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Full Steam Ahead for SPACE Session

Monday, 03 November 2014

As part of the SPACE Programme, the Year 8 boys were invited to the Bolton Steam Museum for a private tour through one of the largest collections of working mill steam engines in the UK.

After lunch, the boys walked the short distance from Bolton School to the Bolton Steam Museum, accompanied by their teachers. On arrival at the Museum, the group of excited boys were ushered into the former cotton warehouse where the collection of engines is now housed.

The machinery was all in full steam especially for the boys’ visit, a treat normally reserved for Bank Holiday Steam Days! Once indoors, they were surrounded by the rumble of the engines, the smell of the oil, an of course warmth from the steam. There was a great atmosphere inside the warehouse, harking back to the 19th and early 20th centuries when these machines were used to power the industrial revolution.

A group of the Museum’s dedicated volunteers showed the boys around in groups, explaining the original function of each machine and giving the boys some background on how the engines worked.

The enormous oldest steam engine, the Crossfield Mill Beam Engine with its 12 ton 14ft diameter flywheel, was particularly impressive to see in motion. It was also great for the boys to see the speed and power of the Wasp Mill Tandem Compound, nicknamed ‘Elsie’, as this design was one of the most common for mill engines. There were also numerous smaller engines, which were no less exciting to see working. One of these was the intricate Sissons Steam Laboratory Engine, ‘Audrey’, which would have been installed in a Technical College or University for teaching purposes. This was a particularly interesting example for the boys to learn about, as it incorporates a number of features which would not normally be found together on a commercial engine. However, they were perhaps most impressed by the hissing and spitting of the Robey Cross Compound, with its visible haze of steam when it got up to high speed!

With enthusiastic and entertaining guides and a collection of twenty-nine engines, each one different and kept in working condition, this made for an interesting and educational trip.

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A volunteer shows the boys the Robey Cross Compound

A volunteer shows the boys the Robey Cross Compound

The speed of typical mill steam engine

The speed of typical mill steam engine 'Elsie' was impressive

The boys were fascinated by the Sissons Steam Laboratory Engine

The boys were fascinated by the Sissons Steam Laboratory Engine