Thursday, May 20, 2010
Kempton Great Engines - 16 May 2010
It seems as though it would be impossible to run out of new places to visit in London. This weekend we made two new discoveries, of an annual event on Saturday, and a pumping station, nearly 100 years old, on Sunday when we discovered the Kempton Great Engines. Built in the art deco era, this handsome building, totally lined with glazed bricks inside, has had one of the great steam engines restored to working condition, and Sunday was of the 14 steaming days in the year. The two great engines were built to pump drinking water to London, and the guided tour, was a fascinating look at the technology developed to cope with this task. Each engine is 62ft, or 4 storeys, tall and not only are the engines on a large scale, some of the spanners used in their construction and maintenance take three men to lift them.
The engines were designed and built in the north, tested and then disassembled into numbered parts each of which weighed a maximum of 16 tons and could fit into a standard railway wagon of the time. The work and expertise that went into the engines is quite remarkable considering that, possibly, only 4 were made. They served over 50 years until the 1980s and were more efficient than the turbine driven centrifugal pumps that were installed to replace them.
Ultimately progress passed them by and instead of 140 men the site now employes 14 men, electric pumps and electronic controls, all incredibly boring compared to the grandeur of these great behemoths of the steam age.