Open House London Weekend: Steaming at the Beam Engine Museum

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The magnificent Beam Engine that pumped the typhoid out of Tottenham
The magnificent Beam Engine that pumped the typhoid out of Tottenham
Saturday, 21 September 2013 - 11:00am to Sunday, 22 September 2013 - 5:00pm

Grade II listed Victorian industrial building (1886) set within a park and next to the River Lea, with the original Wood Bros beam pumping engine in situ, as originally installed. Recently restored Engine and Engine House.

Engine steaming 1pm-1.45pm, 2.30pm-3.15pm and 4pm-4.45pm, sessions preceded by an introduction on the history of site and engine. Display panels on development of sanitation in Victorian times and later and its affect on improving public health, particularly in densely populated urban areas.

The Markfield Beam Engine and Museum is housed in its original Grade II listed Engine House in the former sewage treatment works for Tottenham which now forms part of Markfield Park.

The principal exhibit is the Wood Bros. Beam Steam Pumping Engine of 1886.

The Engine has been restored and can be seen operating under steam power on designated days. The Engine House also has been renovated and there is now a Cafe on site.

The Engine
This remarkable engine was built by Wood Brothers, of Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire, between 1886 and 1888. It was commissioned on the 12th July 1888. It saw continuous duty from that time to around 1905, when it was relegated to standby duty for storm water pumping.

It is a free-standing engine of the compound rotative type and is believed to be the last engine produced by Wood Bros. and the only surviving eight column engine in situ. The engine has two cylinders arranged to be double acting and compound.

The engine is rated at one-hundred horsepower and drives two pumps, of the plunger type. Each pump was capable of moving two million gallons-per-day, when the engine was running at sixteen revolutions per minute. The pumps are each twenty-six inches diameter and fifty-one inch stroke. Neither pump can be isolated from the other.

The engine is constructed within its own base and eight column framework to make it independent of the building structure, except at the point where the end of the flywheel axle bearing is supported within a cast iron frame, built into the wall of the engine house. The base casting is supported on a solid brickwork structure independent of the walls of the building.

The flywheel is twenty-seven feet in diameter and weighs approximately seventeen tons. The spokes are of solid cast iron and the rim is of hollow section, also of cast-iron. It is believed that the intention was to fill the rim sections with concrete to increase the weight and potential momentum.

The eight supporting columns are of the Doric style, in hollow cast-iron, and the general design of decoration to the structure, notably the use of the acanthus leaf motif, follows the "only the best" attitude of the Local Councils of the day.

The engine is rated at one-hundred horsepower and drives two pumps, of the plunger type. Each pump was capable of moving two million gallons-per-day, when the engine was running at sixteen revolutions per minute. The pumps are each twenty-six inches diameter and fifty-one inch stroke. Neither pump can be isolated from the other.

The engine is constructed within its own base and eight column framework to make it independent of the building structure, except at the point where the end of the flywheel axle bearing is supported within a cast iron frame, built into the wall of the engine house. The base casting is supported on a solid brickwork structure independent of the walls of the building.

The beam itself stands seventeen feet above floor level and is almost twentyone feet in length. It pivots on two huge bearings that are lubricated by small oil reservoirs above, as are all the bearings attached to the beam. The flywheel bearings and those driving the valve timing gear shafts are lubricated by the small self-feeding glass reservoirs.

When used to pump sewage, the engine consumed some four hundredweight (200 kilos) of coal per hour. There were two driver/mechanics to operate the engine who lived in two cottages on the site, tied to their employment.

The engine has a speed governor of the centrifugal type, developed by James Watt around 1788, to control the running speed.

Each cylinder piston rod, and the water/air pump are joined by a series of rods, forming a parallel motion to the beam. This parallel motion linkage, also invented by James Watt in 1784, converts the curvilinear motion of the beam into straight-line motion for the piston rods.

The engine uses the double-expansion compound system, developed by Arthur Woolf around 1804, whereby the steam is first let into a high-pressure cylinder, where it is allowed to expend half its pressure before being let into the low pressure cylinder, to do further work before being condensed. This system allows for smooth running at minimal fuel consumption.

The flywheel bearings and the bearings for the valve timing gear shafts are lubricated by small self feeding glass reservoirs.

The Site
The Markfield Sewage Works Site falls within the curtilage of the Lee Valley Regional Park and consists of the remains of the Tottenham and Wood Green sewage treatment works and pumping station. The site was operational for over one hundred years until 1964, when all the incoming sewers were diverted to the extended East Middlesex Works at Deephams.

Major features remaining of the old sewage works include the concrete walls of the original settlement tanks and the filter beds, and the pumping houses . One of these contains the Beam Pumping Engine (Engine House No.2).

It is bounded by the railway track to the north, the Markfield Recreation ground to the south and west, while the River Lee Navigation forms the eastern boundary. The area of the site is approximately 2.5 hectares.

The Engine Houses and the Beam Engine were listed Grade II by English Heritage. The site is also registered as Metropolitan Open Land.