Monday, October 19, 2009

The Blackstone Oil Engine

click photo to enlarge
A month or so ago I was standing outside the old Pumping Station at Pode Hole near Spalding, Lincolnshire. I'd passed this building a few times and noted that it appeared to have a "a bit of age about it." Pode Hole is a key location in the network of waterways that drain the Fens, standing at the confluence of the Delph Drain, the North Drove Drain, the South Drove Drain and Vernatt's Drain. It therefore comes as no surprise to find a pumping station there. In fact, it is the site of a succession of buildings that have been erected over the past two hundred years to house the pumps necessary to keep the Fenland water flowing out into The Wash and thence into the Norh Sea.

The old pumping station dates from about 1825 - the date on one of the rainwater heads - though it was modified in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is a single storey, brick building with a front consisting of two large, semi-circular blank arches, cast iron window frames and large doors. Attached to this is an extremely large white board that dates from 1876 on which is written the bye-laws of the Deeping Fen, Spalding and Pinchbeck Drainage Board. At the front there is also a keystone dated 1866. It is incorporated into a mounting block and inscribed "Sharps Bridge Keystone." For a number of years the old pumping station was the museum of the drainage authority.

As we looked at the building from afar we were invited in and were able to see some of the paraphernalia that remained. This included old ditch clearing tools, depth boards and three old engines, no longer used to power pumps, that were standing in a row. One of them caught my eye because of its fine nameplate fixed to its side. The note next to the engine read, "Blackstone Oil* Engine, Serial Number 171318, 45 h.p. at 250 r.p.m. Purchased by the Maxey Drainage Board in 1929 at a cost of £353 to drive the Holmes Turbine Pump which was installed in 1887 for £150 and was previously steam driven. The 4 foot diameter pump with applewood replaceable gear teeth ran until 1947 when it was replaced by a "temporary" Gwynnes pump still driven by the Blackstone engine. In 1955 these were superseded by the present electric station and removed to the museum in 1982."

The style, solidity, and lustre of the brass nameplate on this engine appealed to me, so I made it the subject of a photograph.

* "Oil" means diesel

photograph & text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 8mm (37mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.4
Shutter Speed: 1/30
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: -0.66 EV
Image Stabilisation: On