NS4075 : The steam engine from the PS Leven

taken 13 years ago, near to Dumbarton, West Dunbartonshire, Great Britain

The steam engine from the PS Leven
The steam engine from the PS Leven
This engine stands outside the Denny Tank Museum, at the eastern end of Castle Street (compare NS4075 : Maritime Museum, Dumbarton). The museum is always known locally as the Denny Tank, but is the Dumbarton site of the Scottish Maritime Museum (the other site is at Irvine; there was a third the NS5267 : Clydebuilt Museum at Braehead but it closed in 2010; at the time of writing, it is not expected that it will ever re-open).

The information panel visible in the left of the photograph has more information about the engine, including the following:

"The engine is a side lever marine engine built for the P.S. LEVEN in 1821. It has a single cylinder and produced 33 horsepower .... This was the first marine engine built by Robert Napier after he started his own engineering business in 1821. He and his cousin David Napier were to dominate the marine engineering industry in the West of Scotland during the nineteenth century. P.S. LEVEN was a wooden paddle-boat built by James Lang at Dumbarton. She was owned by the Dumbarton Steamship Co. for most of her working life .... The engine remained in P.S. LEVEN until 1845 when it was transferred to a new vessel, QUEEN OF BEAUTY, that Robert Napier was building. In 1877 the engine was presented to the town of Dumbarton by Robert Napier's sons. It was mounted on a stone plinth at the base of Dumbarton Rock as a monument to the 'Father of Modern Shipbuilding'. In 1984 it was moved to its present position."

[The panel omits to mention that, before moving to its present (as of 2009) location, the engine was also sited for many years at the centre of a fountain (now long gone) at the north-eastern end of what is now the Artizan Shopping Centre, whose entrance is shown here: NS3975 : Shopping Centre, Dumbarton. On the above-mentioned Robert Napier, see NS3975 : The Napier Vault.]

It is worth saying a little more about the official unveiling and handing over of the engine in August 1877; the Dumbarton Herald newspaper, in its issue of (Thursday) 16th August 1877, describes it as having taken place on "Saturday last", presumably the 11th of August. On that occasion, the engine was presented to the town by J R Napier and J Napier, Engineers, Glasgow (i.e., by Robert's sons James R Napier and John Napier). According to them, the engine had been designed by David Elder, and, in their opinion, it had been built in about 1824.

The venue for the presentation was Dumbarton's NS3974 : Pier Park, which was on the southern side of Dumbarton rock, in what is still a grassy space. (The park took its name from the recently-built Dumbarton Pier; construction of that pier had begun in May 1874, and it officially opened a year later, in May 1875. However, it was not a success; it could only be used at high tide. After it was damaged by a storm in December 1900, it was not considered worth repairing. It was abandoned a few years later, and is now long gone.)

The unveiling of the engine in 1877 at NS3974 : Pier Park was marked by a regatta and by various sports events on land. Some of those who were not participating in these events chose to observe the proceedings from the top of adjacent Dumbarton Rock.

In this image, the single cylinder mentioned on the information panel is visible at the right-hand side of the engine; rods (painted black) connect the top of the cylinder to large side levers (also painted black), which in turn drove paddle-wheels which were connected to the upper left-hand side of the engine.

For an older photo of this engine in its present site, but before it was painted red, see NS4075 : Engine of Paddle Steamer Leven, Dumbarton.

On the other side of the wall and fence behind the engine is the busy A814 (Glasgow Road). The buildings visible in the background are in St James' Retail Park.
The Denny Tank Museum

The local name for the Dumbarton branch of the Scottish Maritime Museum.

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NS4075, 156 images   (more nearby search)
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Date Taken
Monday, 26 January, 2009   (more nearby)
Monday, 26 January, 2009
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts 
Place (from Tags)
Person (from Tags)
Robert Napier 
Steam engines   (more nearby)
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4004 7524 [10m precision]
WGS84: 55:56.6101N 4:33.7721W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NS 4004 7524
View Direction
Northeast (about 45 degrees)
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Other Tags
Denny Tank Museum  Steam Engine  Scottish Maritime Museum 

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