THE STEAMFEST STORY
written by Brenton Wheare
It is a truism that the greatest treasures can be found at one’s front door step. And so it is with Sheffield’s annual SteamFest.
With more than a quarter century of development, SteamFest is now a very large undertaking indeed. In recent years more than 10,000 patrons, exhibitors and volunteers have passed through the gates during the three day event.
The very large Sheffield Recreation Precinct (approx. 9.5Ha excluding the car parking areas – over 30% of the size of the AGFEST Display) is crowded with a diverse array of displays and entertainment. This does not divert one from the focus of the event – Steam and the working skills of the Steam era!!
Lovingly restored leviathans of a bygone era sit patiently, ruminating with the slow, easy motion of pistons, cams and levers tracing mesmerising patterns brought to life with the blast of a steam whistle. Everyday they crunch ponderously, trunk to tail like elephants, on the gravel roads in the grand parade.
Skirting the perimeter of the site, the diminutive Krauss steam locomotive pulls carriages crowded to capacity down the railway line to East Victoria Street station with its iconic view of Mount Roland towering majestically over Sheffield, and SteamFest. This, along with the myriad of murals have made Sheffield a photographer’s paradise.
SteamFest was first held in 1994, in the spirit of the great Steam Fairs of Britain. We cannot hope to achieve the bewildering size and patronage of their events, but we do have several machines that they cannot own, as ours are the only known examples left in the world. Treasure at our own front door!!
English rallies are known for the distinctive aroma of coal smoke. Coal was the fuel of choice due to the ready availability of the fuel and the scarcity of trees in the English Landscape. With the wind back of coal use English engine owners are getting concerned that coal will become scarce to power their industrial revolution aged machines. This year SteamFest too will feature the Aroma of Coal Smoke with 3m3 of coal being burnt in engines for the weekend mixed with their usual wood fires.
Every year SteamFest has ever more working steam era machinery, mostly agricultural, with links to the Sheffield area and beyond. It is said that one needs the whole three days of the event to see, and appreciate it all.
SteamFest this year is held on the March long weekend 7, 8th and 9th of March.