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Crossness Pumping Station Model Engineering Day 2012

Report by Chris Warrell

Central octagon

Central octagon

SELMEC is constantly making quite a name for itself; an impressed (or possibly impressionable) man from the Crossness Engines Trust saw our Meccano Show last year and thought we'd be perfect for one of their steaming days. Sunday 24th June (the day after our summer meeting, so that's dedication for you!) saw ten of us turn up to their Model Engineering themed event.

Unlike at Kew Bridge Steam Museum, this museum is open only on about half a dozen specific days throughout the year, so you can't just turn up on the off-chance that they're open. It's at the back of beyond as well, being on the banks of the Thames, hidden behind the sprawling Thamesmead town. Luckily it's well signposted from the immediate surrounding area, but there's no regular bus service. (They do run a shuttle bus to and from Abbey Wood station on these days during the hours open to the public. Not much use if you have to arrive before the public though.)

Tim Surtell, his mum Felicity and I arrived with Ralph and Sue Laughton (in both their car and the Transit!) about the same time as Brian Elvidge and Douglas Windibank so there were plenty of us to sort out the tables into an island, with us in the middle, rather than the reverse way that the tables had been laid out. My initial request for six tables was increased to nine a few days beforehand, and we had no trouble filling them with our customary wide selection of models.

We, along with the Erith Model Railway Society, some live steam models, and the Falconwood Transport and Military Bookshop, were located in the Boiler Room. I seem to remember that this was a cramped area with a grotty broken concrete floor. Not any more: it's now very light and airy with a light grey painted floor, a new toilet block and stairs down to a new cafe which was serving a wide range of refreshments.

The Crossness Pumping Station was built by Sir Joseph Bazalgette as part of Victorian London's main sewerage system. It was officially opened by the Prince of Wales in April 1865.

The Boiler House led to the Grade 1 listed Beam Engine House. It is certainly the star of the show, no matter what complex Meccano models we can try and build. It is an almost cathedral-like structure built in the Romanesque style and features some spectacular ornamental Victorian cast ironwork, with various details, such as fruit and leaves, being picked out in different colours. It also contains the four original pumping engines (although the cylinders were upgraded in 1901), which are possibly the largest remaining rotative beam engines in the world, with 52 ton flywheels and 47 ton beams.

Beam engine house
Beam engine house

Main beam floor
Main beam floor

The Crossness Engines Trust, a registered charity which was set up in 1987, has been restoring the installation. So far, all the restoration work has been done entirely by unpaid volunteers.

There was a good flow of visitors past out stand, and everyone agreed what a fantastic day it was. All being well, we'll be invited back next year.

Members attending the event were as follows:

Jim Arthur — Barring engine; 105mm gun and Ferris wheel.

Adrian AshfordRoundabout.

Cathy ClaydonBren gun carrier; 25 pound field gun and VW Beetle.

Brian Elvidge points visitors in the right direction
Brian Elvidge points visitors in the right direction

Brian ElvidgeWatt's beam engine and Temsi transport lorry.

John GayLeyland fire engine and steam road loco.

Ralph and Sue Laughton — Pre-war clock; old Meccano loom and 1970s dealer's display windmill.

Ralph Laughton shows off his new loom
Ralph Laughton shows off his new loom

Tim SurtellThe Lightning Leap game; The Spanish Knight; Van Gogh's "Sunflowers" and Olympic swimming pool.

Chris WarrellHR1 tramcar; Three-wheeled car; Bugatti car; bus shelter; small robots; two small railway breakdown cranes and drum kit.

Douglas Windibank — Troop carrier; field gun and limber; tank; robot and nano robot; Harley Davidson motorcycle; three Space Chaos models; Tin Tin seaplane; bi-plane; Sopwith Camel; Red Arrow; glider; turbo race car and go kart; pull back and go drag racer and a vintage lorry.

Douglas Windibank and John Gay wonder if the purple VW Beetle matches the green of the army vehicles
Douglas Windibank and John Gay wonder if the purple VW Beetle matches the green of the army vehicles


» This article appeared in the September 2012 issue of SELMEC News.

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