Britain’s a nation of eccentrics. And nothing exemplifies that more than a northern traction engine enthusiast who’s converted his Land Rover to run on steam.
67-year-old engineer Frank Rothwell was looking for a project to keep him out of the pub in the evening, when he found a 50-year-old Land Rover being sold by a manufacturing company.
“We all need a hobby and I like doing things that are difficult,” he explained. So why not take the perfectly acceptable, albeit slow, 2.25-litre petrol engine out of the Series IIA and fit it with an even slower, noisier and more polluting powertrain?
“We all need a hobby…”
Meet the man behind the first Land Rover in the world to be powered by steam 🚂
— ITV Granada Reports (@GranadaReports) January 23, 2018
The Land Rover, called Mildred on account of all the mildew it was covered in when it was rescued, features a custom-built motor that works like Thomas the Tank Engine, explains Frank.
It uses a coal-fired boiler to heat up water and turn it into steam, building up pressure to run a small engine. It gets through coal at a rate of around 45kg an hour.
In all, Rothwell reckons the project took him around 400 hours – split equally between building the engine and converting the Land Rover. It’s also said to have cost in the region of £24,000.
Although he’s yet to take the Land Rover for a full-speed run, Frank reckons it’ll be good for 12-15mph – fast enough for his commute, he jibes.
“We’ve just increased the pressure to 200psi,” he said. “I’m expecting it then to do about 12 or 15mph max. And, if I’m going from here to work, I don’t do much more than that anyway. There might be a couple of bits where I might hit 25mph but that’s it, so… I’ll be able to go to work in it in summer.”