Crofton Beam Engines is a living industrial heritage site that maintains the early power of steam to extract water from the ground and pump it to the highest point of the Kennet and Avon Canal. As it was Heritage weekend the usual entrance fee was waived and it was FREE to get in, with regular guided tours for people to look inside the engine house.
Crofton is the oldest static steam engine in the world with an 28m brick-built chimney and the engine house is impressive in the beautiful surrounding Wiltshire countryside.
The guide took us to each part of the engine house and explained in detail how every part of the engine works together to perform its job. There is also a small display of smaller industrial steam engines.
You may be surprised to know, because of the nature of the building, that most of the tour was accessible with just a bit tight squeeze and two steps to get in and out.
There are two steam engines in the building, and they are both powered by the same Lancashire boiler. A Lancashire boiler has two fire boxes. Originally there were two boilers but one of them failed its ‘boiler ticket’ and has been cut open to show its innards. The space has also been used for the café and shop. The café served a selection of sandwiches, pasties, cakes, and toasties.
Inside the café there was a small green door which when you opened it led down some steps into the underworld where there was the well which is used to extract the water out of the ground.
Nowadays the steam engines only run on selected weekends so when they are not running the job of pumping the water into the canal is done by an electric pump. But when they run the engine it still does the job it was built for over 100 years ago demonstrating the might of industrial steam power at work.