A Photographers & Visitors Guide & Timeless Stories

Posts tagged “steam engines

Crossness Pumping Station


18 pics.  The Crossness Pumping Station ⇒ , just east of London, together with 82 miles of brick intercepting sewers, 450 miles of main sewers and 13,000 miles of local sewers were connected and officially opened in 1865.  Visiting ⇒ sometimes steaming but not always open so please check the link.


This was to solve :-


The Great Stink

At that time they believed that a miasma (odour) was the cause of diseases, such as cholera which killed thousands.  Indeed a city could not grow or prosper without solving the problem.  The solution, of a well designed sewage system, was a major part of resolving the actual cause of such diseases, infected water.  

Another important contribution was a clean water supply system.  An example of this and the great engines can be found at the London Water and Steam Museum ⇐.

The London sewage system was designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette who also designed many other Victorian London buildings and mustaches. 🙂




The pumping station continued in use until the 1950’s, abandoned until 2003 when one of the four engines and most of the ornate ironwork were restored.


Visitors get hard hats.





Each engine was of the triple expansion type where; a high pressure steam cylinder (the lower here) received high pressure steam (lots of pounds per square inch) over a small number of square inches, an intermediate pressure cylinder received lower pressure exhaust from the high pressure cylinder over more square inches and the intermediate cylinder exhaust was passed to the largest low pressure cylinder.  An efficient way to use all of the pressure provided by a boiler.


The high pressure cylinder in the basement.


The intermediate and low pressure cylinders on the ground floor.


A chap with a proper hat is always reassuring. 🙂


One of the main beams (the refurbished one) on the first floor.


And, from underneath.  The shaft on the left operates one of the pumps and the one on the right leads to :-


..  the crank and wheel which simply maintain a steady impetus.


The governor (or regulator) is attached to the engine so that it spins.  The faster it spins the more the weights are forced outward by centrifugal force.  As the weights are forced outward they depress the central plunger which reduces the flow of steam and slows the engine achieving a regulated speed.


And, outside on a wet day..


I hope you enjoyed your visit.

London Water and Steam Museum, Express Tavern and Kew

London Water and Steam Museum Garden DSC_6343

London Water and Steam Museum Garden

14 pics. Cities could not grow beyond a few tens of thousands and civilisation could not flourish without a plentiful supply of  clean water. Otherwise epidemics of water-borne diseases such as cholera and typhoid would devastate the population.  The development of filtration and pumping by steam engine was vital to progress.

The London Water and Steam Museum ⇒ (there is an entrance fee) explains the advances in water cleanliness and houses a number of steam-driven pumps, including some truly massive devices.  On designated days some of the engines can be seen working. 

The other essential was the disposal of waste and an ornate example of this can be found in east London at the renovated Crossness Pumping Station ⇐

To get to the Water and Steam Museum: On Leaving Kew Bridge station, turn right, pass the very pleasant Express Tavern ⇒, and turn into Green Dragon Lane.  The tall chimney is an easy landmark.

Alternatively Kew Gardens ⇐ which includes Kew Palace is just over the nearby bridge..

There is more about our use of steam and the role of fossil fuels at the Science Museum ⇐.


London Water and Steam Museum DSC_6296


London Water and Steam Museum 90 inch Steam Engine DSC_6319

The above Boulton and Watt 64 inch (piston/cylinder diameter of 64 inches) has a beam weighing 15 tons and delivered 2.5 million gallons of water per day and was last used in 1944.

London Water and Steam Museum 90 inch Steam EngineDSC_6331

This is the 90 inch Cornish engine with a beam weighing 32 tons and delivered 6.4 million gallons of water per day.  It was last used in 1943.  The steam cylinder is the massive dark object at the far end.  The nearer cylinder is the water pump.

London Water and Steam Museum 100 inch Steam Engine

This monster is the 100 inch Cornish engine. The 100 inch (8 foot and 4 inches wide) steam cylinder is the dark object the distance.  The beam weighs a staggering 54 tons and it once delivered 7.5 million gallons of water per day.  Built in 1869 it remained in service until 1958.

London Water and Steam Museum 100 inch Steam Engine DSC_6305

More :-

London Water and Steam Museum DSC_6272


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London Water and Steam Museum Waddon Steam Engine DSC_6288

The above is the Waddon steam pumping engine.  It was the last steam driven water pump used in the UK and remained in service until 1983.

London Water and Steam Museum DSC_6282


London Water and Steam Museum Triple expansion Engine

Above is a triple expansion engine.  Designed to be more efficient as most of the steam pressure is used by passing the output of one cylinder to the next.

London Water and Steam Museum DSC_6338


London Water and Steam Museum DSC_6340

On designated days (website ⇒) a small steam locomotive provides rides, although the track is very short.

Express Tavern at Kew

On the way back is the Express Tavern ⇒ which has a very pleasant menu and a broad range of beers.  Across the nearby bridge is Kew Gardens ⇐.

Science Museum London

22 pics. The Natural History Museum⇐, Science Museum and fabulous Victoria & Albert Museum⇐ are all close together and very near South Kensington underground rail station. All are free to enter, although a small donation is usual, and have picnic areas (a wise choice).

It is advisable to download/save/print the museum map⇒. Their website is here⇒ and of special interest are the beautiful antique timepieces⇐ and the model steam engines⇐.

Newcomen type Atmospheric Engine

During the early 1700’s there was a developing energy crisis.  Coal was needed to fuel industry, especially the smelting casting and forging of iron.  Surface coal was becoming rare and deep mines were subject to flooding.  Pumping out by hand or animal power was inadequate so Newcomen invented the Atmospheric Engine around 1712 and they continued as the only kind of steam engine until 1802. 

The Atmospheric Engine filled a cylinder with steam at normal pressure which then condensed and reduced to less than atmospheric pressure.  The external atmospheric pressure then pushed the piston into the cylinder, drawing the beam down and lifting the water pump at the other end.  The age of the industrial revolution advanced along with our dependence on fossil fuels.

The one above was built in 1791 and continued in use for 127 years.

Bell Crank Engine by Boulton and Watt

Bell Crank Engine by Boulton and Watt

Later, a more powerful type of pressurized steam engine, which pushes a piston along a cylinder, was developed by James Watt in 1802.  This one powered a workshop and later an electrical generator.

Puffing Billy Locomotive at London Science Museum

Puffing Billy

The earliest practical steam locomotive was designed by Richard Trevithick in 1804 and used for the transport of coal.  The Puffing Billy, above, was built by William Hedley.

Stephenson's Rocket. at London Science Museum

Stephenson’s Rocket

George Stephenson built the Locomotion for the Stockton and Darlington Railway which was the first public steam railway in the world.  It was his son, Robert Stephenson, who built the famous and more successful Rocket in 1829.

Grand Junction Railway Locomotive Columbine at London Science Museum

Grand Junction Railway Locomotive Columbine

Then innovation took off in leaps and bounds.

Traction Engine at London Science Museum

Traction Engine


Pumping Engine at London Science Museum

Pumping Engine

Steam driven pumping became another essential for the advancement of human civilization by the provision of clean water and removal of waste.  Both were essential for the limitation of disease.  You might like a look at the beautifully ornate Crossness Pumping Station ⇐ and the awesome machines at the London (Kew) Water and Steam Museum ⇐.


Bessemer Converter at London Science Museum

Bessemer Converter

These developments were aided by the invention of the Bessemer Converter in 1856.   Molten iron, refined from iron ore in a Blast Furnace, is poured into the vessel and then air followed by oxygen is forced through the molten metal.  This was the first method of removing impurities on a large economic scale to produce steel.

The great gout of fire that spouts from the converter is awesome and can be seen on video by clicking on Bessemer Steel Making at Workington Cumbria⇒.


Babbage's Difference No 2 at London Science Museeum

Babbage’s Difference Engine No 2

Meanwhile there had been a need to produce accurate mathematical tables for engineers, astronomers, navigators etc.   After around 25 years of trying, Charles Babbage created the Difference Engine No 2.  Whilst it can only add and subtract, it can be programmed do so a number of times, hence it can multiply and divide.  Modern computers use the same method.

Ribbon Loom by James Heywod using the Jacquard Principle at London Science Museum

Ribbon Loom by James Heywood using the Jacquard Principle

This clever little device can automatically weave a complex design using a series of punched cards for instruction. That is, a programmable process.  Punched cards were used by early computers.

And then :-.

Early Flight at London Science Museum

Well alright its early days yet.

Amy Johnson's Jason Aeroplane London Science Museum

Amy Johnson’s Airplane Jason

Amy Johnson was the first person to fly solo from Britain to Australia, although in several legs.  If you click on twice to expand, you might notice an AA (Automobile Association) sticker just beneath “Jason”.  Now that’s what I call optimism.

And then:-

Spitfire at London Science Museum

The Spitfire


Lockheed Electra at London Science Museum

Lockheed Electra


Arobatic Aircraft at London Science Museum

Normal service will be resumed when Grommet gets back from the chip shop.  🙂

Harrier Jump Jet at London Science Museum

Harrier Jump Jet

And then :-

Space Rockets at London Science Museum

Space Rockets


Space Satellite at London Science Museum

Space Satellite


Space Capsule at London Science Museum

Space Capsule


Moon Lander at London Science Museum

Moon Lander

And then:-

Globe at London Science Museum 2

This suspended globe in the Science Museum turns and changes to show the weather patterns and day and night. At times it shows the vast number of lights we are burning.

The Clock of the Long Now at London Science Museum

The Clock of the Long Now

Please click on twice to expand the small print.Text for the Clock of the Long Now


Fossil fuels have been the foundation of our modern world and all of its benefits.   Knowing no better, we have used a crude and poisonous medicine, we now have to evolve to stop the increasingly damaging side-effects.  Considering all that mankind has done, surely we can manage this too.