Richard Hornsby & Sons of Grantham, Lincs. built a range of steam traction and portable engines during the 19th century and were one of the best-known engineering firms in the UK. In 1896 they constructed Britain's first tractor, based around an Akroyd Stuart 20 hp single-cylinder horizontal oil engine. This tractor was known as the Hornsby-Akroyd Patent Safety Oil Traction Engine, and in 1897 it was awarded the Silver Medal of the Royal Agricultural Society of England. One tractor was sold in the UK and three were later exported to Australia, where one still survives today. The original tractor from 1896 was later returned to factory and fitted with crawler tracks, with one such tracklayer being sent to the Yukon region of Canada in 1909. Unfortunately the military potential of this machine, the predeccesor of the tank, was not recognized by the British government; Hornsby subsequently sold the tracklayer patents to the Holt company of the USA shortly before the First World War. Following the sales of the 20 hp oil tractors to Australia, Hornsby had plans to build a 32 hp oil tractor, but there is no evidence that any of these were ever produced.

(Click on images below to enlarge)

Hornsby-Akroyd 20 hp Oil Traction Engine (serial no. 12359, built 1896) at Onslow Park Rally, Shropshire, England in 2005.


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