#450 – Samsung Galaxy S7 Shoot – Crossness Pumping Station 3

And so down into the basement….

Well actually it’s not really a basement as such. Four triple expansion compound steam engines were installed into a new building adjacent to the original one in 1897 to provide additional pumping capacity, but these were removed not long after in 1913 and replaced with Crossley diesels.The diesel engines were installed below the original floor level of the triple expansion engines in what amounts to a huge pit.

And so ended my brief time as a professional photographer! It was 4.00 on Friday afternon and I was south east of London on the banks of the Thames, watching ocean going ships going up the river – along way from the sun drenched lowlands of Chorley where I live. Time to battle my way through London to Euston – the gateway t’north.



One of the large diesel engines. The huge pipe to the right is a sewage pipe.


A sewage pump, made by Gwynnes, a long defunct London engineering company.


Can’t remember exactly what this was, but it was manufactured by Alldays and Onions of Birmingham.


I saw this as being a big rusty industrial elephant – can you see the two eyes above the ‘trunk’?20160311_143309-Edit-10620160311_143348-Edit-107

The internet doesn’t know much about the Light Production Company, alas.


Down in the pit


Panoramic view of the giant sewage pipe.


A rather old Health & Safety sign.


#449 – Samsung Galaxy S7 Shoot – Crossness Pumping Station 2


Beam engines – f***ing big beam engines at that. Crossness is home to four huge beam engines – Victoria, Prince Consort, Albert Edward (the Prince of Wales) and Alexandra (the Princess of Wales). Prince Consort has been restored to full working condition and Prince Consort is now being worked on. At the other end of the building, Albert Edward and Alexandra lie unrestored and that is where I focused my attention.






I loved this beautifully painted wrought ironwork, and the contrast it made with the silent, unrestored engines behind.20160311_140022-Edit-8020160311_140923-Edit-90

The late afternoon winter sun caught this huge wheel with a lovely colour of light.








#448 – Samsung Galaxy S7 Shoot – Crossness Pumping Station 1

Crossness Pumping Station is somewhere I’ve wanted to go for years. The magnificent Kew may have a more central location, glossy website and some giant engines, but Crossness is a marvelous mixture of wrought iron, rust and symmetry that is incomparable.

I was really blown away by the place. I trained as an engineer, I’m fascinated by history and love art and design so this place appealed to me on every possible level and could have spent all day there if we’d had time. If it wasn’t for the fact that I live 250 miles away I’d visit again!


I think this is a variation of the MBW (Metropolitan Board of Works) monogram that is seen at various locations around the works.


The unrestored end of the works.The floor here is mostly stone flags, but note the cast iron lattice floor by the flywheels and on the floor above  – more of that next week.


Sun shining through the cast iron floor and casting shadows on one of the cylinders.20160311_134126-Edit-64

One of the four 27 feet, 52 ton flywheels,


More ornamentation. I love the Victorians way of beautifully (some would say needless?) ornamentation in places that few saw, but was put there to show the pride they had in their engineering and architecture. The sewerage system and pumping station, unglamourous today, were a major step forward and a huge accomplishment and it was only right that that this was celebrated.

#423 – The secret railway…………….


Following the wander round Rhydymwyn, I was asked if I wanted to see some abandoned trains nearby. Now that’s the kind of offer that I can’t refuse, so we drove back towards Mold, parked the cars and made our way across some fields. Hidden away from view in some trees is this small collection of narrow gauge diesel engines and a standard gauge diesel shunter, sat on a length of abandoned railway track. DSC_6385-Edit

I don’t know the history of this collection but a bit of googling has showed that they belonged to a gentleman called Ian Jolly. There’s a little information here. The standard gauge Simplex appears to have been based locally at the nearby Synthite works in Mold, which was rail connected until 1983. The others I have no idea about – any information would be welcome!

DSC_6380  DSCF1955 DSCF1961 DSCF1956-Edit

#419 – Leigh Spinners

DSCF2027Sometimes, you just see a photograph materialise in front of your eye – the light meets the composition and you are in just the right place at the right time. You stop and just bring your camera to your eye and thankfully you have just the right lens on your camera (I tend to use prime lenses so I’ve either got the right lens on or not!), you snap away and then something happens – someone walks into shot, the light changes and the photograph goes away.

I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times this has happened to me – this was from Saturday at Leigh Spinners. It’s not the finished article yet as these are more or less straight out of the camera, but more to come soon!


#418 – Really Big Machines Part 2


I wrote a blog post a while back showing the library of congress images of the 50000 ton press at Wyman Gordon in Worcester, Massachusetts. I mentioned that there was a bigger one at Interforge in Issoire in France but had no pictures from my visit. However, an old postcard has turned up online, which shows how big it is.

Issoire itself is a small French town near Clermont Ferrand, with a very picturesque town centre. It is also home to a gigantic aluminium plant that was built in or before WW2 due to its location away from Northern Europe. The gigantic concrete roof of the rolling mill is several feet thick and was supposed to be bomb proof. 

Next door is the forge of Aubert and Duval who in the 1970’s built a subsidiary plant called Interforge where this enormous machine resides.

The press is used for forging aircraft parts. It’s a closed die forging process which means that the two parts of the press tool (a bit like a giant mould in the shape of the part) are slotted in and a billet of hot aluminium is then inserted and squeezed into shape. It’s a bit like a child’s plasticine press but on a giant scale.

Like all presses, there’s nearly as much below ground as above it, and the building was constructed around the press, which took a long time to assemble. It’s actually from Russia (note the Russian script on the front), which is unusual when you consider that it was built in the middle of the Cold War in the 1970’s. It is said that there is a similar press in Russia that at be rated even higher than this 75000 ton model, but that’s just rumour. It’s possible though, as this is supposed to have exceeded its official rating in the past. Given that it’s Russian, it’s probably hopelessly over-engineered, so nothing is likely to break, but I’d not want to be anywhere near if anything did go wrong…..


#388 – Steam Engines at the Bolton Steam Museum


Bolton Steam Museum is the home of the Northern Mill Engine Society, and as I last visited about 5 years ago, I was overdue a re-visit!

The society was formed in the 1960’s when mill engines were being scrapped at an alarming rate, a combination of the sudden decline of the textile industry and electrification of the remaining mills. Their current premises is a former cotton warehouse on the site of the once vast Atlas Mills complex on Bolton. The society previously occupied an engine house on the site, but when the site was sold to Morrisons supermarkets for redevelopment in the early 90’s, they were given a former cotton warehouse on the edge of the site to relocate to.

Much work was needed, but the collection of engines was moved and successfully reinstalled in the new building and it is has been open to visitors at weekends for some years now. However, the engines are only in steam on certain days of the year, so it is worth checking the society’s website beforehand.


A delightful linkage (well to my eyes). I stood for some time just watching the motion of the machine swaying ba



Flywheel in action. This was the motive force behind the mills, with ropes being attached to this wheel that would power line shafting around the mill. All this was done away with when electrification came along, as machinery could be powered locally. Was it cheaper that way? Some say that it wasn’t.


Two great Bolton engineering firms, Musgraves went in the 1920’s, but Hick Hargreaves lasted longer. Technically, they still exist, but in reality, they are now just an office on a business park – their huge works, the Soho Foundry, in Bolton closed about 10 years ago and is now, inevitably, a retail park. 

 Valve gear – impressively complex, and fascinating to watch.



Triple expansion vertical engines are more normally associated with martime applications, but were also used in some later mills.