The history of the steam engine stretches back as far as the first century AD; the first recorded rudimentary steam engine being the aeolipile
described by Greek
mathematician Hero of Alexandria
The first commercial steam-powered device was a water pump, developed in 1698 by Thomas Savery..
It received some use in mines, pumping stations
and for supplying water wheels used to power textile machinery..
The first commercially successful engine, that could generate power and transmit it to a machine, was the atmospheric engine
, invented by Thomas Newcomen
around 1712. It was employed for draining mine workings.
The next major step occurred when James Watt
developed (1763–1775) an improved version
of Newcomen's engine, with a separate condenser
. Boulton and Watt
's early engines used half as much coal as John Smeaton
's improved version of Newcomen's.
Watt proceeded to develop his engine further. This enabled factories to be sited away from rivers, and further accelerated the pace of the Industrial Revolution.
Watt's patent prevented others from making high pressure and compound engine. In 1800, Richard Trevithick
and, separately, Oliver Evans
in 1801 introduced engines using high-pressure steam. These were much more powerful and could be made small enough for transport applications. Trevithick’s Cornish engines were used in mines and for water supply until the late 19th century.
HOW OUR STEAM ENGINE WORKS
Our steam engine is the largest of its kind possibly in the world and represents the final stage of steam power in mills. It is certainly the last steam engine to power a mill during the last miners strike. It is a twin, horizontal cross compound engine of 1800 horse power.
How does the engine work?
Boilers The engine was powered by four Lancashire Boilers. These generated steam at a high pressure
High Pressure Cylinder Steam was carried first of all to the high pressure cylinder which is the left hand one looking from the front. The steam drove the piston backwards and forwards.
Low Pressure Cylinder The steam from the high pressure cylinder still has considerable power and is then transported to the low pressure cylinder – the larger cylinder where it drives a second piston.
Condenser The residual steam then goes into the condenser where it becomes water and is returned to the boiler to be heated once again.
This cycle is extremely efficient and loses very little water.