Steam engines and windmills

On bank holiday Monday, I met up with my niece, her husband and my great-niece and we went to visit Crofton Beam Engines and Wilton Windmill.   This was my idea as I wanted to go and thought they might like to come as well.  Both attractions are about half way between our respective homes so we had similar driving times to get there.

We started at the Beam Engines as they have a car park and other facilities and it was a “steaming day”.  The beam engines were/are used to pump water for the highest point of that part of the Kennet and Avon canal and one is apparently the oldest working beam engine still in its original place.  (They pump the water using an electric pump  when the beam engines are not steaming.)

Boilers are fired by coal.

Boilers

Boilers

They need a person to shovel the coal – just like the fireman in a steam train.

Shovelling coal

Shovelling coal

The boilers heat the water to produce steam which then moves the piston in the cylinder.

Cylinder with rod from piston

Cylinder with rod from piston

The piston then works the beam which is pivoted so the other side goes down the well to pull up the water.

Beams from two engines, side by side.

Beams from two engines, side by side.

There are, of course various knobs and levers which have to be watched to keep the pressure and other parts working smoothly.

Knobs and levers!

Knobs and levers!  The man watching them hid from the photo….

After we had a good look round, seen both of the beam engines working and looked at the displays outside we went through the tunnel under the railway line to the canal.  We spent some time watching the boats going through the locks and helping a bit.

Helping work the lock

Helping work the lock

We then walked up to the Swan Inn at Wilton for lunch, passing Wilton Water on the way.

There was a pair of swans and 3 cygnets on Wilton Water

There was a pair of swans and 3 cygnets on Wilton Water

We enjoyed our lunch at the pub (well, I did so I hope the others did too!) and we then walked on to Wilton Windmill.

Wilton Windmill

Wilton Windmill

We had a tour of this – several steep wooden staircases to go up too reach the top!  The windmill is the only working windmill in Wessex (or so they say) but in fact it hadn’t worked since March as it needs 15mph winds and they hadn’t been that strong.  The top part rotates so that the sails will face the wind.

One of the wheels which enables the top to rotate.

One of the wheels which enables the top to rotate.

The sails are attached to a large cog wheel……

Shaft from sails to large cog wheel

Shaft from sails to large cog wheel

….which interlocks with a smaller cog wheel to turn the vertical shaft to turn the mill stone.

Interlocking cogs wheels.

Interlocking cog wheels.

The cogs are actually wooden so they don’t create sparks which could cause a fire and because they are then easily replaced.  Going down a floor we saw the hopper where the grain is poured.

Hopper where grain is poured

Hopper where grain is poured

Going down another floor we saw where it comes out and is fed to the stones.

Grain arrives to be fed to the stones

Grain arrives to be fed to the stones

The stones were not working, of course, as it was too dangerous with lots of people around.

The stones

The stones

There were several gadgets – bits of string and strips of material for example – to make the miller’s life easier so he didn’t have to keep going up and down the steps.  It was also necessary to make sure the grain was ground finely enough, but not too fine – especially as it can easily catch fire if it is very fine.  We went out onto the balcony running round the windmill to see the sails and how they are opened and close to catch the wind.

One sail from the balcony.

One sail from the balcony.

It was then time to walk back the way we had come and go home.

On the way back my great-niece saw and showed us where there was a wild bees nest and we could see all the bees coming out.  That was an added bonus!

So?  I had a good day out.  Lots of “industrial heritage” with lots to see and learn and the addition of good company to share it with and a good meal.  I hope the others enjoyed it too!

 

 

 

 

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