Friday, 14 June 2013

Crofton, the oldest engines in the world.

What a day it was yesterday, howling gale and horizontal rain, we stayed put. We can take a joke with the best of them but that was extracting the Michael. This morning was a vast improvement, for a moment we actually saw a big light in the sky, but they soon turned it off. The best I can say is that it didn't rain as we progressed to Crofton. There was only one boat moored so we carefully selected a spot.

The pound is infested with geese who merrily use the bank indiscriminately as a toilet, hence the need to be careful on mooring.

On the slope above the canal stands the Crofton pumping station, home to the oldest steam engines in the world that are still performing their original function, albeit only on summer bank holidays. The oldest of the two engines is a Boulton and Watt beam engine of 1812 vintage. To put it simply, the engine was installed at the same time as Napoleon was heading for Moscow. The other is a comparative youngster, only dating from 1846. The pumps were needed to move water from Wilton Water, an artificial lake beside the canal,

up to the summit level which has no natural water supply. Both engines soldiered on until 1952 and the older one was used spasmodically until 1959 when the chimney had deteriorated so much that they had to remove the top thirty six feet, this caused a loss of draught so the boiler could no longer raise steam. In 1968 the pumping station was purchased by the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust for £75 and in 1970 the Boulton and Watt engine was steamed for the first time in twelve years. Now the chimney has been restored to its original magnificent stature and both engines are regularly in action. The mundane task of supplying the summit is now taken care of by electric pumps, boring but efficient.

The Lancashire boiler that supplies the steam, built at the turn of the 20thC at Swindon Great Western Railway works.


I suppose robust is the best word to describe the engineering.

The Wiltshire countryside stretches off into the distance

and the railway and canal lie just below the site.
Tomorrow I'm supposed to be taking the grandsons to Swindon Railway Museum.

Watch this space............

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