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Great Dorset Steam Fair
GDSF Shownws lineup 2008-IMG 1032.JPG
The line-up of Showmans engines in 2008
Promoter Great Dorset Steam Fair Ltd
Organisers Martin Oliver & Family
In aid of
Preserving Steam & Various Charities
Sponsors (main) Several
Date held on August Bank Holiday (was 1st Wednesday after)
Duration (days) 5
Venue Tarrent Hinton
Location nr Dorchester
County Dorset
Country England
NTET Accredited YES
Attendance numbers
(approximate no.)
200,000 + (biggest in UK)
Next Event Date 2019
First Event was held in (year) 1968
Last Event was held in (year)
No. of years held 50 years (2018)
Originaly at Stourpain Bushes
Events Web Site

The Great Dorset Steam Fair is the biggest annual show featuring steam-powered vehicles and machinery in the UK. The event is held annually at Tarrent Hinton nr Dorchester in Dorset. The event was founded by the late Micheal Oliver MBE, who died in late 2009.


The fair was founded by the Late Michael Oliver, MBE and has been held in Dorset, England, every summer since 1968, currently at Tarrant Hinton near Blandford Forum. It now covers over 600 acres and runs for five days from the Thursday before the UK August bank holiday. It used to be the weekend after the Bank hoiliday but was changed in 2016 (?).

It is reputedly the largest outdoor show of its type in the world. The most common exhibits are traction engines, tractors and farm machinery, but also included are preserved railway engines, cars and commercial vehicles, Stationary engines, and shire horses. The show also has a market, autojumble, live music and funfair (some of which is powered by the steam engines). The show is now run by Michael's son, Martin Oliver through Great Dorset Steam Fair Ltd.

The show regularly attracts around 200,000 visitors[1], and there can be 30,000 people on site, making the fair the fourth largest population centre in Dorset, after Bournemouth, Poole, and Weymouth (the population of the historic town of Dorchester being only half that number).[2]

The Event costs over a £1 million to put on each year and has raised several £100,000 for charity over the years but increasing Red tape and external costs have reduced the charity donations over the last few years. It takes weeks to set up, as most of the infrastructure has to be put in each year and removed due to planning restrictions. For 2 weeks it is the biggest caravan park in the country with 1000s of trade stand & stall holders along with exhibitors and 1000's of visitors all camping on site. For a number of exhibitors and visitor it is an annual pilgrimage with them going every year.[3]


A speciality of the show is the display of traction engines and steam rollers performing the work for which they were designed. Such displays include heavy haulage, threshing, sawing logs, ploughing and road-making. The main arena of the show is purposely sited on the slope of a hill to allow both steam- and internal combustion-powered machinery to demonstrate their capacity for heavy load hauling. One of the main displays is the "Showmans Line up", which is the largest collection of Showmans engines gathered in one place in the world.

The end of the fair is marked with a Thanksgiving Service on the Sunday, at 12 noon, and takes place on the stage of Dean's Bioscope, the Silver Bell, organised for many years by Chris Edmonds, the Lay Chaplain until his recent death in 2007.

For the 40th anniversary, in 2008, the organisers featured a display recreating the very first fair, by tracing most of the exhibits that were displayed at the first 1968 show.[4]

For the 50th show in 2018 they assembled a line up of over 500 steam engines and vehicles from around the world. 500@50 special feature include a expanded showmans line, show tent and bringing in engines from Canada, USA, Europe, Ireland and New Zealand, with a special "scrapyard" display of over 20 derelict engines showing how many are found.

The 2018 event set a new Guinness World Record with 472 steam vehicles gathered at one location (note portable engines dont count).[5]

The Fair is the biggest event in the UK Steam preservation world, in the country. The Showmans Engines, Fairground rides and Organs, display at night is an impressive sight. GDSF is also one of the biggest events for Tractors, with the working Construction plant section growing. the site also hosts a large working demonstration of steam ploughing on the field to the side of the Heavy Haulage area.

Other special events have included;

  • 1992 - Hampshire manufacturers - Wallis & Steevens and W.Taskers
  • 1993 - The 25th GDSF was a Aveling & Porter Special
  • 1996 - John Fowler products special
  • 1997 - Ransomes Sims & Jefferies special
  • 2000 - Burrell special
  • 2004 - NTET 50th anniversary with 50 rarely seen engines
  • 2010 - John & Henry McLaren special
  • 2013 - Road roller special - which also set a Guinness world record.
  • 2014-18 - World War One display
  • various special road runs to the show have also been held.

Heavy Haulage Ring

The Heavy Haulage ring is a continuous demonstration of machines pulling a variety of loads up the hill during the day, featuring both steam and diesel powered commercial vehicles as well as the steam cars. The ring gives the owners the opportunity to demonstrate the power with demonstrations of the steam locomotives pulling large loads or a string of modern vehicles. Other loads are demonstrated such as loading a steam locomotive or tanks onto low loaders.

Preserved Machinery

Iron Maiden a Fowler showmans engine at GDSF in 2008

A large travelling fairground big wheel ride.

Due to the sheer size of the show, it is not possible to photograph every exhibit or list then. With the size of the list for each year so large we have split the page into sub pages for sections. Please expand the lists & photos with any exhibits you saw or presented at the show. (if you need help adding them to the tables just add the info or a summary on the Discussion (talk) page.)

Steam section - Great Dorset Steam Fair 2008 - Steam Section

Featuring -

  • Steam Engines / tractors / Road locomotives
  • Steam Lorries
  • Showmans Engines
  • Steam Rollers
  • Scale Models of Steam Engines
Tractors - Great Dorset Steam Fair 2008 - Tractors section

Featuring -

  • Tractors
  • Agricultural machinery
  • Stationery Engines
Construction Plant - Great Dorset Steam Fair 2008 - Plant & Road building Demonstration
Heavy Haulage etc - Great Dorset Steam Fair 2008 - Commercial vehicles
  • Trucks and Trailers
  • Commercial vehicles
  • Heavy Haulage demo's & the 'playpen'
Fairground Rides - Great Dorset Steam Fair 2008 - Fairground
Collections & Displays Great Dorset Steam Fair 2008 - Collections
  • Collections of old Small tools
  • Tent displays
  • Misc items

See also


  • Wikipedia article
  1. BBC Dorset preview of 38th Fair (2006)
  2. A Celebration of Great Dorset Steam, Paul Appleton, Ian Allan (2006) ISBN 0711031959
  3. Old Glory Magazine
  4. Great Dorset Steam Fair – 2007 Programme
  5. Old Glory Magazine - September issue no. 344.

External links

Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses some content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Great Dorset Steam Fair. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Tractor & Construction Plant Wiki, the text of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons by Attribution License and/or GNU Free Documentation License. Please check page history for when the original article was copied to Wikia