Beam Engines in the UK

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Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   Text © Copyright October 2011, Chris Allen; licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons Licence.
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Contents

INTRODUCTION


To many people the archetypal stationary steam engine is the beam engine. The UK was where the beam engine (initially all steam engines were beam engines) was invented and it is now where the largest number are to be found; including many workable examples.

There are over 150 beam engines in the UK and most can be seen by the public, sometimes only on request. Presenting this number to Geograph readers in a logical sequence is problematic. I could have used the chronological approach used by T E Crowley in his long out of print work but this is probably less relevant than basing it on the alphabetical place name and category of site approach used by Geoffrey Hayes in Beam Engines, 2003, Shire Publications Ltd, Oxford. Hayes used four categories - Museums, Engines preserved in situ, Engines accessible by appointment and Engines preserved outdoors.

I will follow his approach with amendments where necessary and will attempt to illustrate each engine with a photograph (not all are on Geograph yet).

This article is not a substitute for Geoff's excellent book as it lacks his historical background and technical descriptions of the various types of engine and their uses. If you like the article, I would recommend the book (disclaimer - I have no connection with the author or any pecuniary interest in this publication).




MUSEUMS


Anson Engine Museum, Poynton, Cheshire

This is primarily a museum of internal combustion engines but is home to a single column, single cylinder beam engine by John Fowler of Leeds and built in 1872. It is on loan from Birmingham Museum and Art Galleries and is steamable.
SJ9483 : Anson Museum, beam steam engine by Chris Allen SJ9483 : Anson Museum, beam steam engine

Armley mills, Leeds Industrial Museum, Leeds, West Yorkshire

This museum, in a large former textile mill has one engine dismantled and in store and one on display in less than ideal circumstances. The one on display is an A frame type single cylinder built in about 1845 by Hick, Hargreaves of Bolton. It was used to work hoisting machinery in the London Road warehouse, Manchester of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. It was originally displayed at the original York Railway Museum with an incomplete flywheel and this state of affairs persists.
SE2734 : Old Beam Engine by Ashley Dace SE2734 : Old Beam Engine

Black Country Museum, Dudley, West Midlands

This museum has a dismantled engine in store and away from the public view. It also has a replica of Newcomen's 1712 'Dudley Castle' engine - the first documented beam engine in the world. This works on steam and has a brass cylinder, wooden framing and much lead plumbing. The boiler is a modern steel, all-welded job.
SO9491 : Newcomen Steam Engine by Ashley Dace SO9491 : Newcomen Steam Engine SO9491 : Replica Newcomen engine, Black Country Living Museum by Chris Allen SO9491 : Replica Newcomen engine, Black Country Living Museum

Bolton Steam Museum, Bolton, Lancashire

This museum has been built up by the Northern Mill Engine Society and is in the former cotton store of the Atlas Mills Complex off Chorley Old Road, Bolton. The collection includes two significant beam engines from the textile mills of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

The older is a twin beam engine of c1840 by an unknown builder and used at Crossfield Mill, Wardle near Rochdale. Although the two cylinders are now different sizes it was apparently never worked compound and it had been adapted to use a higher pressure running on only one side. The cylinders are 12" and 20" bore by 43" stroke and the flywheel is 14' diameter, weight 12 tons and drives a second motion pinion from its toothed rim. The engine is demonstrated in steam on one cylinder and is now non-condensing.
SD7009 : Double beam engine, Bolton Steam Museum by Chris Allen SD7009 : Double beam engine, Bolton Steam Museum

The younger is a rare example of a McNaughted single beam engine, built about 1870 and installed at Cellarsclough Mill, Marsden, West Yorkshire. It was built as a single cylinder house-built beam engine 36" x 6' and when more power was required, in 1908, Woodhouse & Mitchell of Brighouse rebuilt it with a new Corliss valve high pressure cylinder 20" x 3' mounted on the crank side of the beam centre. The original cylinder now became the low pressure cylinder. This type of modification was patented by William McNaught of Glasgow in 1845 and the engine is thus a McNaught(ed) compound.
SD7009 : Bolton Steam Museum by Chris Allen SD7009 : Bolton Steam Museum

Bredgar and Wormshill Light Railway, Bredgar, Sittingbourne, Kent

This site, better known for its light railway, is also home to the younger of two single column Woolf compound beam pumping engines from Henwood Pumping Station, Ashford. This one was built in 1881 by Thomas Horn & Sons Ltd, London and has a 10' flywheel. It drives a set of three throw pumps via reduction gearing.
TQ8758 : Bredgar & Wormshill light railway - steam engine by Chris Allen TQ8758 : Bredgar & Wormshill light railway - steam engine

Bressingham steam Museum, Diss, Norfolk

Bressingham is well known for gardens and steam railways but there is also a competent stationary steam engine collection. This includes a single cylinder A-frame beam engine built by Eastons & Anderson, London in 1875 and used to drive well pumps at the Banstead Hospital in Sutton. The Meyer expansion slide valve cylinder is 16" bore x 36" stroke and the flywheel is 14' diameter. The engine can be run on steam supplied by an adjoining vertical boiler.
TM0880 : Easton & Anderson Beam Pumping Engine by Ashley Dace TM0880 : Easton & Anderson Beam Pumping Engine

Bridewell Museum, Norwich, Norfolk

This museum is closed until summer 2012. It houses a very pretty single column single cylinder beam engine from Baggs' Brewery, Kings Lynn. This is a small engine with a cylinder about 8" x 18" and developing about 6-8 horsepower.
TG2308 : Bridewell Museum - Bagg's Brewery engine by Chris Allen TG2308 : Bridewell Museum - Bagg's Brewery engine TG2308 : Bridewell Museum - Bagg's Brewery engine by Ashley Dace TG2308 : Bridewell Museum - Bagg's Brewery engine

Cambridge Museum of Technology, Cheddars Lane, Cambridge

This museum is housed in a former sewage pumping station with the only workable Davey differential pumping engines in the country. In addition there is a very pretty single cylinder independent beam engine on what was the receiving bay for the refuse destructors. This engine is a small full size engine rather than a large model but the finish and attention to detail are exemplary.
According to Alan Denney of the museum - This little beam engine was made by Headley of Cambridge who had an Iron foundry in Mill Road it was supplied to Barkers Mineral Water Works in Willis Road Cambridge and drove a small pump. The date is unknown circa 1870. The engine found its way into the Cambridge College of arts and technology (Now Anglia Ruskin University) and was restored and motorised by their engineering department. For several years it stood in the entrance foyer at the college before being put into storage. It was donated to CMT about 20 years ago, we have removed the motor drive and now run it on steam or compressed air.
TL4659 : Cambridge Museum of Technology - beam engine by Chris Allen TL4659 : Cambridge Museum of Technology - beam engine

Coldharbour Mill Working Wool Museum, Uffculme, Devon

This West Country woollen mill had a running horizontal steam engine until 1981, when it closed. It is now an excellent museum and includes a rare four column beam engine built by Kittoe & Brotherhood in 1867. It was used at the Albion Brewery in Whitechapel Road, Bethnal Green and was later assisted by a horizontal pusher engine that has since been scrapped. The slide valve cylinder is c22" bore x 48 stroke and the flywheel is 16' diameter. It can be demonstrated in steam. Its builders later became Peter Brotherhood at Peterborough and the company is still manufacturing compressors and steam turbines but now under American control as part of the Dresser Rand empire.
ST0612 : Uffculme : Coldharbour Mill Beam Machine by Lewis Clarke ST0612 : Uffculme : Coldharbour Mill Beam Machine ST0612 : Coldharbour Mill, beam engine by Chris Allen ST0612 : Coldharbour Mill, beam engine

Dean Heritage Centre, Soudley, Cinderford, Gloucestershire

This centre is home to a delicate four column single cylinder beam engine from Lightmoor Colliery where it hauled waste up the spoil heap. It spent many years in the open at the National Museum of Wales but is now well restored and turned by an electric motor. It is thought to have been built in 1805, possibly by Hewlett of Soudley. The piston is guided by a crosshead running on turned columns, rather than the usual Watt parallel motion. The flywheel is composite with wrought iron spokes cast into the rim and hub. The cylinder is stated to be 10" x 36" by Crowley.
SO6610 : Steam engine, Dean Heritage Museum by Chris Allen SO6610 : Steam engine, Dean Heritage Museum

Derby Industrial Museum, Derby

This important local museum closed in March 2011 for at least two years. It is home to a small single cylinder grasshopper beam engine built by the Derby-born engineer George Fletcher in about 1850 to power his London Workshop. He later moved his business and the engine to Derby and it worked until 1911. The cylinder is 9" x 20".
SK3536 : Derby Industrial Museum, steam engine by Chris Allen SK3536 : Derby Industrial Museum, steam engine SK3536 : Derby Industrial Museum - grasshopper beam engine by Chris Allen SK3536 : Derby Industrial Museum - grasshopper beam engine
SK3536 : Grasshopper Steam Engine by Ashley Dace SK3536 : Grasshopper Steam Engine

Ellenroad Engine House, New Hey, Rochdale, Lancashire

The engine house and chimney survive from a very large spinning mill and are home to large horizontal twin tandem compound mill engine.

The boiler house is home to a house-built single cylinder beam engine built by Petrie & Co of Rochdale in 1841. It was for many years displayed in a purpose-built engine house on the former site of its makers. It was then relocated to Ellenroad and is demonstrated in steam.
SD8913 : Holcroft Foundry, beam engine by Chris Allen SD8913 : Holcroft Foundry, beam engine SD9311 : Whitelees Beam Engine by Jeff Mills SD9311 : Whitelees Beam Engine
SD9311 : Ellenroad Engine House - Whitelees beam engine by Chris Allen SD9311 : Ellenroad Engine House - Whitelees beam engine

Forncett Industrial Steam Museum, Forncett St Mary, Norfolk

This steam engine museum is the life's work of retired Doctor Rowan Francis and home to many interesting machines that would otherwise have been long since scrapped. It is home to two beam engines that were both used for pumping potable water for the public supply.

Oldest is a single cylinder house built beam engine built by Gimson & Co of Leicester in 1880 and used alongside its mirror image at Hopwas Pumping Station near Tamworth. Both engines were saved and one ended up here. The cylinder is 25" x 60" with a Meyer slide valve. The flywheel is 14' diameter. The engines stopped work in 1964 and were removed in 1987.
TM1694 : Gimson and Co. Water Pumping Beam Engine by Ashley Dace TM1694 : Gimson and Co. Water Pumping Beam Engine TM1694 : Gimson and Co. Water Pumping Beam Engine by Ashley Dace TM1694 : Gimson and Co. Water Pumping Beam Engine

The newer engine was built in 1891 by Easton & Anderson Ltd for Roall Pumping Station near Selby and is an A frame Woolf compound beam pumping engine. The wood lagged cylinders are 16" x 32" and 23" x 48" (the LP always has a longer stroke on a Woolf compound).
SE5624 : Steam pumping engine, Roall by Chris Allen SE5624 : Steam pumping engine, Roall TM1694 : The Easton and Anderson Beam Engine by Ashley Dace TM1694 : The Easton and Anderson Beam Engine

Glasgow Museum of Transport, Kelvin Hall, Glasgow

This museum has closed and its collections are now on display at the Riverside Museum Glasgow NS5565 : The Tall Ship by Thomas Nugent.

On display is a sidelever marine beam engine built in 1828 by Caird of Greenock to re-engine the 1814 built paddle tug Industry.
NS5565 : Steam engine in Riverside Museum by Thomas Nugent NS5565 : Steam engine in Riverside Museum

Also on display is the 1821 sidelever engine from the paddle steamer Comet II that sank in 1825 with the engine being salvaged and used as a statinoary engine.
NS5267 : Former Clydebuilt Museum, Braehead by Chris Allen NS5267 : Former Clydebuilt Museum, Braehead

Helmshore Textile Museums, Helmshore, Rossendale, Lancashire

This six column tank bed beam engine is now at the Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester (MOSI).
SD7721 : Higher Mill, Helmshore - beam engine by Chris Allen SD7721 : Higher Mill, Helmshore - beam engine

Hollycombe Steam Collection and Gardens, Liphook, Hampshire


This collection is best known for its steam railways and steam fairground but is also home to a steam powered sawmill, a paddle steamer engine and a beam engine in a well hidden open fronted shed with a waterwheel adjoining it. The engine is a single cylinder A-frame beam engine, reputedly by Tulk & Ley c1850. It was discovered in a tannery in Whitehaven and used to be on display at the now closed National Tractor Museum at Hunday. It has been re-erected with steam supplied by a modern replica of an egg-ended boiler (unique!)
NZ0465 : Hunday - The National Tractor & Farm Museum, beam engine by Chris Allen NZ0465 : Hunday - The National Tractor & Farm Museum, beam engine SU8529 : Hollycombe Steam Collection - beam engine by Chris Allen SU8529 : Hollycombe Steam Collection - beam engine

IGMT - Blists Hill Victorian Town Museum, Madeley, Shropshire

One of the museum sites administered by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, this is home to two beam engines on public display.

One is a pretty four column single cylinder beam engine set up between the foundry and a workshop. It was built in the c1840s by Peel, Williams & peel of Manchester and the cylinder is 24" x 36". It was used at Best & Lloyd, brassfounders in Smethwick and was said to have been installed secondhand. After some years dismantled in the open air, the museum built this engine house and brought it in from the cold.
SJ6903 : Blists Hill Victorian Town Museum - beam engine. by Chris Allen SJ6903 : Blists Hill Victorian Town Museum - beam engine.

The other is a large double beam blowing engine known as David and Sampson and displayed in an open sided structure with a roof over it. This was built in 1851 by Murdoch, Aitken & Co of Glasgow and provided blast for the Lilleshal Co blast furnaces at Priorslee and was moved to Blists Hill in 1971. The cylinders are 38.75" x 94.625" and the blowing cylinders are 78" bore. The beams are 30' long and the flywheel is 20' 4" diameter. The engine supplied up to 12,500 cfm of blast air at 4-4.5 psi.
SJ6903 : David and Sampson, Blists Hill Museum by Chris Allen SJ6903 : David and Sampson, Blists Hill Museum

A recent visit found parts of an as yet unidentified single cylinder beam engine laid out in the goods station yard. If I ever learn more about this I will update the entry.
SJ6903 : Blists Hill Victorian Town - machinery parts by Chris Allen SJ6903 : Blists Hill Victorian Town - machinery parts

IGMT - Enginuity, Coalbrookdale, Shropshire

This hands on science centre is also one of the sites administered by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust and is home to a single cylinder beam engine of the 1800-1825 period and used by the Coalbrookdale Company at one of their local coal mines. From 1854 to 1929 it drove mixing machinery in the company's tile and brick works at Lightmoor, Shropshire. It then spent a long period on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, USA before being repatriated. It is set up to be turned by hand using a wheel driving onto the flywheel rim as part of the hands-on science experience in this museum.
SJ6604 : Enginuity, Coalbrookdale - beam engine by Chris Allen SJ6604 : Enginuity, Coalbrookdale - beam engine

Locomotion - The National Railway Museum at Shildon, Shildon, County Durham

Tucked away in a corner and not always publicly accessible is this engine attributed to Timothy Hackworth and on display in his Soho Works at Shildon, now an outpost of the National Railway Museum. This engine was once displayed at the National Railway Museum in York and had disappeared from sight before turning up here. It is a delicate engine with two braced columns supporting the beam and a wood lagged cylinder. The flywheel is composite with sinuous wrought iron spokes cast into the cast iron hub and rim.
NZ2325 : Beam engine, Shildon by Chris Allen NZ2325 : Beam engine, Shildon

Markham Grange Steam Museum, Brodsworth, South Yorkshire

This museum is home to two beam engines, one currently (2011) still under restoration and re-erection.

The completed one is a grasshopper type side lever marine engine that was the port engine of a pair in the paddle tug Old Trafford, later renamed Reliant. it was built in 1907 by Hepple & Sons of South Shields and the cylinder is 30" x 54". It has been re-erected with a reconstructed feathering paddle wheel and is turned by electric motor. The photograph below shows it during restoration when it was missing several major components, including the eponymous side levers.
SE5207 : Markham Grange steam Museum - side lever engine by Chris Allen SE5207 : Markham Grange steam Museum - side lever engine
This one, however, shows it finished.
SE5207 : Paddle steamer engine by derek dye SE5207 : Paddle steamer engine

The other engine was only acquired during 2010 and had been displayed in the open air at Bedford College for some 45 years. It is a four column, Woolf compound, rotative beam pumping engine built in 1878 and used in a waterworks in Bedford. It is being restored with every intention of running it on steam, like nearly all the engines at this museum.
TL0449 : Bedford College - old beam engine by Chris Allen TL0449 : Bedford College - old beam engine SE5207 : Markham Grange Steam Museum - work in progress by Chris Allen SE5207 : Markham Grange Steam Museum - work in progress SE5207 : Markham Grange steam Museum - work in progress by Chris Allen SE5207 : Markham Grange steam Museum - work in progress SE5207 : Markham Grange Steam Museum - No difficulty baffles great zeal by Chris Allen SE5207 : Markham Grange Steam Museum - No difficulty baffles great zeal

Museum of Science & Industry in Manchester, Castlefield, Manchester

There are now three beam engines on display at this leading museum.

The oldest of these is a single cylinder house-built engine believed to be built about 1825 by an unknown maker and latterly used to power the workshops at Haydock Colliery. The slide valve cylinder is 25" x 60" and the engine has a 15' diameter gear drive flywheel. It ran at 20 rpm and was probably good for about 20 horsepower on low pressure steam (8-10 psi). It was acquired as an act of faith when the museum was in cramped temporary premises and this action was vindicated when the museum located to its present historic and spacious location.
SJ8397 : The Haydock Colliery beam engine. by Chris Allen SJ8397 : The Haydock Colliery beam engine.

Nearby in the power hall is a small single cylinder grasshopper beam engine with a 6.5" x 30" cylinder, a beam 4' 4" between centres and a 9' flywheel. This is a relatively primitive and elderly device thought to date back to c1830. This engine had been saved from Widnes Technical College but was presumably not there initially.
SJ8397 : Museum of Science & Industry, grasshopper engine by Chris Allen SJ8397 : Museum of Science & Industry, grasshopper engine

The final engine has only gone on display in 2011 and was formerly at Helmshore Textile Museums (which see). It is a six column tank-bed engine built in 1846 by Peel, Williams & Peel of Salford and was supplied to a file makers in Stockport.
SJ8397 : Museum of Science & Industry - beam engine by Chris Allen SJ8397 : Museum of Science & Industry - beam engine

Also on display, next to a replica of the 1712 'Dudley Castle' Newcomen engine, is a full size Newcomen engine piston dating from 1779 and excavated from the site of Reel Fitz mine near Workington. The engine had a 60" x 10' cylinder.
SJ8397 : Museum of Science and Industry - Newcomen engine piston by Chris Allen SJ8397 : Museum of Science and Industry - Newcomen engine piston

National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

The former Royal Scottish museum had several beam engines on show but most of these are now in the Granton store. The new museum, which is connected to the original museum, is home to a very historic engine that had been in store for many years, while the old building is home to an equally historic machine that has had a new flywheel cast and is run on compressed by a cylinder below the original cylinder.

The oldest is in the new building and was built by an unknown maker in 1770-80 and in 1806 was installed secondhand at Caprington Colliery near Kilmarnock, where it worked for 95 years. It is a Newcomen type atmospheric beam pumping engine with a 30" bore and a stroke of 54"-60" in a 96" long cylinder. The cast-iron beam replaced the original wooden one in 1837. It is now demonstrated running with a hydraulic ram.
NT2573 : Caprington Colliery Newcomen engine, National Museum of Scotland by Chris Allen NT2573 : Caprington Colliery Newcomen engine, National Museum of Scotland

The slightly more recent engine is an important example of a later Boulton & Watt rotative incorporating Watt's improvements - Built in 1796 by Boulton & Watt for the Southwark Brewery of Barclay, Perkins & Co where it ran for 99 years before being donated to the then Royal Scottish Museum. This incorporates James Watt's great improvements to the steam engine - separate condenser, rotative motion with sun and planet gear, parallel motion and the flyball governor. The double acting cylinder is 25" x 48" and the flywheel (a modern replacement) is 14' diameter. The engine runs with the aid of compressed air in a cylinder below the original one.
NT2573 : National Museum of  Scotland - Barclay, Perkins engine by Chris Allen NT2573 : National Museum of Scotland - Barclay, Perkins engine

KML

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