There are times when serendipity prompts a post, and one such moment occurred at Shackerstone on Sunday afternoon. In order to get to the main show ground site you had to pass the ‘heavy horses’ (or traction engines) and their associated ‘living vans’ – they were magnificent.

I can’t do justice to the subject in a single post so I’m intending to return to it again soon…

Perhaps it’s suffice to say today that the vans provided accommodation for the drivers and ‘crew’ of the engine; the ploughman, the haulier, the road roller… and allowed them the competitive flexibility of being away from home for periods of time. The ‘vans’ were effectively mess huts, sleeping accommodation, shelters, and in some cases carried an integrated water tank enabling the traction engine to be even more self sufficient as it travelled across the country.

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A John Fowler steam roller and living van painted in “photographic grey” posing for a camerman at the junction of Calverley Road and Aberford Road in Oulton.
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A smartly uniformed engineer with ‘gun carriage’ water-carrier and living van…
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A ‘road train’ leaving the ‘Finedon Feast’ in 1933, comprising of a showman’s engine, packed-up fairground attraction and living van…
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Heavy horse, living van advertising the contractor and portable water supply…
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A ‘Burrell’ living van at the Charles Burrell Museum in Thetford. Tin roof, front porch, inward opening door, shutters, small windows… a classic living van.
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This interior view gives some impression of the spartan conditions found in a working van. The van could accommodate at least three ‘crew’, lower end bunk, upper end bunk and side bench, little in the way of creature comforts here, just bare boards, but at least the crew were warmed by a stove and were out of the elements…
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A hinged table, dropped during the evening when the van entered ‘sleeping mode’…
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In marked contrast, an image of a modern reproduction, all the basic features are there, but the decor is oh-so-tastefully achieved… Top end bunk, lower bunk, drop table, but no side bench this time…
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The ‘Full Monty’ a restored ‘D. Wood & Co Ltd.’ van as the Masham Rally in 2009…
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And, from Shackerstone 2014…
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Living vans ancient and (slightly) more modern sharing the shade of a tree on the show ground…
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A restored ‘Taylor Bros.’ van with modern day warning light…
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A gorgeous, simple, purposeful and seriously roadworthy van, with warning sign, flashing light and pneumatic wheels…
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‘Living Van’ and Fowler ‘heavy horse’ in perfect harmony…

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