The Story

Greece is renowned throughout the world for its ancient heritage: everywhere we look we can see the remains of our ancestors' civilisation, which are preserved and carefully guarded by the State, Furthermore as citizens, we should be watchful and protect these artefacts from those who would wish to traffic in them,

But it is not just the ancient remains handed down to us by our forefathers that we should take care of, but also more modern objects which, thanks to our dry and virtually waterless climate have been protected sufficiently well to be preserved, Although these products of industrial archaeology to which I am referring cannot be ranked with our ancient heritage, they are nevertheless important monuments exemplifying the progress which has been made by human inventiveness, Indeed, if one considers the effect that these objects have had on human progress, then undoubtedly they should be housed in museums,

Any senior citizens reading this will most likely remember that years ago they had to work day after day from sunrise to sunset, In those days, people who were 50 years old were regarded as 'old' and 'old' they were due to the hard work which had been their lot, For them, there was no free time and their life was one of unremitting labour,

But nowadays we take our way of living for granted: 8 hours work, 8 hours sleep, 8 hours free time, But this would never have become reality if it hadn't been for the abundant power with which the invention of thermal energy has provided us, Were it not for these sources of energy a knowledge of the arts and a right to our present system of free education would have remained the perquisite of the wealthy,

The vital importance of the ability to harness abundant energy is obvious in Lenin's famous equation 'socialism = electricification + soviet', Lenin is right: there is no free creative time without abundant energy, However, one could aver 'But Lenin's system has crumbled', Certainly this has happened, but it was because he forgot to replace the word 'soviet' with the word 'democracy',

However my introduction hardly favours Lenin's memory, I want to focus on this: if Heron of Alexandria discovery [for the ones who don't know he was the first constructor of the steam engine had not been buried due to the social reclassification and transformation of the time he lived in, then our world would have evolved much earlier within our solar system,

The discovery of the steam engine is the first step in the provision of energy, for it provided the means whereby railway systems linking the world and steamboats connecting continents were constructed, It was this machine which relieved the drudgery of the workers on an olive press, who previously had to grind the olives like beasts of burden, so that the mill would function,

Today although the majority of the machines, which provide us with abundant energy are internal combustion [i.e., cars and aeroplanes etc, the steam turbine is still the main way in which electricity is produced, Thus the electricity which we use in our homes is not only produced by hydro or atomic power, but in the main by the more productive steam turbines,

In Leonidion, there is a very noteworthy steam roller, which fortunately has not yet been ravaged by time or striped bare by souvenir hunters, It was this steam roller which was used in the construction of one of first asphalt paved roads - the historical road from Leonidion to Plaka,

This historical machine and 9 other steam rollers were ordered by the Greek government on the 21st, April 1914 from the Aveling & Porter factory in Kent in England, Until now, it is obscure as to what has happened to the other 9: they are probably abandoned somewhere rusting away,

Unlike most of Aveling & Porter models which were 10 -16 tons, the Leonidion steam roller is a rare 8 Tons BTD model; According to the English Road Rollers Association files it is their 5th, machine, with the frame number 7512 and the Royalty number 8260, These last two numbers enable us to identify this particular machine,

We would be most grateful if any members of the Road Roller Association can provide us with written information regarding this machine; we have already placed an order with the factory in England, _ho still have the original moulds, to remake all the brass identification plates, so that they can be replaced on the machine,

According to Panagiotis [Peter] Androutsos, a large ferry boat, which was unfortunately sunk in the harbour at Plaka, brought this steam roller here between 1930
1932, Because of lack of money or as a result of damage to the machine itself, due to incorrect use and insufficient understanding of the techniques appropriate to the machine, the construction of the road from Plaka to Leonidion by this method, did not last very long, It was not possible to repair the machine locally, nor was another steam roller available to produce the crushed stone which was used to form the base of the road, In the end it was the road workers - mainly women - who broke the stones themselves with hammers and then carried it in sacks on their backs to the site, This meant that it took nearly five years to complete the 4 Km road from Plaka to Leonidion,

As can be seen from the above; it is very clear what the lack of thermal energy can mean: how important then is it to honour those great minds such as Heron of Alexandria, James Watt, Stephenson and many others whose ability was to fashion metal into machines capable of producing great energy and power, But it is Aveling, whose particular brand of creativity and inventiveness distinguishes him as the greatest constructor of steam rollers in the world, Our machine - 7512 - has strong connections with the road from Plaka to Leonidion, as this was a particularly important period in local history: regrettably regarded as 'rubbish', it was dumped at various places in the town, before coming to rest on the road to St, Mary Chatzalious, There, according to local testimony, 'foreign collectors' removed [appropriated all its valuable accessories such as the famous emblem of Kent “Horse”. Yes, it was the same one which was used by Enzio Ferrari to embellish his 'Red Bullets' which were so well known in the motor racing world. This 'horse' had belonged to an airline pilot friend of Ferrari, who when his friend died, took it as the emblem of his Ferrari racing cars. Sadly, although there are only five others recorded world wide, the municipality of Leonidion the presumed owners of the steam roller remained Indifferent and it was left unclaimed. Now, however, we would be very pleased, as although it cannot be totally restored to its original pristine condition except in England, if we could restore the exterior and place the steam roller in a suitable place in the town. While there are - as yet - no specific plans for it, we wondered if it might become the focal point in a new academic foundation - an Engineering School - in Leonidion under the auspices of the University of the Peloponnesus, where the students might light its boiler once again.

Thanks to the initiative of the Deputy Mayor - Mr. Elias Manos - and the assistance of Panagiotis [Peter] Sarantaris as well as Filippos Mpekyros [Philip Bekyros], the writer of this article, restoration has already begun. We are also most grateful to Mr. Derek Rayner, our technical adviser who through his ownership of a similar machine - the 1915 Model - has given us a great deal of practical help,

If you feel that you can help in any way - with technical advice or financial assistance, we would be most grateful if you would contact the following:

Dr, Filippos Mpekyros i.e.Phillip Bekyros member of the town council and director of cultural affairs of Municipality of Leonidion (S. Kynouria)
tel: 00306999922513

This article has been translated from the Greek into English by Joanna Tetoros.
Copyright Philip Bekyros member of R.R.A. 2011. All rights reserved
Old Glory
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The steamroller of Leonidion