Thursday, 5 July 2007

Crofton Pumping station.

9 Locks, 4½ Miles, 1Tunnel. Now moored at lock 60.
489 locks, 604½ miles, 18 Tunnels, 28 swing bridges and 9 lift bridges since Nov 2006

Tuesday morning, We were on the go early with watering up and getting into the first lock ahead of anybody else. This proved not to be a time saver as another single handed boat had gone through quite some time ahead of us but we caught up with it which delayed us at every lock. It was under the control of a solo woman in bare feet and the boat named Topsy Ann appeared to be unregistered so we declined to offer any assistance.
We don’t want to be seen to be condoning use of unregistered vessels.
After a very long slow trip we arrived at lock 60 and the Crofton pumping station . All 6 of us went and visited the pumping station which is celebrating its bi-centenary this coming weekend with another live steam week-end. A plaque is to be unveiled on the base of the chimney and there are to be some prominent people involved with the canal in attendance.

The pump house has some amazing pieces of steam driven machinery as well as the 2 beam engines dating back to 1812 and 1846. At the moment the pump house is running its electric auxiliary pump as the main electric pump has run a bearing and they have been waiting 8 weeks to get it fixed, sound familiar? When asked what would happen if the auxiliary failed now the answer was”light the boiler quick”.

The 2 beam engines are housed in a 3 storey building with a basement which gives you an impression of how big they are. The Boulton and Watt engine beam weighs 6 tons and the Harvey engine beam weighs 4½ tons. They both have 42 inch cylinders with a stroke of 8 feet.
Both beam engines lift 1.25 tons of water each stroke but it takes 5 lifts before the first drop of water is deposited into the feeder c
hannel so in actual fact they are lifting 6.25 tons at a time from a depth of 40 feet (13m).

The boiler only operates at 20psi but consumes 1.25 tons of coal a day. The coal used is only household grade coal unlike steam railway locos which only perform properly using high grade Welsh coal. Reminders that the Great Western Railway owned and operated the canal at one point in time is seen on the fire box doors which were made at the GWR workshops at Swindon and the GWR initials on pressure and vacuum gauges.

Another piece of the K & A history on display was the old clock from Honey Street wharf which had been a boat yard. The clock was made from bits and pieces generally found around a farm yard. Despite being temperamental it did work reasonably well and is working now.

When the pumping station was built they needed a water supply and it was suggested that they dam and flood the valley opposite the station which is now Wilton Water, a wild life reserve. To do this they had to get permission from the Earl of Ailesbury who agreed on the condition that the station provides his stately home with water so a pipeline was laid for 3 miles and a special pump fitted in the pump house to control the water to the house.

Another interesting fact about his lordship was that his name was Thomas Bruce after which the Bruce tunnel was named. It doesn’t end there though, the reason the tunnel exists is because his lordship objected to a cutting being put through the Savernake forest on his property. His lordship used to enjoy horse riding through the forest and didn’t want to have to go out of his way to find a bridge to cross the canal so the tunnel was built instead so that he had plenty of space in the forest to cross the canal. That’s what money does for you.

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