Steamy affair ends in disappointment

DORRIGO Show missed out on a historic steam roller attraction last week after Bellingen Shire Council got steamed up about possible damage to the Shire roads.

The meticulously-restored 10-tonne British-built Aveling and Porter steam roller is owned by Dorrigo resident Bob McLeod, who had planned to steam up and drive it to the show from his home at 381 Shepherds Road.

But his request was vetoed by Bellingen Shire Council's director of engineering Mike Edsall, who said steel wheels would almost certainly cause damage to the roads and he did not call a few kilometres a short distance.

Mr McLeod, who has an engineering background, said he had been using this and similar machines on bitumen roads for 50 years and had never seen any damage done.

“These machines were used for building and repairing roads,” he said.

“In their working days they regularly travelled from job to job - on bitumen.”

He said no other preserved steam rollers in Australia had been restricted or accused of damaging the roads and several shire councils paid generously for roller owners to bring their machines to community events, including Maitland, Wellington and Jondaryan in Queensland.

“Cowra Shire, the original owners of this machine, want it back so they can run it at events - on the roads,” he said.

Mr Edsall said Mr McLeod's claims were unsubstantiated and he relied on the knowledge of his road engineers for his ban.

“It would cause powdering and cracking of the top aggregate and small cracks in the aggregate and binder leading to water ingress and shortening the life of the roads,” Mr Edsall said.

He said the effect of the steel wheels was enormously higher than rubber-tyred vehicles, even when those vehicles were 25-tonne trucks.

Bob McLeod has spent the last year restoring the steam roller, which will celebrate its 80th birthday today - at home.

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