By Toni Williams
Travelling the open road at speeds of 12km per hour in a 16-tonne fuel guzzler is not for everyone.
But for the descendants of the late Don McKay, it’s an annual pilgrimage they do in his honour, on a 1914 Robey traction engine.
It has been in the family for nearly 60 years.
For the past nine years family members drive the magnificent beast from Geraldine to Methven to attend the Methven A&P show.
It’s an eight-hour trip one way.
Fired by Cascade coal, the engine uses nine 40kg bags.
And between the engine’s water tanks – the belly tank, the boiler and the tender – the machine stored about 1500 litres of water, which needed to be topped up every two and a half hours.
They towed the reserve coal and water behind the Robey for the journey.
Andy McKay, son of Don, said this year was the 10th anniversary of his father’s passing. He died just 10 days after attending the Methven A&P show.
Every year since, family and friends made sure the Robey was at the show as a tribute to Don. Andy’s sister, Hilary, also made the annual trip to Methven for the A&P show, from Lincoln.
Then after the grand parade, and in convoy with other traction engines, they went to the Methven cemetery for a quiet dram in Don’s memory.
The 104-year-old engine was bought by Don in 1960 for near Christchurch then restored.
Now, the Robey was based between Andy, in Geraldine, and another engine enthusiast who lived in Methven.
“We are just looking after it for him,”Andy said, of his father’s engine.
In recent months the Robey has been freshly painted in readiness for travelling overseas.
It’s off to the Great Dorset Steam Fair in England’s 50th anniversary show in late August.
A remembrance plaque to Don had been placed on the side of the engine, so he was on b
oard for the trip.
Andy said six engines – all from Canterbury – were attending. It was not as expensive as first thought to send a 16-tonne machine to the United Kingdom, he said.
The people going were not all from one club, but just a group of traction engine enthusiasts and included both McKay siblings and their families.
Andy said the engines would be shipped in four containers, which get loaded early May.
Under the Antiquities Act the Robey had to return to New Zealand within two years.
They expected it back in 18 months.