The collection dates back to the late 1940s when Commander John Baldock decided to preserve some of the steam traction engines that were rapidly disappearing from British life. By the early 1960s he had acquired a significant collection of road vehicles and started to collect fairground rides. In the late '60s he extended his interests again into preserving railway equipment.
The collection was eventually opened to the public and became a major Hampshire tourist attraction. At length the collection grew so large it became impossible for one person to maintain, and by 1984 Baldock decided he would have to close the operation.