Over the past 30 years the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) has granted some 115 Engineering Heritage Awards (EHA) to celebrate the essential contribution of mechanical engineering to our past and present. We believe that the EHA is the most prestigious award that an industrial heritage museum can achieve so it was with great pride that we learned that the Museum’s triple-expansion steam engine of 1895 is to be the latest recipient.
To celebrate the presentation of this prestigious award the Trustees have agreed that on Sunday 18th March 2018 the Waterworks Museum will be open with all engines and pumps working (in-steam) with FREE ENTRY. The Museum will be open between 12-4pm. The IMechE presentation will be made at 2pm. View Heritage Award 2018 poster
The Worth Mackenzie triple-expansion steam engine was installed in 1895 to replace two ageing beam engines, which had reached the end of their useful lives. The new engine fulfilled two functions. It pumped untreated water from the River Wye to the water-treatment works at the rate of one million gallons every twelve hours, and re-pumped treated water to a water tower tank. From there the water was distributed to Hereford City and the immediate surrounding areas.
The engine was at the forefront of steam engine design at the time and evoked a most complimentary article in the Engineer Magazine. With its advanced valve gear, and the inclusion of a condenser, the engine was economic to run and worked for many years until overtaken by more modern technology in the form of the electric motor. Ironically the successor electric motor pumps failed during an inundating flood in the 1950s and the triple-expansion engine was brought back into service for a short and final time.
In 1960 the Herefordshire Water Board was formed, incorporating almost all the large and small water undertakings in the county. The Chairman, Stephen Southall, having seen the Hereford Water Pumping Station and the magnificent triple-expansion steam engine lying idle and draped in cobwebs, resolved that it should become a museum dedicated to the story of drinking water. It took a great deal of time, skill and effort for volunteers to bring the triple-expansion engine, and others on site, back to working order.
The Museum was opened in 1974 by Lord Brecon and, with Stephen Southall as Chairman, went on to become a superb industrial-heritage site and visitor attraction. The Museum has developed in many ways over the intervening years but at its heart remains this remarkable engine, which stands two floors high. People visit from all over the world to see what is the oldest triple-expansion steam engine still working.
This historic engine helped to fulfil Stephen Southall’s’ dream of a water-based museum in Hereford and exemplifies in good measure the tenets of the IMechE Award for the contribution of mechanical engineering to our past and present.