Steam At Foxton
Standing on the old boiler house floor at Foxton, it is difficult to imagine what it must have been like in working days. The many working steam museums around the country give a better picture, and last Easter I spent the weekend helping out at Papplewick Pumping Station, which is celebrating its centenary. Papplewick is a water pumping station just north of Nottingham, with two Watt rotative beam engines which have been restored by the volunteers.
The Boiler room houses a bank of six Lancashire boilers, but it is a large and airy building and I suspect that conditions would not have been so pleasant in the more confined area at Foxton. The engines are turned over with no load, so only one boiler is fired and maintained at about 30psi. At this pressure it is not too demanding to keep the boiler fed with coal. One of the regulars throws a shovel of coal into just the right part of the bed, and I soon discover that like all apparently simple operations it is not quite as easy at it looks. The trick is to keep an even fire over the whole bed. Once the coal has been put on the fire, it can be spread more evenly with the rake. An occasional riddle helps to make the ash fall through the grate.