Jan 092013
Marshall diesel roller

It’s old, cold and gold! No lightweight, this massive mellow yellow coloured Marshall road roller is a long way from its birthplace in the UK and can be found in a small town on the Alberta prairies. Seen on a cold winter’s day, it sure makes one wonder how it got here.

This beast was manufactured by the company Marshall and Sons at the Britannia Iron Works in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire UK. This company, a long time maker of machinery, was known not only for its road rollers, but also its steam traction engines, stationary engines and agricultural and construction tractors and equipment. While I was unable to find a tag or date on it, I saw a picture of an almost identical roller online that was dated as a 1937 model and so we’ll assume ours is from around that same time (experts chime in).

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The Marshall Company dates from 1848 and after a long history was merged with the John Fowler Company, itself a former maker of road rollers, plus construction tractors and small industrial locomotives, forming the company Marshall-Fowler. Passing through a number of hands, the resultant company wound down operations in the 1990s.

In addition to rollers, the Marshall Company also made a farm tractor known as a Field Marshall and I was able to see on of these at the Pioneer Acres Museum in Irricana Alberta. Go further down for a link to this.

Of interest, it’s amazing how simple the mechanics of this roller are. A few controls, one gauge and not much else. Not to mention little in the way of creature comforts and a crude canopy is all there is. No safety features and no protection from wind, dust or cold.

One thing that strands out it how massive the roller is. It’s made of heavy gauge riveted steel plates and castings and everything is of such substantial construction. I am not sure how much one of these weigh, but it must be a lot! The earth moved when these slowly passed, that’s for certain.

This machine is powered by a Gardner diesel engine, which makes it an early example of roller using this form of propulsion. At the time of its construction, many road rollers were still being made that ran on steam and some on gas. Diesels however seemed rare at the time, at least according to my research. The Gardner company was a well-know British maker of gas and diesel engines, supplying examples for stationary, marine, road and rail use. By the 1990s it was out of the business except for supplying spare parts.

How did this roller get here? Why knows, but it must have been quite a task moving it. It’s located in Lyalta Alberta, a small town (blink and you’ll miss it) east of Calgary. In fact we just stumbled across this yellow wonder while researching another subject in the area, and you can read more on this below.

This roller was found while we were photographing and studying the nearby Lyalta Buffalo 2000 grain elevator. In fact, it was sitting in the parking lot of the elevator. Getting a bit off track here, this new elevator design (for 1982) was to be the future of the Canadian grain handling industry and it was designed to replace all those old wooden elevators that dotted the prairies. To see a report about this unique design, see the link further down this report.

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Road rollers, in case you have been living in a cave, are used to tamp down roads – gravel or paved – simple enough. Often called “Steam Rollers”, even if it’s been a long time since they were powered this way, they use their massive weight to help pack down the material. Some also use vibrators to help here but the old ones were just heavy, no HUGE and relied on weight to do the job.

To see a Field Marshall tractor made by the same Marshall Company, refer to the this report…
Old farm tractors Pioneer Acres Museum Irricana.

To see the nearby Lyalta Buffalo 2000 grain elevator mentioned in this report, click this link…
Buffalo 2000 grain elevator Lyalta Alberta.

If you wish more information on this, by all means contact us!

Date: January, 2013.
Location: Lyalta, Alberta.

Marshall road roller

A Marshall road roller from the 1930s.

Diesel road roller

It’s old and cold and now I’m thirsty.

Marshall and Sons roller

It was made by Marshall and Sons in the UK.

Ready to roll

Ready to roll!

Gardiner diesel engine

It’s powered by an early Gardner diesel engine.

Road roller Marshall and Sons

Everything about this machine is MASSIVE.

Marshall diesel roller

Simple controls and zero creature comforts.


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2 Comments on "1930s Marshall Road Roller"

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UK Martin
UK Martin

Greetings from Gainsborough, home of the Britannia Iron Works and me! In fact I work right behind the old Marshall’s factory at the Tesco store. Your machine sure did travel a long way from its birthplace here in the UK. Martin,