John Fowler established the Steam Plough Works at Leeds, England in 1859, and over the next half century Fowlers became one of the world's leading manufacturers of steam ploughing engines, traction engines and road locomotives. Around the turn of the century, the company turned its attention to internal combustion engine designs, and this culminated in an oil tractor design which was built from 1909. This machine looked almost identical to a steam traction engine, with the fuel carried in the "boiler". Several of these machines were shipped to South Africa and Australia, where one survives to this day. In 1912, Fowlers built a motor plough to the design of Alfred Wyles, and this led to a joint venture with the Wyles Motor Ploughs Ltd. of Manchester which saw a series of Fowler-Wyles motor ploughs being produced. In the early 1920s, Fowlers built a pair of "rein-drive" tractors to the design of an Australian engineer, Cornelius Murnane - these featured V-twin engines, and steering, braking and gear change was effected by means of a set of reins. The aim was to mimic the controls of a horse, and the rein-drive tractors could be coupled to existing horse-drawn implements on which the operator was seated. The year 1927 saw the introduction of the Fowler "Gyrotiller", a huge tracked machine with a single front wheel and two power-driven rotary cultivators at the rear. Despite their heavy fuel consumption, these machines proved very popular on the sugar cane plantations of the West Indes, and were also used by contractors in the UK for a time. Fowler went on to build a series of full crawler tractors in the 1930s with diesel engines, and the Fowler name continued to be used on crawlers after the merger with Marshalls of Gainsborough in the 1940s.

(Click on images below to enlarge)

Fowler Oil Tractor at the Booleroo Steam & Traction Preservation Society Museum, Booleroo Centre, South Australia in 2007. This tractor was found on the old Tarcoola gold fields in South Australia, and is believed to be the only surviving example.

Fowler No.5 motor plough (serial no. 356, built 1919) at Woolpit Steam Rally, Suffolk, England in 2009.

Fowler Rein-Drive at the Parkes Museum, New South Wales, Australia in 2006.


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