Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 137,381 pages of information and 220,926 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

River Don Engine

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The River Don Engine is a 1905-built steam engine used for hot rolling steel armour plate. It is a 3-cylinder simple engine with cylinders of 40 inches diameter, 48 inches stroke. At its operating steam pressure of 160psi, it developed 12,000 horsepower, and was able to reverse from full speed in 2 seconds. The rapid reverse was an essential feature of an engine used for rolling, as delays would result in cooling of the workpiece.

This engine was one of four built to the same design by Davy Brothers at the Park Iron Works in Sheffield, one going overseas to the Japanese Government, one to John Brown's Atlas plant, and the destination of the final one being unaccounted for. It is thought to be the most powerful remaining working steam engine in Europe.

The River Don Engine worked for over 50 years at the Grimesthorpe Works of Cammell, Laird and Co before being moved first to British Steel's River Don plant (hence its name) and then to its present home at the Kelham Island Museum, Sheffield. The engine was last used for commercial work in the 1970s, to roll out reactor shield plates for nuclear power plants.

The engine is normally regularly demonstrated at the museum, without load, and under 5psi of steam pressure. It had to be taken out of service following the Sheffield Floods of July 2007 which extensively damaged the museum and parts of the engine. An 8-week programme to restore it to working order was undertaken in 2008, making the engine once again capable of normal operation.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • [1] Kelham Island Museum