Meet Roger: Homework Powered by Root & Vandervoort

Class project leads to bonding time for Australian father and son duo

Luke Visser with his dad, Darren, and the vehicle they made together for a class project

Luke Visser with his dad, Darren, and the vehicle they made together for a class project. The engine is a 1913 4 HP Root & Vandervoort.

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In late 2009, my son, Luke Visser, who’s in grade one at an Australian primary school in the southeast suburbs of Melbourne, Victoria, came home with a homework sheet. Luke had to make something related to transport.

After showing the assignment to his dad that night I’m not sure who was more excited about the project! This was the perfect opportunity for Dad to get his son in the shed and do some man-to-man homework, instead of the boring homework like the spelling and reading that mums do. The boys were in the shed most nights and within two weeks came out with the finished project – a vehicle powered by a 1913 4 HP Root & Vandervoort engine.

Homework finished! 

The front and rear wheels were sourced from a pile of old machinery from the back of the yard, the brass steering wheel was from an old boat, the engine was donated by a very good family friend, the chassis was welded by Luke under the guidance of his father and with some 3-inch channel, and the Borg-Warner gear box was off a 6-wheel amphibious buggy that has a forward, neutral and reverse by pushing a lever backward and forward.

The igniter for the engine was missing, so the boys improvised and came up with the solution of a spark plug and a set of points triggered by the pushrod with a battery coil ignition.

The project puffed and spluttered out of the shed with Luke in control. Inside the tender next to him was his 1-1/2-year-old brother who looked up at Luke and thought he had the most clever brother in the world.

Over the course of the project Luke and his dad took several photos that were put into sequence, and a DVD was produced to show the kids and his teacher at school how he did it.

The vision that Luke and his dad created didn’t take very long. TV and after-school activities were sacrificed, but if you see the look on Luke’s face I am sure he would say it was all worth it! Darren, Luke’s father, has been working on a 1912 Ruston Proctor Colonial traction engine for almost two years taking the engine apart and starting from scratch. Luke scratches his head when helping Dad with the riveting, asking himself, “Why does Dad’s project take so long when we finished my project in two weeks?”

Luke’s engine was named  “Roger” and has a brass plate screwed onto the rear of the tender. There was no debate in naming it Roger as this is the very good friend of the family who gave Luke the engine.

Since Roger’s conception, Luke has taken it to many farm and steam engine displays and has been accepted as one of the boys. With an invitation from a member of Lake Goldsmith in Victoria, Australia, the family loaded Roger on a trailer and was noted to be one of the most photographed exhibits for the whole weekend.

An inspiration for all 

No doubt a mother’s heart goes out to a boy who for the first three years of his life could not hear properly due to being born with glue ear. But boy, has he gone on leaps and bounds with his life skills due to the fact that his dad had the time to show him the skills that are dying in so many kids. Luke’s dad could see nothing more satisfying than having his boy in the shed looking after his own engine, being in complete control, having responsibility of oiling the engine and having pride in his son for achieving such a great high this early in life.

There is no better reward than doing a project with a son or daughter and letting the kids grow up in an environment that will die off one day. We need to encourage young kids to absorb our skills and get them in the shed, instead of telling them that they can’t do it!

Contact Luke Visser at