Carters Steam Fair
Carters Steam Fair Vintage Transport
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Carters Steam Fair owns the largest collection of working Scammell lorries in the country, and arguably has one of the most striking fleets in showland. These days, when most commercial liveries on the road are stick-on vinyl, the bright maroon and red of the Carters livery stands out, promising something special and exciting. Every truck in the Carters fleet is painted by hand, from the coach-painted enamel finish to the lettering, lining and gold leaf.

Carters ethos on its transport is simple: the vehicles have to be reliable and strong, and they have to stand out and be interesting. Right from the start, John Carter chose Scammells over all others. "They were still producing trucks with bonnets at a time when all other makes had moved on to flat fronts," explains Joby Carter, "so they would always stand out, they're eye-catching. Plus they have been used by generations of showmen – so the proof is in the pudding."

Carters Steam Fair vintage transport

Carters continues to choose lorries which they believe will become particularly interesting over time. "The new ERFs that we've got were the last ones they built just before it went over to MAN," says Joby, "so they'll be interesting one day."

Some people don't understand the Carters' determination to stick to old vehicles, and they think the fair should buy a fleet of new trucks and operate more commercially. Others think they should only use Scammells. "If we could get away with only using Scammells, we would happily do it," Joby explains, "but some of the older ones struggle to keep up with modern traffic. We have to do a certain amount of motorway driving, and the older Scammells just can't keep up – it's not safe, and it's not fair on them either to expect them to go everywhere flat out." The Fair generally use the larger-engined Scammells to travel these days, but the smaller ones are still used occasionally. "It takes a bit of planning ahead, to avoid motorways, low bridges and narrow lanes."

Carters lorries are all registered as showman's vehicles, which brings certain concessions. To comply they have to be solely for showland use, and be specially adapted for the job. The lorries are converted into showman's tractors, usually with a generator on the back for ballast and to power the fair, and they're adapted to pull the Fair's own drawbar trailers.

The length limit for towing behind showman's tractors is 84 feet, which is usually two trailers behind the engine. It's not cost effective to pull just one trailer for each lorry so it's better to double up, even if it makes inner-city driving a bit more exciting!

Carters Steam Fair is a pretty green organisation compared to modern fairs. The rides are a lot lighter than today's fairground equipment, and the older trucks are lighter on their feet. In one season they only cover about 750 miles, and 250 of them are within the M25. It's not practical for such low-mileage showman's vehicles to be forced to go through the low emission zone restrictions, so they have exemption. Carters Steam Fair makes up for that by bringing the entertainment to you, so you don't have to drive to be entertained!

Maintaining all these beautiful classics is no small task. "We can easily spend £5-10k a year on tyres alone," Anna says. Regardless of age and low mileage, these are hard working vehicles and they're put through a rigorous routine of maintenance and inspection on a regular basis. Every few years, one or two of the trucks will be taken off the road and brought back to the yard for a well earned "birthday", a thorough overhaul from top to toe.

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