Beam Engine

Contributed by East Lothian Museums

This object is huge and is the only one in the world still in its original setting. In 1874, the Prestongrange Coal and Iron Company bought this second-hand steam-powered Cornish Beam Engine to tackle the problem of flooding. This machine had already worked at four different mines in the south west of England.

Looking up at the end of the great beam, you can clearly read the name of its maker, Harvey and Company and the date it was cast. Installation was no mean feat: the main engine weighed thirty tons. The engine house was built first and used to hoist the engine into place. Although not noticeable from the outside, the front wall is nearly seven feet thick in order to withstand the stresses of the working machine. The Beam Engine was capable of pumping out 2960 litres of water a minute which works out at 4.5 million litres a day! It shows the true ingenuity of the Victorians - they wouldn't let anything stop them from going on with industrial expansion!

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