ASME-Landmark:Kew Bridge Cornish Beam Engines


The London Museum of Water and Steam is home to five beam engines, original to the site, which represent the progressive development of the Cornish-cycle steam engine for waterworks service from 1820 to 1869. The Cornish engine was developed to pump water from mines in the early 19th century and some of the finest examples were built for waterworks, like those at Kew Bridge. Cornish engines do not have rotating parts, such as a flywheel, but rather are controlled by piston movement and the opening and closing of valves. In simple terms, steam depresses the piston and raises the plunger and weight box, and on the return stroke, the plunger descends under gravity, displacing water into the main. During the period represented at the Kew Bridge museum, cylinder diameter increased from 65 to 100 inches.

Key artifacts at the museum include a Boulton & Watt engine built in 1820; a Maudslay engine built in 1838; a Grand Junction 90-inch engine built by Sandys Carne & Vivian of Copperhouse Foundry in 1846; a Bull engine built by Harvey & Co., Hayle, in 1856; and a 100-inch engine built by Harvey & Co., Hayle, in 1869, one of the four largest such machines remaining in existence.

The museum provides some of the very best examples of Victorian engineering as well as important water supply artifacts, including compound vertical rotative, horizontal compound, and other steam engines. Diesel and electric pumps are also on display. See ASME website for more information