Farmer Peter Thomas is providing motorists on their way to work along the A426 with a change of scenery to break their rush-hour monotony – a 27t steam engine.
And it’s not just the commuters who are enjoying the new addition, for hundreds of visitors have flocked to see the engine – called Bullseye – which Peter has placed, complete with tracks, in one of his fields at Glen Parva Lodge Farm on the outskirts of Leicester.
Sixty-year-old Peter has a passion for great British engineering and so decided to rescue the 1929 engine from another farmer’s field four miles away and put it on display for all to see.
“My whole life had become overrun by farming, and these days it’s just a nightmare,” said beef farmer Peter. “You don’t have to feed it, tax it or insure it. You can just touch it or stroke it. But I’m surprised by the interest it has created.”
Bulleye was last used by Proctor and Gamble after originally being built for the now-defunct Distillers company.
A 50t crane, two giant low-loaders and six people were used to transport the grand old lady, plus the tracks, through Leicester, with the journey taking four hours.
The engine is a rare example of what is called a fireless steam engine, because it doesn’t have a furnace, which would have caused flying sparks in a dangerous work area. Instead it ran for up to four hours after being charged up by a fire in the factory.
And Bullseye won’t get lonely. Peter also owns over 50 vintage tractors and 20 Scammell lorries, dating from the 1930s.
But the engine could be used as a propaganda tool. For Peter wants a former, nearby, railway station to be reinstated: “Bullseye is just waiting for the station to arrive again,” he says.