Product Details

Product reviewed: Chronicles of a Country Works by Ronald H. Clark CDROM Book
Reviewer: Paul Pavlinovich, extra comment by Chris Henderson
Date Reviewed: 21 October 1999
Rating Key: 1 = Poor, 4 = Satisfactory, 7 = Good, 10 = Magnificent
Overall Rating: 8
Ease of use Rating: 8
Content Rating: 10

Product made available for review by: Cindy Ives of Ives Trading
Product is available from: Ives Trading This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Ives Trading, PO Box 118, Burpengary QLD 4505, phone 0412 959 626 (from outside Oz dial +61 412 959 626).
Price for CDROM edition $A55 posted anywhere within Australia
Printed edition $A75 posted anywhere within Australia

General Comments

With the silly season just around the corner, we're always on the lookout for presents for fellow steam & engine nuts. I think Ive's Trading have come up with a winner with their new CDROM publication Chronicles of a Country Works which is a modern reproduction of Ronald H. Clark's monumental work documenting the rise and fall of Burrell.

A new book...

This is not the first publication of Ronald H. Clark's that I have had the pleasure of reading. I read another of his traction engine works when it first came out on CDROM some time ago. Whenever I get a new book I like to sit down and flick through just taking a look at the pictures and chapter headings to give me an idea of what I will find within the pages. The CDROM format lends itself perfectly to this by providing "hot links" (just like the links used on a World Wide Web page) from both the Contents and the List of Pictures and diagrams. To those of you not familiar with CDROM, it is simply a Compact Disc, which instead of holding music holds information in a form suitable for reading by computer. Today it is uncommon to have a computer which does not include a CDROM drive (the device which is used to read the CDROM by the computer).

As you might expect from the title, the book covers the chronicles of a country works focusing on Charles Burrell and Sons of Thetford. The book details the early days of Burrell, through their advances and setbacks, their patents, finalisation of their single and double compound engines, and goes on to describe the works and the firm itself then finally into the decline of Burrells. A full list of the engines, (including serial numbers, and dates) produced by the firm is listed in an Appendix. To a Burrell collector this alone is worth the price of the book.

The original work was published in 1952, this work has been faithfully reproduced right down to the "look and feel" of a real printed book on screen. Even the advertisements from the original book have been included. I support this publication ideal fully, I cannot think of anything worse than ruining a good book with game like animations as would be the temptation when dealing with a modern medium such as CDROM.

The diagrams, pictures, and photographs have been reproduced from the original work and provide a valuable starting point for restorers and model engineers alike. The engineering diagrams and plans appear to be to scale and are good enough to print and take measurements from. Permission is granted to the purchaser of the book to print pages for their own personal use. No republishing is permitted without prior permission.

Overall, I found the book quite readable (despite the 1950s language and punctuation which is a bit of a stranger to our modern lazy world). I recommend the book to anyone seeking general knowledge of Burrell engines, or the work of the firm. Restorers, Historians, and Model Engineers will also find plenty to interest them. Although you need a computer to view this book, I do not feel that this is any great handicap as more and more homes have at least one computer (after all, you must have a computer to be reading this so I am already preaching to the converted ;-). If you do not have a computer, or do not have a CDROM drive, there is also a printed copy of the book available for a slightly higher price. I personally prefer the CDROM format as the ability to search the work for a word or phrase makes it an ideal reference for restoration, school projects, or just plain pleasure.

The contents page

The contents listing from the book is as follows:
  • Chapter One - The Early Days
  • Chapter Two - The Early Engines
  • Chapter Three - The Chain Engines
  • Chapter Four - The First Geared Engines
  • Chapter Five - A Short Interval For Reflection
  • Chapter Six - Other Engines And Little Ships
  • Chapter Seven - The Patents And The Final Types Evolve
  • Chapter Eight - Frederick Burrell And The Single Crank Compound
  • Chapter Nine - The Showmans Engine Or The Double Crank Compound
  • Chapter Ten - The Works And The Firm
  • Chapter Eleven - The Tractor, The Wagon, And Some Specials
  • Chapter Twelve - The Decline And Last Days
  • Appendix A - List Of Engines Built By The Firm
  • Appendix B - List Of Works Consulted
  • List Of Tables
  • Index
  • Advertisements

Example text

The book is written in a light banter style of writing suggesting considerable personal experience on the part of the author. It is a pleasure to read and does not become boring in the way that some technical/historical works tend to. To give you an idea here are two excerpts, the first taken from the Foreword, and the second taken from the section on Showmans Engines.

"...One can safely say that what the railway locomotive owes to Messrs. Robert Stephenson & Co., Ltd., the road locomotive owes to Messrs. Charles Burrell & Sones Ltd. The latter firm entered the steam road engine field in 1856 when the haulage engine was in a similar low state of development to that of the railway locomotive in 1829-30. Before 1856 there had been no serious attempt to produce or develop a heavy duty road engine, what engines had been produced were - with perhaps one exception - either light in construction, made up from a number of existing odd parts without any real attempt at designing a complementary whole or much under powered. I except the earlier steam coaches of Gurney, Hancock and others which were essentially passenger vehicles..."

"...The first introduction of steam into the show business dates from 1864 when Mr S.G. Soame, proprietor of a small village foundry in Marsham, Norfolk, established four years earlier, designed and made a small duplex engine on purpose to drive by flat belt an existing hand-driven small roundabout. It made its first appearance at a small fair in Aylsham, Norfolk, in 1865. Frederick Savage, who hailed from the neighboring village of Hevingham, saw this pioneer outfit at work and soon afterward produced the first combined and centre engine roundabout in his works at Lynn..."

Example images

These two images are included to give the reader an idea as to the quality of the images found within this work. Please bear in mind that the quality shown on this WWW page is only indicative of the type of image to be found. I have printed, scanned, and compressed the images for WWW use to keep them of reasonable size so that they do not take weeks to download. The quality you can expect to find within the book is considerably better.

Burell Portable Engine

The packaging and software installation

The CDROM arrived from Ives Trading packed in the traditional CD jewel case. The front and back covers have been produced on a computer printer of poor quality detracting from the content.

I viewed the CDROM content under Windows 98 on a 300MHz Pentium computer. The instructions for installation of the software are appropriate. The installer was a little confused that I already had the book reading software (Adobe Acrobat) installed, it did tell me how to get started reading the book itself. Some familiarity with Windows is assumed by the installation program. The search function was handy and is the main reason why CDROM publications are better than books - it is very easy to find what you are looking for.
Since reviewing the book on the fast computer, I felt that I should try it out on some others. I found it usable, but a little slow on a 486DX/66 and fine on anything from a Pentium 75 upwards.

Even though the CDROM cover leads one to believe that this CDROM is only suitable for the Windows environment, I expected that as the publication is produced in the PDF (Portable Document Format) it would work in other computing environments. The CDROM only provides the book reading software (Adobe Acrobat) for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95/98/NT/2000 so if you want to use some other environment you will need to download the appropriate version of the Adobe Acrobat reader which is available free from the Adobe web site (

The book was viewed under RedHat Linux 6.0 using Adobe Acrobat reader 3.0, and on an Apple Macintosh G3 running MacOs 8 using (no surprise here) the Adobe Acrobat reader. The book was readable, searchable, and printable under all three environments tested. I expect that the basic PDF files (burrel.pdf in the CDROM root directory gets you going) will work under any environment that has a PDF reader available. The book is specifically geared towards the Adobe product but should still work with other PDF readers.

For those of you who feel you would like a more traditional book for whatever reason, Ives Trading are also offering a printed edition for $75 posted.
Note: The images and text excerpts from the book are © Copyright 1998 Ronald H. Clark and are reproduced with the permission of the Australian Agent for the book Ives Trading. As with all content from Steam & Engine You may not copy or use the images on this page without prior permission from the Author and Publisher of the works.