Collection History

How the collection started...

This website details a collection of stationary steam pumps.

My collection of steam pumps and interest in preservation was inspired by my career. In 1970 I was appointed Technical Officer at the Caerphilly Tar Works in South Wales and continued to work my way up the career ladder to become Plant Manager in 1976. However in 1982 the industry started its gradual decline with plant capacity reduced and some redundancies as NCB coke works started to close, mainly because the advent of natural gas for heating, replacing coal gas and solid fuels. Caerphilly soon became a storage and holding site for surplus equipment including many steam pumps. Tar distillation at Caerphilly finally ceased at the end of 1985 after 47 years (since 1938), but liquid tar products for the construction industry continued to be made at the tar works site.

In 1988 I obtained permission to sell redundant steam pumps on behalf of the NCB at scrap prices. Many pumps were purchased by museums and individuals and the levels of interest surprised me in to securing some for myself. After initial modest purchases such as a 3x2x3 Worthington-Simpson duplex ex-St.Anthonys Tar works and a 4x2x4 Joseph Evans Reliable flywheel pump No.26900, which was bought for 10 from the scrap merchant demolishing Bedwas coke works in 1988, my collection very quickly escalated. Over 30 pumps were saved, mainly of Joseph Evans manufacture and all were stored in the empty wagon repair shop at Caerphilly Tar Plant, along with many spares, lubricators, governors and other bits and pieces. Finally I was made redundant in June 1989 and started a new job in Essex a few weeks later.

I found common interest with new colleagues at Basildon and managed to relocate three lorry loads of pumps and spares to Basildon from the former wagon repair shop at Caerphilly during 1991. I started to restore a couple of Joseph Evans pumps and along with Norman Heath a colleague at Basildon, submitted an article for Old Glory in 1994 that was subsequently published. This caused much interest and created the initial contact with a small group of engineers who had formed a club in Pitsea, restoring steam engines and other industrial machinery. In 1994 this group became the founder membership for the Museum of Power and we soon outgrew the small premises at Pitsea and after much searching, moved into the Essex & Suffolk Water Company's former steam pumping station at Langford, near Maldon, Essex. Here the initial collection of industrial steam pumps was displayed, with examples of Joseph Evans being in the majority all running on compressed air. The collection slowly grew over the years with similar pumps stored off site as they become available and acquired from other sources. With retirement rapidly approaching my wife and I decided to move to Southern England to be nearer family and in January 2011 we moved to a small village near Salisbury in Wiltshire.

In 2018 we decided to "thin" down the collection and have since relocated all the larger exhibits, (those marked with a hash #) to the Museum of Power, Internal Fire, Tanygroes near Aberporth in West Wales. The Museum's long term proposal being to expand their steam halls to accommodate this part of the collection.

The total collection now accounts for nearly 50 industrial steam pumps and engines, with half being Joseph Evans examples, others include Worthington Simpson of Newark, Lee Howl of Tipton, Mumford of Colchester, Weirs of Glasgow and Readers of Nottingham. I am not a dealer/supplier or manufacturer but am extremely interested in the preservation of steam pumps and associated equipment for the benefit of future generations. If anyone would like to contact me (see homepage) regarding such items I would be delighted to hear from and assist you.

Stephen Smith

January 2020