Conserving the legacy: The Tasker steam wagon

The Tasker company began with Robert Tasker's ambitious vision in the early 19th century. From the Abbotts Ann Ironworks to embracing steam power in the mid-1800s, Tasker & Sons evolved into a prominent manufacturer of agricultural machinery.

At the Hampshire Cultural Trust store is a remarkable piece of industrial history — the sole surviving Tasker steam wagon. Tasker steam wagons began to be manufactured in 1909 with 117 examples being produced. The wagon is sometimes called the ‘Little Giant’ but this was a marketing slogan used on many of the engines. The wagon bears the Vehicle Registration No: YB 183. was built in 1924 and has 5 nominal horsepower, a two-speed mechanism and chain drive. The vehicle has a red chassis, wheels and boiler, coupled with blue body and side panels adorned with broad black lines and the elegant gold lettering 'W. J King, Bagborough, Somerset,'. The vehicle's solid rubber tires and a range of features, including side-mounted valves, draincocks, and a belly tank, reflect the craftsmanship of a bygone era.

The Tasker steam wagon was once abandoned in the yard at W.J King's where it had been used for quarry work and it was later restored by Tasker for their company museum. Then surviving the closure of Tasker and a subsequent auction in 1969, the wagon later found new custodians when it was acquired by Hampshire County Council Museums Service.

The Steam Wagon lying abandoned in W.J. King's Yard c.1956
Steam Wagon following restoration by Taskers, image from the 1969 auction catalogue

During the last 20 years, the steam wagon became a traveling symbol of industrial heritage, gracing events and historic sites, including a notable visit to steam fairs, local museums and participation in a sustainable steam trial. The steam wagon "Little Giant" has covered nearly 3000 miles in the last decade alone, a testament to the meticulous conservation efforts undertaken at our engineering workshop.

Industrial heritage volunteers Alan, James and Jamie with the steam wagon

Now, as part of a new project supported by the Engert Watford Motor Museum, this wagon is poised for a revival, with plans to once again set the wheels in motion. The wagon faces a new challenge with its boiler needing a complete rebuild. The conservation efforts not only keep the wheels turning but also ensure that the wagon remains a tangible link to Hampshire's industrial past.

The significance of the Tasker collection extends beyond the Little Giant. It stands as the largest collection of single-manufacture objects in the country, showcasing not only vehicles but also engineering drawings, works photographs, patterns, and tools. The Waterloo Ironworks, founded by Robert Tasker in the early 19th century, became a hub for agricultural implements, machinery, and road vehicles.

The Tasker steam wagon, with its innovative design and fascinating history, serves as a reminder of Hampshire's industrial heyday.

To find out more about this project, click here.

Historically significant vehicles to undergo restoration thanks to £200,000 grant | Hampshire Cultural Trust
£200,000 grant will fund restoration of three historically significant veh

This article was written by:
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Emma Banks

Collections Programme Manager
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