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Question Posted
Helping Clubs 11/06/2012
The NTET Disc Scheme 29/04/2012
PI Insurance 24/01/2012
What is the Trust doing about conversions? 04/10/2010
Who Can Steer an Engine? 29/12/2009
Age Restrictions for a Driving Licence 27/09/2009
Use of Water Hydrants 26/08/2009
RTA and Boiler Explosion Insurance 25/08/2009
Public Steering at Steam Rallies 05/02/2009
Boiler Inspection of Models and Miniatures 09/01/2009
Authorised Events and the Voluntary Certificate of Competency 16/12/2008
Legal Age for Driving a Steam propelled Vehicle on the Road 12/12/2008
Failure to Implement the Rally Organisers Code of Practice 11/12/2008
Does the driver of a converted steam roller require a group G licence? 02/12/2008
Coal 25/11/2008

Helping Clubs

Question: What can the NTET do to help my club?

Answer: The Trust has a wealth of experience and expertise which is available to affiliated clubs, transport groups, U3A groups, museums, etc The Trust can provide: Speakers on a variety of traction engine topics, Information on how to operate driving and training days, Information on how to organise roads runs, Help with establishing junior groups similar to the SAC. If there is an area where your club requires help or assistance please contact

The NTET Disc Scheme

Question: Is an engine legally required to have an NTET insurance disc?

Answer: No, but although it has no legal standing, the disc is widely accepted as confirmation of the insurances and boiler inspection status for the engine displaying the disc.
The NTET Insurance Disc Scheme has been in operation now for the best part of forty years and is a highly regarded scheme by road steam enginemen and event organisers.
The Disc Scheme is owned and operated by the NTET. In the majority of cases disc are issued by insurance brokers who are appointed as disc issuing agents for the NTET. This has the benefit of ensuring that the insurance provision is to the correct level and both Public Liability and RTA insurance (where appropriate) along with boiler explosion insurance is in place to meet the needs of the engine owner and the event organiser.
The NTET’s Insurance Officer also issues discs directly to owners who have not insured their engines with an appoiinted broker.
The insurance policies offered by the appointed insurance brokers are known as combined policies which provide cover for use in a public place as well as providing cover for boiler explosion, and injury by sparks and ashes.
These policies also have additional elements to provide cover against the loss of ancillary equipment and tools, as well as for driving machinery for display purposes
They are very specific to the needs of the modern engine owner and also meet the needs of the event organiser. In addition to having insurances in place, a valid boiler inspection certificate is also required before a disc can be issued. The certificate must come from an inspector with known valid Professional Indemnity insurance cover and one who has lodged evidence of such with the NTET.
A full list of compliant independent boiler inspectors is regularly updated on the NTET web site under Insurance Services. It should be noted that all Corporate Inspection bodies are insurance providers and are self insuring so are not separately listed. The reason for needing sight of such paperwork is to ensure protection is in place for the engine owner and the NTET in the event of an incident occurring with the boiler which causes injury to persons or property as a result of any inspection failures.
An NTET Insurance Disc is issued at the time of insurance renewal but only if a valid inspection certificate is in force. As insurance and inspection periodicity are out of step (insurance 12 months, inspection 14 months), it is often the case that another disc is issued by the same agent when a new inspection certificate is issued. It is the engine owners responsibility to ensure his disc issuer has sight of a valid inspection certificate as no reminders are sent out. An engine owner will have a combined insurance policy in place but if the inspection certificate runs out of date then the boiler explosion element of the policy will become invalid. This will come to light when the disc is physically inspected or a check is carried out on the web based disc checking system. It will be the owners choice whether to continue to operate the engine without boiler insurance cover, but no event organiser would allow it on site without the insurance cover in place. To assist the event organiser to check the insurances and inspection status for each engine attending their event, it is possible to check well in advance by use of the NTET web based disc checking system. Should it be found that an engine will not have a valid disc for the event, the engine owner can be contacted in time to help get the paperwork in order.
This scheme is seen as quite a benefit to the event organisers by not tying up the Safety Officer on the first day of the event just checking insurance paperwork and it also lets the engine owner get on with enjoying the steaming of his engine.

PI Insurance

Question: What is PI and does a boiler inspector require this?

Answer: PI is professional indemnity insurance. Independent boiler inspectors take out an insurance policy which specifically includes pressure systems. This provides insurance cover for any possible claims for damages as a result of the boiler inspector’s work or advice. If the engine owner is unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident involving the pressure system as a result of negligence on the part of the boiler inspector, then his PI insurance will be able to deal with any claim. However, if the boiler inspector does not have PI insurance and he was negligent, then the engine owner will be liable for any claim made as a result of the accident. In the case of death or serious injury, the engine owner can expect a claim for several hundred thousand pounds in compensation! The NTET strongly recommends engine owners should use only boiler inspectors with PI insurance as it protects the engine owner. If it is not clear whether or not the boiler inspector has PI insurance then the engine owner should ask to see a copy of his policy. In addition, if the boiler inspector does not have PI insurance then the NTET will not issue an insurance disc. This is to protect the Trust as the issuer of the disc.

What is the Trust doing about conversions?

Question: What is the Trust doing about conversions?
Answer:  This subject has been discussed on numerous occasions by many past committees of the Trust. At a previous AGM a statement following a motion was hoped to make the Trust’s position clear and hopefully deter further conversions. We now know the activity still continues. When the unique Fowler roller ‘Undaunted’ was converted the Trust’s General Council was asked to consider our position again.

We will continue to oppose roller conversions. We acknowledge that we cannot put the clock back and have to accept that conversions are part of our preserved history. We feel therefore our role must be to educate in many directions. We need to encourage the owners to be open in the description and history of their engine. We would like to encourage rally organisers provide accurate information to the general public and involve magazine editors to provide correct information.

We have a close association with the Road Locomotive Society who have strong views on the subject. I understand they are to publish a list of conversions initiated since 1951. We would want to assist in disseminating such information.

Another part of the Trust’s education process is to publish a leaflet on all types of steam propelled vehicles to include a section on conversions. It is intended to issue this widely in the early part of 2010.

Who Can Steer an Engine?

Question: I will shortly be turning sixteen and was hoping you could inform me on rules and regulations for driving and steering steam rollers/traction engines. I have been told a few rules, though I would like it if you could clear them up, as I don’t want to be doing anything illegal with the engines. I am especially looking for details upon being the steersman of a traction engine.

Answer: Section 88 of the 1988 Road Traffic Act (RTA), sub-section 7 paragraph (a) states: ‘a person who is not the holder of a licence may act as steersman of a motor vehicle, being a vehicle on which a speed limit of five miles per hour or less is imposed by or under section 86 of the [1984 c. 27.] Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984, under the orders of another person engaged in the driving of the vehicle who is licensed in that behalf in accordance with the requirements of this Part and Part IV of this Act…’

The licence requirements for steersmen in the case of a vehicle capable of attaining a speed greater than 5 miles per hour are not clearly spelt out by the RTA, one way or the other. Subsequently we believe there are two considerations that might be used in a court of law;

a. by comparison to the minimum age for drivers of agricultural vehicles, (albeit a licence has to be held), and

b. the physical build and capability of the steersman.

Given that the underlying ethos of the Highway Code is Safety the NTET’s Engine Owners Code of Practice (Part 2 – Conduct on the Road) advocates a minimum age of 16 and a height of 1.4mtr for steersmen of any type of steam traction vehicle, whether or not they are licensed.

The NTET’s view is that at least a provisional driving licence should be held by the steersman thus indicating a commitment to road safety and a sense of responsibility.

Please be aware that whilst the ‘driver’ is deemed to be in charge of the steam vehicle, in the event of an accident the award of damages and any penalties may be applied to the steersman if that person’s conduct was proven to be a contributory factor.

Age Restrictions for a Driving Licence

Question: At 70, do you lose the right to drive a traction engine on the road? The question is prompted by the restriction of driving licences issued to the over 70’s which limits the weight of the vehicle to 3.5 tonnes unless a specific licence such as a heavy good vehicle licence is held.

Answer: Driving Larger Vehicles on a Car Licence

Normally, a Category B licence allows the holder to drive a vehicle up to 3.5 tonnes maximum authorised mass (MAM). If the vehicle you drive has a maximum authorised mass, which exceeds 3.5 tonnes, but not 7.5 tonnes then a category C1 licence is needed and if the maximum authorised mass exceeds 7.5 tonnes then a category C licence is needed.

It has long been understood that the holder of a ‘car licence’ may drive a steam traction engine on the road, although the car licence acts only as a provisional licence when driving a steam road roller.

The DVLA, through its website and other publications, gives formal support to this arrangement and advises that there are special licensing arrangements allowing Category B licence holders to drive larger vehicles without having to hold the higher large goods vehicle (LGV) driving licence entitlement. Amongst the fairly long list of special exemptions to the Category B requirement are “a vehicle propelled by steam e.g. large goods vehicles with coal or wood burning engines”. Who told them to include goods in this definition? You won’t find it in any legislation! We have apprised them of this anomaly and await their reply with interest.

Licences – What happens at age 70?

For the holders of a Category B licence certain restrictions come into play when age 70 is reached. To start with you have to reapply for your licence and your new licence will be valid for 3 years only. Medical conditions and examinations may apply and declarations regarding medication may also apply, although this could be the case for someone under 70 years of age, given certain circumstances. However, unless there are specific reasons given to the contrary stated on an individual’s licence, the special arrangement allowing you to drive a steam propelled vehicle on the public highway still apply at age 70 and above.

Use of Water Hydrants

Question: Several years ago there was a discussion in NTET committee about the use of fire hydrants by individuals. We were told at the time that one society (EATEC ?) had obtained for its members permission to use hydrants. Was anything ever done to attempt to make this possible for members of other societies. In some parts of the county we are now finding some hydrants fitted with an electronic device that might report the use of the hydrant if the cover over the fitting is removed

Answer: Despite EATEC’s endeavours of many years ago there are inconsistent policies being applied to the drawing of water from road side hydrants by the different utilities.

However, the Trust’s advice as things stand is that road going members should obtain a metered standpipe and licence for their own patch, renewable annually for a widely varying fee and subject to varying conditions of use. In addition they should enquire of the policies regarding the use of ‘other utilities equipment’ at each of the Utilities whose territory their journeys will take them through. The latter part of this strategy may not be the most practical advice for some and therefore not every one will be inclined to follow it.

If a crew intends to run the gauntlet and take water without specific consent then they should at least demonstrate some adherence to the important aspects of the Utilities’ stand-pipe licensing requirements, i.e. to use a standpipe fitted with a double in-line check-valve and isolator at the standpipe head connected to hose with a maximum diameter of 1.5” and to turn the flow of water on and off in a relatively slow fashion. In the event of a challenge, if you are using the proper equipment the ‘crime’ should be simply that of ‘stealing water’ for which you could be taken to court by the utility. Without the appropriate equipment far more serious offences could be alleged to have taken place, e.g., pollution of the water system, damage to the infrastructure caused by water hammer, use of non-compliant apparatus, wilful neglect to the health of water users and, in any case, your ‘kit’ will be confiscated! I don’t speak from personal experience but recent events around us demonstrate the extent to which the ‘utilities infrastructure monitors’ (those folk in Day-Glo jackets driving around in ‘water-board vans), will threaten to go.

Following a recent ‘incident’ in my local area I have asked my own utility, Severn Trent’, to apprise me of their own policy and if possible advise as to how much is safely transferrable to other utilities. If and when I obtain this advice I hope that ultimately we will be able to make a commonly acceptable special case for drawing water by road going engines in this modern age.

RTA and Boiler Explosion Insurance

Question: Many years ago, when we wished to renew our RTA insurance, we had to produce evidence of boiler explosion cover before the RTA was issued. Does this still apply (we do both of ours now from the same source) and would the use of an engine without boiler insurance negate the RTA cover?

Answer: Until around 20 years ago RTA cover and boiler explosion cover were nearly always separate entities and although purchased separately both had to be in place before an NTET disc would be issued. Under these arrangements however only the boiler explosion cover was reliant on there being in place a current boiler inspection certificate and the RTA policy remained in place irrespective of the status of the inspection certificate.

Today, the policies offered by our Disc issuing agents are designed specifically for steam propelled road going vehicles and are combined RTA and boiler explosion policies. Although a current pressure system inspection certificate must be in place for the explosion element to be in force, the RTA element will remain valid until the policy expiry date.

There are some exceptions to this case where owners, such as farmers or haulage contractors, add their steam propelled vehicles onto an existing group vehicle policy. In these circumstances the NTET insists that a ‘boiler explosion’ endorsement be added to the RTA insurance before issuing a Disc.

In both cases the RTA insurance remains valid until the expiry date, however it should be remembered that the Disc will no longer be valid if the boiler inspection certificate date has already expired and with it the boiler explosion cover

Public Steering at Steam Rallies

Question: A popular feature at many steam rallies is public steering. This seems an excellent way to involve the public and at the same time helps them to understand the passion many drivers have for their engines. Unfortunately, we now live in a litigious society where blame has to be allocated to someone should there be an accident. Who is responsible for the safety of the person taking part in public steering? Is it the rally organiser or the engine owner? Are there any laws which govern this, such as the age of the person who is allowed to take part?

Answer:  Please refer to Rally Organisers Code of Practice:- 
S 2.2
2.3 Barriers
Spectator Control
Machine Operators and competent persons
Steam Engine Drivers
Under age Drivers
2.4 Trailer Rides

The steersman of an engine does not have to hold a licence. They must be capable of the task in hand and under the direct control of a competent driver and physically able to carry out the tasks. (size, weight, age etc)

The Event Organiser and the engine driver must carry out their own risk assessment and make their decision based on the assessment.

In my opinion the buck stops with the Event Organiser.

Boiler Inspection of Models and Miniatures

Question: I have recently had dealings with a local man who has bought a 4inch Foster with a boiler certificate issued by a club for model engineers. The boiler is knackered and is now being rebuilt. 

I am rather concerned at the lack of professionalism, qualifications or experience (nothing specific as far as I’m aware) is needed for a club member to be allowed to test model boilers. There are more and more 6inch engines around. 

Regarding model boiler and model group inspection and testing, what liability is the NTET possibly incurring by issuing discs on insurance based on these inspections? If the insurance company were for any reason to repudiate liability, and the ‘inspector’ was not insured, could the NTET held be liable? 

Surely as owners of full-size engines our discs are being de-valued by poor or non existent model group inspections. One accident with a model will be curtains for us all?

Answer:  About 4 years ago the Trust had become increasingly concerned at the disparate standards being applied to the build, test and examination of miniature steam boilers, in all guises and materials. As this wasn’t strictly ‘our patch’ we were perplexed as to how we might influence the situation. However, at around this same time thankfully the major clubs, societies and associations involved in miniature engines and railways, concerned also about standards, formed a steering panel from which the idea of a combined ‘Code of Practice’ was launched. The resulting ‘code’ was endorsed by the engineering department of Sun Alliance and significantly won the tacit but unofficial approval of the HSE, who wrote the foreword. It forms the basis on which Sun Alliance Insurance manages its ‘miniature’ insurance policies.


Question: What does the Miniature Exam and Test Code look Like?

You will see that the ‘code’ is designed to cover miniature pressure systems over 2.5 bar litre and up to and including 1100 bar litre. The latter is a significant benchmark, above which the system is treated as ‘full size’, irrespective of physical scale.

What all of this means is that systems below the 1100 bar litre mark can be examined and tested by a ‘club examiner’ whose duties and the scope of examination are described in the ‘code’. Those systems above 1100 bar litre are examined in accordance with the NTET WSE or similar but by an inspector of full size engines. Incidentally many owners of engines falling below 1100 bar litres prefer that they are inspected by ‘full size’ inspectors. Either way however, on a successful outcome an appropriate test certificate is issued by an inspector against which insurance is issued and a NTET Insurance Disc is issued.

Turning to the concern that the NTET might be implicated by the issue of an Insurance Disc; it is important to understand that the Disc is not the vouch safe. Its purpose is to indicate that a Certificate of Examination, issued in conjunction with an approved and recognised inspection standard, has been presented to the insurer of the system and that insurance which meets the minimum criteria set by the NTET is in place, no more than that. During the Disc issuing process the Agent would not normally have access to the detailed inspection report; they rely solely on the information provided on the Examination Certificate by the Inspector. Of course the Disc displays details of the engine’s working PSI and expiry dates of inspection and insurance but these only mimic the information provided on the test certificate and insurance documents. Consequently the NTET could not be implicated by the issuing of a disc if problems were to arise. The buck stops with the owner. It is also an important aid to the event organiser. However, an NTET Insurance Disc may only be issued by an Agent approved by the NTET, after meeting control and quality criteria, and as a result is subjected to scrutiny.

For the record, until the changes in FSA rules meant that ordinary mortals or miniature engineering societies could not act as insurance brokers the southern federation and to a smaller extent the northern federation issued their own version of the insurance disc. After the introduction of the new FSA rules the issuing of policies was subsequently moved to Footman James and to Walker Midgeley following which the ‘society discs’ were abandoned in favour of the NTET Disc.

The last part of the question is very interesting. It implies that the inspectors of full size engines always work to an approved standard or never make a mistake or never take short cuts! Following the recent introduction of a set of standards by the NTET for the inspections of full size engines the Model Engineering Societies are currently considering how to respond to the NTET’s request that they should demonstrate compliance with their own ‘code’.

Authorised Events and the Voluntary Certificate of Competency

What action would the NTET General Council take if an authorised event were to ask for the NTET Certificate of Competency as an entry requirement?

At the recent Annual General Meeting (15th November 2008) a motion was placed before the meeting.

That any authorised rally found to be requiring drivers and operators of steam vehicles to hold a voluntary Certificate of competency as a condition of exhibit entry has its authorization reviewed.

This motion was rejected by the membership. Therefore the mandate from the membership requires no action to be taken by the NTET General Council should any authorised rally organiser choose to make exhibitor entry conditional on holding a Certificate of Competency.

However, any such development would be of concern to the General Council as this would jeopardize the voluntary nature of the Certificate of Competency. Enquiries would be made of the rally organiser as to why they had taken this action.

Legal Age for Driving a Steam propelled Vehicle on the Road

Question: Please can you tell me the official legal age for driving a steam propelled vehicle on the road as I found this government website – Driving larger goods vehicles (LGV) on a car driving licence, Directgov – which says that you can drive a steam propelled large goods vehicle on a C1 licence which you can obtain at the age of 18. Does this mean that if I have a C1 on my licence I can drive a steam vehicle up to 7.5 tonnes on the road at 18?

Unfortunately the article that your link refers to does not adequately cover the licence and age requirements for steam propelled vehicles.

A debate on the age and licence requirements can be traced back via various Road Traffic Acts going back as far as 1929.

Significantly Hansard records that on 8th May 1936 a particular motion was put before Parliament by Sir George Fox, seconded by Sir Arthur Wilson, which attempted to amend the then new Road Traffic Act to the extent that a steersman should have a licence as well as the driver: (sic CLAUSE 1. (Extension of steersmen from certain provisions as to issue of licences) HC Deb 08 May 1936 vol 311 cc2070-82)

Hansard records a most revealing and humorous debate following which the motion was withdrawn. However, the then Minister for Transport undertook to write to the Showmen’s Guild and to the Traction Engine Owners Association advising them that a steersman should have knowledge of the Highway Code. In the debate the age of a Driver of a steam propelled vehicle was re-affirmed as being 21 or over but it was not affirmed that the same age limit applies to Steersmen; this latter issue was not subjected to vote and never got to the statue books. Remember also that in 1936 the RTA limited the speed of steam propelled Heavy Goods Vehicles to 5 miles per hour.

No amendments to any of these arrangements, relating to steam propelled vehicles, are recorded.

Today, the Trust advises that technically under the above provisions the Steersman is not required to hold any licence, but the person on the regulator (The Driver) is held to be ‘in charge’ and does require a licence of the appropriate class. However, common sense and a duty of care to other road users would figure large in any action brought against a crew in the event of an incident. Therefore the Trust’s advice is that a steersman intent on steering on the road ought to hold at least a provisional motor car licence, and be physically capable of the doing the job. And in any case, the Driver needs to be 21 years or over to drive a steam propelled vehicle, of any weight, on a public highway.

Just for the record the following should also be noted; licence requirements do not follow the engine onto the rally field; it is not a road although certain important RTA offences still apply. However, full RTA insurance is required on the rally field or any place where the public are present.

Failure to Implement the Rally Organiser’s Code of Practice

Question: What action does the NTET take when informed of SERIOUS concerns regarding Health and Safety and the implementation of the Rally Organiser’s Code of Practice at an NTET Approved Event?

Answer: This is an extract from page 28 of the Code of Practice which can be downloaded from the Events page.

3.10 Failure to comply with the code of Practice.

The NTET reserves the right to withhold authorisation for events that are not organised in accordance with the Code of Practice. Failure to submit safety officers’ reports or to comply with recommendations made during an NTET advisory visit will require a full explanation and future applications for approval will receive close scrutiny.

If an event receives a revocation notice the organisers will have to produce evidence that steps have been taken to prevent the recurrence of the reason for the revocation notice being issued. Otherwise no further authorisations will be granted.

If the NTET takes the step of refusing to authorise an event on the grounds of Health and Safety, it reserves the right to advise the Health & Safety Executive of the refusal and the reasons for such refusal.

Does the driver of a converted steam roller require a group G licence?

Question: Does the driver of a converted steam roller require a group G licence?
Answer: If, following conversion, the vehicle description on the log book has been officially modified to something other than ‘road roller’ then a ‘G’ licence would not be required. Conversely, if the log book has not been modified and the vehicle is still classed as a ‘road roller’ then a ‘G’ licence is required, irrespective of its physical appearance.


Question: I’m sometimes asked for advice by the organisers of a small local  event who have a small display of engines some years. One thing which is of concern is the smoke produced by some types of coal. As the event is in the centre of town and is a ‘community event’ it is important to be seen as good neighbours. What types of coal would you suggest we try using.

Answer: Here are details of two types of coal used for raising steam.

Steam Coal. Any bituminous coal used for raising steam in power stations. Volatiles 24 – 38%

Welsh Dry Steam Coal. A semi-bituminous coal which is lower in volatiles than bituminous coal. Burns with little or no smoke. Volatiles 14 – 20%



Welsh Dry Steam Coal Equivalent:

Evans & Reid Contact: Paul Paddock 01792 367400 / 07968 542340, Successfully trialled at Dean Forest Railway. Available from March 2009. Price approx. £160 per tonne + transport + VAT
Andy Holmes Contact: Polish Low Smoke Coal. Supply – No problems. Price – maybe as high as £300 per tonne.

Bituminous (Steam) Coal:

Andy Holmes Russian standard steam coal – smoke controllable with correct firing – low sulphur. Price approx £250 per tonne.
Hargreaves Wholesale Contact: Ian Moulson Available direct or from local merchants. Last 3 years have supplied Dorset. Price – up 25% in last month.
Coal4energy Coal4Energy Ltd. Industrial Coal Sales – 01977 622750
UK mined coal – Daw Mill Colliery. Higher in sulphur than imported coal. Price approx £195 +vat ex Pit

Coal prices follow the International Market, and the price of oil. Dropped from $190 to $129 per tonne from Aug to Oct. £/$ exchange rate has made the UK price go up from £2.35 to £3.00/GJ