The DCC Burrell steam roller ‘Buster’ owned by and based at Bressingham Steam Museum has finally almost reached the end of its first 10 ten yearly period since restoration.
Built in 1924 towards the end of the manufacturing era at the Thetford works the roller weighs in at above 15 tons (nominal weight 12t) and was really intended for crushed stone road surfaces and breaking up hardcore, rather than asphalt. As tarmac was becoming increasingly common by this time the working lives of these heavy rollers was somewhat foreshortened and Buster had been laid up by 1940. Owned by the once well-known contractors Doran Bros. of Thetford (of whom Thomas Doran served an apprenticeship at Burrell’s) the roller spent almost all of the 50’s in their yard, never moving an inch. It was eventually sold on to scrap merchants in west Norfolk with other engines but fortunately survived, to be acquired by Alan Bloom to join his growing collection at Bressingham in Norfolk. During 2003 – 2006 volunteers at the museum returned it to steam after some considerable restoration work.
The engine is now due next year for another class 1 boiler examination. This will of course involve a complete strip down of all boiler fittings and a hydraulic pressure test, followed by a live steam test. But it is expected that the tubes will not need replacing and neither are any major repairs anticipated to be necessary.
This is not bad going for an engine that has seen considerable use in steam and has marked up some hundreds of miles on the roads of East Anglia in the past few years. Buster has regularly attended many local steam and heritage shows and almost always goes under its own power. The mileage is fairly impressive for a roller travelling in modern traffic conditions. Just this year for example it’s attended 6 shows and covered about 170 miles on road runs. In previous years it’s covered even more. As anyone who takes an engine out on the highway knows, these journeys require a fair amount of logistical planning for water stops and require a good knowledge of the road conditions. A support vehicle has always accompanied the team who run Buster. This hauls a water tank and saves using hydrants or other less reliable water sources and it also serves to warn other traffic on narrow roads.
The last show the roller attended this season was the Grand Henham steam rally (transported this time by low loader) in company with a line up of 3 other road engines from the collection – a 1901 Burrell SCC portable (the last surviving), a contempory Garrett 4CD and most unusually, a replica Sentinel steam bus (co-owned by the Saunders collection). With an accompanying set of living vans this made quite a respectable display.
It is hoped that Buster will be able to continue its time honoured travels on the by-ways of Norfolk and Suffolk in the near future.