ‘trade plates’. Its matching trailer is painted in Tower’s livery

3. One of Sam Smith’s unidentified Mann wagons is well-loaded in this view. The brewery's other similar wagon had artillery wheels on the rear whereas this one has the plate type wheels with cut-outs, writes Derek Rayner. "The frugal attitude of the brewery was well known and the existing photograph of the other wagon shows it to be in a light colour whereas this is definitely in something of a dark shade. It would have been very unlikely that either wagon would have been re-painted during the time they were owned by the brewery."

4. One of a pair of Sentinel DG4 waggons (for some reason, Sentinel always used the double 'g', Derek says) bought new by Sam Smiths in April 1929. The wagon has a ‘trade plate’ fitted

5. Sentinel Standard waggon, which was part of the John Smith’s Fleet, outside Whittaker’s Brewery in Halifax. The crew are A Waters (left) and B Parker. Note the brewery’s telephone number on the wagon’s cabside – Telephone No 1

6. Three Standard Sentinels in the John Smith’s transport yard at Tadcaster

7. John Smith’s also had six Foden wagons, of which this 5-tonner, pictured in September 1914, is a fine example. It is pictured with its trailer at the junction of London Road and Leeds Road in Tadcaster within a couple of hundred yards of the brewery. The driver is B Thompson together with draymen A Craft (centre) and A Marsh.