Monday, 16 May 2011

Ellenroad Engine House

Many a time both me and my Fiancée have gone down the m62 and passed a nice derelict looking mill on the right of the motorway the last time we passed going to the Alderley Edge Copper Mines  we noticed scaffolding up at the front and said to each other it's about time we go there as it looks like there is going to be a conversion of this mill several weeks now passed and little did we know but going down past the same mill we came off the motorway where this mill was to go to yet another grand day out exploring in the opposite direction !, so the sat nav stating take the next turn off the roundabout i hit hard right and Jo stated it said left ere, my only reply was I want to see this mill what we always pass !, no more than 2 mins down the road we took a right and boy was it worth while, never in my greatest imagination did I expect to find what we did, we got to the security gate where a nice bloke came out and I asked him if we could go see the old mill for some photography !, he gave me a pan-flit and told us some off the people are down there, they might let you in.

 So off we went into the secured area,left the car taking our cameras n tripods for a shoot at the derelict mill (this was our first mistake thinking derelict), we went into the grounds of the mill and round the back where we heard some form of masonry work and was greeted by a reet nice bloke called Neville, we explained what we did and asked to see the mill , no problems, its not open to the public today (cogs in my head started turning), following him in for a full guided tour to what I can only describe as heaven for a bloke of my nature (Maintenance Engineer/Turner/miller/Fitter), I was like a child let loose in a sweet shop with no grown ups about :).

 If I was to say the 'Main Steam Engine' was huge this would be an understatement in fact it would be like classing Einstein himself to been nothing more than an amoeba !.

 Time for some history, information And Pictures.

Ellenroad Engine House is located within the hills in Rochdale also the location of the river Beal at Milnrow at  junction 21 off the M62, the Engine House and chimney can be seen from the M62.

 The buildings and machines within hold the 29th position in the Country list. One of the Engines is the 'Whitelees Beam Engine' another is the 'Worlds Largest Steam Mill Engine' which is named after 2 Queens 'Victoria And Alexandra' which also include the mechanical  symmetry of the 'Browett Lindley Steam Generator'.

   The Chairman of the Board of Directors named the Engines 'Victoria and Alexandra' stating how well the Engine builders had done there work,on the firing floor the coal is hand shovelled into the 2 mechanical stokers into the double furnaces of the Lancashire Boiler in conjunction with large fans blowing a massive amount of air making 'White Heat' giving an excellent amount of steam.

The 4 original Boilers when in full swing back in the day
took a massive 6000 gallons of water each minute !

A small amount of haze can be seen coming from the chimney and hot water goes into the river which let you know both the Queens are alive and kicking !.

 The sounds of moving machinery powered totally by steam, the warmth of the Engines and Lancashire Boiler, Highly polished Steel and Brass and smell of hot Oil with the occasional wisp of condensed steam does not come close to what the experience is is a 'Must see masterpiece of Engineering' for the whole family.

 Going right back to the beginning, way back to 1892 a group of Capital owners south of Rochdale in Newhey thought the need for a large spinning mill was required and so a massive mill was constructed by the river Beal, this mill was Ellendroad Mill 270,000 square feet of brick built factory standing five stories high, this building was designed by Stott & Sons of Oldham and was 100 yards long by 40 to 50 yards wide. Between 1903 and 1915 the fortunes of the cotton mill  fluctuated.

 The mule spinning all 99,756 spindles made by Platts of Oldham with supporting drawing frames, carding and other machinery were powered by a large steam engine made by the Rochdale Engineering Company owned by John and William McNaught. The blowing room and card room were on the ground floor separated by the rope race and beneath the whole mill was the conditioning cellar and warehouse.

 1916 Wednesday 19th January at 2.30 pm disaster struck !, A spinner named George William Taylor was working on one of the mules when he noticed the headstock of another mule had burst into flames, Taylor gave the alarm and instantly the fire spread down the whole length of the second spinning room where the mules were located, the operatives left the mill quickly leaving the firms own fire brigade to try and tackle the blaze, 4.30 pm a pump and crew arrived from Oldham and by 5.30 the fire seamed to have been extinguished.

 Suddenly at 7.30 pm the fire broke out again luckily  the firemen were still at the mill and started to hose the mill again, unfortunately the windows from the initial fire and strong winds which had started engulfed the mill and sadly to say by 8 pm the mill was fully ablaze, part of a newspaper stated 'When the roof fell in with a thunderous roar the flames shot up high into the air and later when portions of the two sides of the building came crashing down amidst a cloud of dust,smoke,fire the place resembled an inferno'.

 In the morning after the damage was inspected. In the Engine house the two horizontal engines 'Victoria and Alexandra' were badly damaged, the portion of the roof which had not been burnt lay in wild confusion all over the machinery which was covered with charred  beams and all manner of debris, In addition the rope race was also badly damaged.

 A decision to rebuild the mill was taken although actual construction was delayed due to WW1, in 1921 the new Ring Spinning Mill designed by John Russel was opened again with 5 stories and a conditioning cellar the first 2 floors were card rooms, the third and forth floors were Ring spinning rooms leaving the 5th floor for  the Beaming room. New Lancashire Boilers from Tinker Shenton in Hyde were installed and the mill engine was altered to provide more power for the ring frames, there were 12,880 rings and double spindles spinning 8's to 32's single and double American and Egyptian yarns.

 The Boilers one of which still remains and is use today for the powering of all the steam Engines within the building, the other one is cut showing the structure of the boiler.
 These modifications brought about the twin tandem compound Engine which is one of the largest and heaviest  in any mill in the world, This ran for years giving an output just shy of 3000 horsepower

Behind us is the 80 Ton 44 'V-Grooved' pulley.
and is 28 feet in Diameter, rotating at a Colossal 60 RPM
roughly 87.5 feet per second surface speed !.



A closer look at one of the the Lubrication systems.

Looking back from the clocks.

A magnificent view from above (non public area)
Due to been on an access ladder for the roof.
I would like to dedicate this picture to Neville for
allowing me to obtain this shot at this location.

Looking down the outside of Alexandra.

Until you have someone along side this great wheel
you can not really judge size of this Engine.


This linkage 1 of 2 has a stroke diameter of around 6 foot.

Electric flow meter measuring the output.

The brass (and glass) box, again 1 of 2 are massive
Oil reservoirs keeping the smooth motion going.

Although I did not ask what this part of apparatus was 
I think I am right in guessing it is (when engaged) to 
get the massive pulley into the correct position on start up
bringing into line the pistons within Victoria and Alexandra
for the steam to fire off the sequence in motion, once in line
this would be disengaged.

A view from the outside looking in.

Read-outs for Volts and Amps.
and other important parts of the mill.


In 1970 It was decided to install individual motors onto the machinery within the mill and slowly the Engine was no longer needed and in 1975 it was de-commissioned. in 1982 the mill 'Ellenroad Ring Spinning Company' ceased trading and became derelict, this mill like many other just died destroying the industry within the area.
 Good news was to prevail because back in 1984 the Ellenroad site was bought by the Coats Brothers PLC which was to locate a modern manufacturing plant for highly specialised inks, Coats assessed the site and in doing so made a decision to save the Engines 'Victoria and Alexandra' with the associated plant. In April 1985 funds raising began the refurbishment of what is now known as the Ellenroad Trust which was given a 999 year lease on the site giving them responsibility for all the restoration.

The Generator room and main switch board.

The Generator. Although no longer connected
still works to an extent but unfortunately a bearing has 
collapsed possibly at the big end which luckily for me
will be my first repair job as both me and Jo are going
to join the group and freely help due to my back ground 
in Engineering.

The Main switch board.

 The next Engine within this building is the 'Whitelees Beam Engine' and this was acquired in 1986 which now resides within the original boiler house of the mill.

 In the Beginning.

In November of 1841 Mr John Petrie & Company of Rochdale delivered their 47th Beam engine to a Mr John Hurst owner of the Whitelees Mill, Littleborough, this engine kept running through the day and night for long spells up until the mid 1942, during this period the original Petrie engine work had been aquired by Holroyd Greater Works, the Whitelees MIll also changed hands and in 1957 was now owned by CWS who decided to dispose of the old engine, within this year Holroyds took the engine back to its birthplace and re built it in a glass annex to there factory and motorised it so passing people who passed could see there great machine.

 In 1986 the Whitelees Beam Engine was bought by The Ellenroad Trust and again stripped/moved and re-built within the original Boiler House at Ellenroad by 1992.

 Apart form the age of the engine the second main feature is that in all main respects it is in its original form having escaped the almost uniform practice of compounding popularly known as 'McNaughting'.

'Compounding' the additional use of a second cylinder to the Beam was introduced way back in 1845 as boiler technology improved giving greater pressure to 60-70lb/in2. Petrie,s were very conservative  in there use of steam favouring a mere 20lb/in2 until 1850 when the pressure increased to 30lb/in2 was then used. by 1870 the pressure had increased again to 40lb/in2 at this pressure the Whitelees Engine would have developed 170 indicated horse power and running at 34 RPM.

 The single vertical cylinder has a 5 foot stroke length and 25.5 inch bore, this has a twist movement to eliminate scoring of the faces, the valves are a round-seated type.



The engine also has a single condenser with air pump, a flywheel of 18 feet diameter, a Porter governor,

 The centrifugal governor controls speed through a throttle valve, as the engine speed increased the governor ball are opened by the centrifugal force and as the balls move outwards a push rod is lifted moving a further amount of rods to then transmit the movement to the throttle valve reducing the steam supply until the speed is established, if the speed decreased then the balls come inwards moving the same rods in the opposite direction letting in more steam via the throttle valve.

A Watt's classical parallel motion in the beam above the cylinder.

 It was stated that the parallel motion mechanism was the device of James Watt was most proud, this assembly is of rods and links situated on the ends of the beam above the steam cylinder, this allows the piston to rise and fall in a straight line even though the ends of the beam are moving in an arc formation whilst moving up and down.This elegant device was used uniformly in the beam engine and is very well shown to good effect above the main cylinder of the Whitelees Engine.

 In the pit below the floor level is the condenser and air pump units and this was Watt's most famous invention as its introduction transformed the steam engine from a primitive and very expensive to run device to an economical and more powerful engine.

 Steam exhausts the power cylinder through the large pipe in the base of the valve chest and enters the iron vessel  within the pit where cold water is sprayed to condense the steam which creates a vacuum. The vacuum draws draws steam from the cylinder on one side of the piston while steam pressure on the other side of the piston increases this method gives greater power than would be possible normally. The pump situated next to the condenser removes the air formed by the condensed steam along with the river water used in cooling the condenser unit.

The flywheel of this engine is 18 feet in diameter and has a series of teeth on the outside diameter of the rim. In the Whitelees Mill the driver was transmitted from a spur gear in mesh with the flywheel to a bevel gear and then through a transmission shaft going vertical into the mill, Due to the ratios of the gears within the mill the line shaft as well as the engine room had a shaft speed of 300 RPM to power the machinery within the mill

Another well looked after and restored Engine lives at this location and in all rights is one well endowed lady .
as you can see from the pictures she started off in a slightly worse state but lovingly brought back to life over several years by her loyal team.

Marsden's Engines Ltd, Union Foundry, Heckmondwike Yorkshire.
Engine No. B214 .  Built  1907,   Horizontal single cylinder engine
Cylinder 17,5/8inches Dia. x 36 inches long,  with Corliss Valves
10 foot dia. flywheel grooved for five 1,5/8 inch dia. ropes, weighs approx. 4 tons
100 indicated horse power, running at 90 rpm.
Approximate weight of whole engine -12 tons
Built for William Barker & sons Ltd.,tanners and curriers
Cross Green, Otley, Yorkshire.
It drove all the machinery in the tannery through line shafting and leather belting.
Recognised as the last mill steam engine in the country to run a complete
works/factory. It finally stopped work on June 6th. 1988.
It was bought then by John Wilson the current Chairman of the
Ellenroad Steam Museum Society and removed  with the help of 
Alan Nightingale, a former Marsden engineer to storage in Sowerby Bridge. 
There it sat for 21years before moving to its new home at Ellenroad and 
restored to full working order.


Time to make the fire within the chimney.

I dedicate this post headed 'Ellenroad Engine House' to the dedicated people of
the Ellenroad Steam Museum Society and especially Mr John Wilson for his
Full support and information gracefully given.
Thank you...

All pictures below are working projects within Ellenroad Engine house and its grounds.

Removal of the fencing around the Steam Powered electric generator.

New rails down the side of the big engine.

Into the work shop.

Time has passed and we have joined the dedicated team of Ellenroad Engine House 
below is a continuing 'Ongoing projects', new pictures and events

Looks like a union meeting.

Tools of the trade.

Never again will I complain at drilling holes !,
a 1 man powered drill machine !

Some of the team at Ellenroad with the a winning trophy.

Time for poetry in motion.

This was the highlight for me on this particular steaming day
Traditional Peg making.

Peg making are 'age old crafts' performed by Romany Gypsies.
Willow/Hazel and Elder sticks were collectedfrom the woods and
country lanes whilst the Gypsies travelled place to place, once enough 
materials were gathered and a quiet spot was found on there travells
to set camp for the night and after finishing there chores of feeding the 
horses which pulled there wagons/repairs and feeding themselves, the
men would make pegs amongst other crafts which the women would 
peddled the day after in the surrounding area also they would do lacemaking
fortune telling etc. Below are the pictures of the craft which was a 
pleasure to watch.

Sadly these age old crafts are no longer amongst us apart from
shows like this one which sadly to also say is the traditional Romany
lifestyle is in dainger of being lost forever.


  1. Excellent job and article Nick, would love to come and see this engine at some time.