Worlds oldest steam engine
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  1. #1
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    Is this the engine that is in the main front hall of the Science Museum in London? If so, I've looked at it several times. It's really quite amazing, especially when you consider that it was built during the American Revolution...I think it is the second Watt engine erected - the first having been lost long ago. But, there is also a Newcomen engine believed to have been built around 1725 extant which would make it 50 years older than the Smethwick engine.

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    Nothing new under the sun:

    File:Aeolipile illustration.png - Wikipedia

    Aeolipile - Wikipedia

    Around the turn of the century - between BC and AD, that is!

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    I'm pretty sure the world's oldest steam engine was designed by Hero of Alexandria. It was a kind of turbine.

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    It's in Birmingham's Science Museum, not far from where it was built.

    In contrast to Hero's Aerophile, this engine still exists in it's original condition.

    If you want to see the oldest steam engine that's still working in it's original installation, you need to go to the Kennet and Avon canal and visit the Crofton pumping station, That one's quite young, being in use since 1812.

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    "The worlds oldest steam engine" that is in working condition is the more accurate title.

    The Henry ford has some very early engines, brought from England around 1929-32
    and placed in the museum. The very early ones are not operating, but have replacement parts sufficient to make them look complete.

    Circa 1750 Newcomen atmospheric engine that pumped out a coal mine. Ford was told it was the oldest surviving steam engine in the world, so he brought it to Dearborn.
    Circa 1788 Watt rotative engine (replica made in 1932 to satisfy Ford's desire for filling in the gaps in the supply of original artifacts.)
    Circa 1796 Watt canal pumping engine, probably much like the Smethwick engine.

    The Ford archives are available online and searchable. The digital collection search finds a number of pictures of the engines taken both in situ and later, in the museum.

    The Newcomen pictures.
    Open the photograph album explaining Henry Morton's efforts in excavating and crating the remains of the engine. There is a nice picture of an LMS steam wagon ready to haul off a big crate to the railway. Henry Morton says Mr. Ford overcame difficulties in recovering the engine, but it is clear that Mr. Ford had a very talented group of men to actually plan and do the work. They carefully saved and shipped back the replacement boiler that last powered the engine, but the museum actually installed a period correct haystack boiler next to the engine. There is a very deep hole that still contains some very historic iron.
    https://www.thehenryford.org/collections-and-research/digital-collections/search-results#tab=artifact-results&terms=Newcomen%20engine&years=0-0&perPage=10&pageNum=1&sortBy=relevance

    Newcomen Engine, circa 1750 - The Henry Ford

    The Watt pictures.
    Digital Collections

    Watt Canal Pumping Engine, 1796 - The Henry Ford

    I have been visiting the Henry Ford since around 1954 and remember that many of the steam engines in Greenfield Village were actually run on steam and the rest probably could run. But an operator died in the Armington and Sims shop in 1988 and now the train is the only live steam.

    http://www.joelontheroad.com/lethal-greenfield/

    Larry

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    Been to Crofton for the day,many years ago. Well worth a trip-very impressive for an engine made in 1812.

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    Hi Ted,
    Prior to 1962,In the works of Williams Wire Works, (Makers of cut nails & joiners round nails , was an ancient Watt beam engine of about 200 horse power, It had a heavy wooden connecting rod, and drove the plate rolling mill by heavy herring bone gears , This engine was older than the Crofton engines, Which gladly are still running, Sadly the old rolling mill engine was scrapped by the new owners Thos W.Ward. When they electrified the factory in the 1962 period, they made an absolute fist of the whole venture, from an economical viewpoint, Loads of early computerisation but no production worth talking about!
    The old engine was not saved due to nobody being one bit interested, Jimmy Mackay the works manager of Williams (who tried hard to save it,) Was heartbroken, This old engine was second hand to Williams & Co from its original use as a pumping engine at Ocker Hill in the English Black Country..

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    Likely that is the oldest steam engine that can actually do work but as I recall Hero of Alexandria created a spinning kettle that amazed onlookers.

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    Mark Rand:

    Your remarks about the Crofton Engine, reminded me of an engine I inspected in 1969 that was of the same circa, located in Dublin,
    Ireland It was located at the old Jameson Distillery in Bow Lane. The late Irish model engineer, E.K.Meehan and I decided to make a Sunday foray over to Bow Lane in search of industrial artifacts. The production had been moved to Cork a few years earlier, but we found a man in the office who was a steam enthusiast and he took us into the engine room. There was a lovely Watt Beam Engine in its original location, disused for many years. We were told that it was built in 1811 by James Watt and ran the distillery until fairly recently, no date was given. I noticed that there had been some changes to the original condenser and I asked when the retrofit was done. He said that it were done in the late 1870s or early 1880s and wondered if I could guess who made them. When nothing came to mind, he told me the Coates Brothers in Belfast had done the work. They were known for supplying engines and parts for both the shipbuilding trade and industrial sites, such as Guinness brewery. We were told that the engine was going to be preserved and possibly reerected in Cork, but over the years I have lost track of this engine and no idea of its final deposition.

    Hendeyman

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