Leafing through the pages of 'Modern Power Engineering' (1910-20ish?) I see
there are a good number of really huge engines illustrated, the largest
probably being an 8,500hp twin tandem gas engine by Cockerill. I guess all
these giants have long since succumbed to the scrap man's hammer, but what
is the largest 'vintage' engine remaining in captivity?
nickh=== Posted with Qusnetsoft NewsReader 184.108.40.206
but what is the largest 'vintage' engine remaining in captivity?
I'm involved with looking after a 3000hp mill engine at Ellenroad,
Rochdale. That power at 58.5 rpm needed 3000tons of brickwork to hold
it down. Our flywheel weighs in at 85 tons!
Unfortunately for this site our fire is external, but we are
The two that occur to me are the recently installed straight-eight Allen at
Internal Fire (anyone know the hp?) and the
ex-Ealing Studio Ruston-Hornsby at the Anson, which is bigger AFAIR, though I
don't think it's running yet. I wouldn't
describe either of them as giants, though, they're in the hundreds, not
thousands, of horsepower class.
I guess there will be some significant lumps across the pond at Coolspring.
hundreds or thousands still in operation, nylands, fiats, you name it,
just look for any ship with a low speed direct coupled diesel with
crossheads, prolly two strokes too, metre plus bores not uncommon
About 25 miles from here is a power plant with five 6,864 horsepower
Hamilton MAN engines. They're used for backup generation and rarely
run. A couple months ago I was thrilled to be invited to a special
event where they would fire one of the engines up for us. The
spectacle was incredible.
Here's a few pictures I took years ago.
La Habra, California
Arthur's comment on Coolspring reminds me ...
For anyone wanting to see giants still occasionally in action,
there is an amazing pumping station called Heath Station
near to Coolspring (30 mins by car?). I visited it in '99, &
was treated to an awe-inspiring sight.
Facts are slipping away in my ancient brain, but I seem to
remember that there were 8 enormous compound horizontal
engines (each 2-20x14.5x36), made by Snow Steam Pump
Works, Buffalo NY. Of the 8, 3 were running on the evening
we went. I think the owners (a water utility) put on a special
show for folk at the Coolsping Fall event.
Each of these engines + pump must have been well over 40
feet in length. I know it was a real problem to photograph
anything much. because of their sheer bulk. Lack of wide
angle lens, no tripod & little light didn't help much either!.
I do have a few general views, amongst many detail pix.
In the corner was a modern large Ingersoll Rand diesel.
Think it was a V12, & did the work that all 8 of the others
originally undertook. There seemed a real risk that the
Snows were doomed, at least in their original location.
Delightful as they were singly, splitting up the set would
destroy a quite wonderful original installation.
The whole pumping station was immaculate. One vivid
memory was crawling down under the engines into a
subterranean vault that had a huge selection of spares.
Wonderful photo opportunity, but date limits meant I
didn't use any for Martin's competition!
"MatSav" wrote >
Never been there, but I do go to Kew Bridge pumping station every year for
the stirling engine gathering. As you say though, these focus on hot fog,
'Infernal Combustion' never seems to have generated the same sort of
enthusiasm. Many of the largest static IC engines were employed in
electricity generation or blast furnace blowing, and I guess there just
wasn't the interest in preservation when they became redundant.
The 'heritage' industry is pretty selective about which bits of our past it
chooses to romanticise, providing the casual punter with a heavily edited
version of history.
Not too suprising. Worth reflecting on why, to help the future.
Compare some of the truly wonderful steam cathedrals (Leicester,
Brighton, Kew Bridge, Kempton) with your average IC power house.
One was usually immaculate, contained superb architecture, & had
visually appealing large bits that moved slowly. The other was often
a dirty, oil-stained, noisy brick shed. I know which evoked British
greatness & all that jazz ...... & was most likely to inspire
enthusiasts (& councils!) to get stuck in for preservation.
The most splendid thing about the big hot fog installations that
survive is that you do have machines + their original environment,
& both are appealing. We have very few original large ic engine
installations in situ, more's the pity. Even fewer are open to the
public. Modern ic collections like Internal Fire are now creating
simulated environments, which is the right thing to do to spark
the imagination of youngsters.
Another problem has been that many early ic engine houses are
still in use with later engines, or other purposes. They didn't have
specific architectural interest that could get them listed, & they
Some of the hot fog buildings survived because they were so
obviously visually striking, even to the non-addict, & because
their sheer scale made them less easily economically usable
for other purposes. May have laid silent for decades but, thankfully,
some are now reborn.
Add the fact that some of those buildings were geographically
separated from their users, & they had more chance of rebirth, as
they had car park potential etc. If an ic shed was in the middle of
some industrial complex to shorten belt runs etc, chances were
that few industrial companies would be prepared to lose that useful
space, nor to have the public literally in their back yard (& that's
before the lunatic HSA days!). Folk like Bass were a rare exception.
This is equally true for most of the smaller hot fog installations,
where again it was usual to have the engine(s) as close as
possible to production.
Nowadays utility companies owning large IC installations that
are the natural successors to the steam cathedrals are driven
by hard, cold, economics. Most shareholders prefer divis &
capital growth to empty, non-productive buildings. Many councils
will slap taxes on unused buildings. Scrap can be worth money.
Land can be more worth much more money. All in all, a pretty
bleak outlook for the preservation of many large installations
in situ ............
It's been sad how recently rare/large engines in ships have just
been broken up, even when owned by museums (eg steam tug
at Cardiff a couple of years back). Let's hope some survive, even
'tho they do need space.
The events have yet to be up-tarted but the dates are always the first
Sunday in the month.
M62, jnc 21, big chimney.
We had a good news, bad news with the steeplejacks yesterday. The
chimney only needs pointing But the rope-race roof is collapsing. Ho
Hum, that explains the drips then!