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Elsecar Newcomen-type Engine
Elsecar, South Yorkshire, UK
associated engineer
John Bargh
date  1794 - 1795
era  Georgian  |  category  Steam Engine or Locomotive  |  reference  SK386999
ICE reference number  HEW 220
The steam-driven atmospheric pumping engine at Elsecar is unique in that it remains in its original engine house on the spot where it was built, more than 200 years ago. It is an engine of the type invented by Thomas Newcomen in 1712. Though in disrepair at the time of writing (mid 2012), there are plans to restore it.
John Bargh of Chesterfield in Derbyshire, designed this engine, which is similar to those invented by Thomas Newcomen (1663/4-1729). It was erected at Elsecar New Colliery, owned by the fourth Earl Fitzwilliam (1748-1833), to pump water out of the workings in the Barnsley coal seam some 37m down.
The engine is housed in a three-storey masonry building with stone quoins — erroneously dated 1787 — and with a pitched slate roof and a chimney at either end. The engine house cost £167 19s 3d, and the engine £1,065 (total £1,232.96, or almost £100,000 at 2010 prices). The building was completed in July 1795 and the engine operational by September of that year.
The engine had a timber rocking beam, jutting out from the top storey of the west side of the building. Chains connected the beam ends to the pump rods and piston. The piston ran inside a 1.07m diameter cast iron cylinder, and worked at 6-8 strokes per minute.
In 1801, the cylinder was replaced by a larger one, 1.22m in diameter with a 1.52m stroke. In 1836, the beam was replaced by a cast iron beam 7.3m long and 1.2m wide in the centre. At the same time, parallel motion was fitted to both ends of the beam and the engine was fitted with drop valves. Such modifications were common on waterworks engines but unusual on mine engines.
In this modified form, the engine worked continuously until 1923, pumping up to 2,725 litres per minute. Electric pumps were installed at the colliery in 1923 and the engine was stopped. It was back in service five years later when flooding overpowered the electric pumps, and it was used for emergencies into the 1930s.
The engine was kept on standby until 1953, when it accidentally over-stroked, cracking the base of the cylinder. It hasn’t worked since. The boiler was later taken out for restoration and the pump rods have been removed — modern weights now balance the beam.
The Elsecar engine has been a Scheduled Ancient Monument since 1972. In 1988, it was bought by Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council. A project to restore the engine has been approved.
Contractor: Longden, Chambers & Newton, Thorncliffe
Contractor: John Darwin & Co, Sheffield
Contractor: John Booth & Co, Park Iron Works, Preston
Research: ECPK
bibliography
"The Steam Engine of Thomas Newcomen" by L.T.C. Rolt and J.S. Allen, first published 1977, Landmark Publishing, Ashbourne, second revised edition 1997
www.aditnow.co.uk
www.elsecar-heritage-centre.co.uk
www.hlf.org.uk
www.icevirtuallibrary.com
www.pastscape.org.uk
www.stationarysteamengines.co.uk
www.ukminingremains.co.uk
reference sources   CEH North
Location

Elsecar Newcomen-type Engine