Two steam engines which were integral to both the UK’s industrial revolution and Greater Manchester’s textile industry joined the likes of London’s Tower Bridge and the E-Type Jaguar when they took home prestigious Engineering Heritage Awards last weekend.
The awards are organised by The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), the world’s leading independent engineering society. Based in central London, IMechE represents over 100,000 mechanical engineers in 139 countries in industries including rail, automotive, aerospace, manufacturing, energy, medicine and construction.
Established in 1984, the Engineering Heritage Awards promote artefacts, sites and landmarks of significant engineering importance. This year’s winners – Wigan’s Trencherfield Mill Engine and Rochdale’s Ellenroad Mill Engine – according to John Wood, Chairman of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Engineering Heritage Awards were ‘very worthy winners’.
“These awards are testament to the hard work of the Wigan Museum, Wigan Council, the Ellenroad Trust and Ellenroad Museum in restoring and maintaining these engines so that future generations can continue to enjoy learning and being inspired by our industrial heritage,” said Engineering Heritage Awards chair John Wood.
The Trencherfield Mill engine was deemed worthy of the award due to its unique and historic value.
It is the only known four-cylinder, twin tandem, triple expansion steam condensing engine in the world still located in its original setting, complete with working rope-race.
Operated by steam, it was one of the biggest engines to be manufactured by John & Edward Wood Engineers of Bolton.
Built in 1907, the steam engine produced 2,500 horsepower and drove a 26-foot flywheel with 54 ropes connected to hundreds spinning machines on all four floors.
The Ellenroad Mill Engine was recognised due to the fact that it is the only working example of the horizontal tandem compound steam engines that powered the largest Lancashire mills in the 1890s and early 1900s.
Built by J&W McNaught of Rochdale in 1892, and rebuilt by Clayton, Goodfellow & Co of Blackburn in 1920, it was originally designed to produce 2,650 horsepower, and regularly produced 3,000 horsepower, driving all 122,000 spindles from a 28-foot flywheel weighing 80 tons at the Ellenroad Mill. It is recognised as the world’s largest surviving working Mill Engine.
The Ellenroad mill closed in 1982, and although the main buildings were demolished, the engine house, complete with steam engine and boiler house, was retained. The engine is still in its original house and is powered by one of the few remaining 1920 Lancashire boilers.
The Ellenroad Engine has already been granted a scheduled monument status, which is awarded to nationally important archaeological sites or historic buildings and gives protection against unauthorized change.
Three Australian projects have previously won Engineering Heritage Awards.
The Boulton and Watt Engine from the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney is the oldest rotative steam engine in the world. Built in 1785, it powered Whitbread’s London Brewery until 1887. James Watt demonstrated this engine to King George III when he visited the brewery in 1787. This engine marks the start of mass industrialisation and the exponential increase in our use of fossil fuel.
Locomotive No.1, also located at the Powerhouse Museum,is the oldest surviving steam locomotive in Australia. Built by Robert Stephenson & Co. in 1854, it is the only locomotive designed by James McConnell, one of the founders of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, to have been preserved. Locomotive No.1 symbolises the transformation of social, industrial and commercial life in New South Wales through British railway technology.
Finally, the Humphrey Pump at Cobdogla Irrigation Museum in South Australia is a four-stroke engine with no pistons or crankshaft, Humphrey’s ingenious invention patented in 1906 acts directly upon the water it pumps. The gas-fuelled engine, built by William Beardmore & Co., served Cobdogla from 1927 to 1965. Restored in 1985, it is the only working Humphrey Pump in the world.