Beam engines to the rescue! Steam power to keep canal full this Easter

Written by Peter Davison.

A steam train runs past Crofton Beam EnginesA steam train runs past Crofton Beam EnginesTwo hundred year old technology will keep the water levels in the Kennet and Avon canal topped-up this Easter, after the modern electrical system failed.

The 204-year-old Boulton and Watt beam engine, and its 170-year-old Harvey & Co sister, will be pumping water 1.6km to the summit of the Kennet and Avon Canal after the electric pumps that have been doing the job since 1958 broke down.

Easter weekend is a particularly important one for the canal: the Devizes to Westminster International Canoe Race starts tomorrow (Good Friday).

Peter Turvey, chairman of the Kennet & Avon Canal Trust, Crofton Branch told Marlborough News Online that this is not the first time the steam-driven engines have come to the rescue.

“A few years ago the pumps failed and the old engines kept the canal in water for a week,” he said.

Crofton Pumping Station is a popular tourist attraction, and was due to be ‘in steam’ over the Easter weekend.

It houses the oldest working beam engine in the world that – luckily for canal users – is still capable of doing the job for which it was installed.