Just How Do You Install A Steam Engine?

Harry Cusworth Standing Next to the Flywheel of the Hathorn Davey Steam Engine
Harry Cusworth Standing Next
to the Flywheel of the
Hathorn Davey Steam Engine

In the summer of 1987 Edwin Evetts visited Harry Cusworth in Yorkshire and made the following notes of his reminiscences of installing the Hathorn Davey engine in 1926-27.

"I was working at Portsmouth when I received a telegram from my employers, Hathorn Davey of Hunslet, Leeds, (now Sulzer Bros.) telling me to go to Mill Meece. I had not seen the engine until it arrived in bits at Standon Bridge Station, although I knew it had been assembled at the works, but not steamed. The works had not marked any of the parts for assembly, so I did this from the drawings and indicated the order in which pieces should be carted to site.

I had no skilled labour to help with the job - just two brawny farm labourers who came because I offered them a few shillings over their going rate. The parts were brought from Standon Bridge by horse drawn trolley and we had trouble getting the trolley on site from the narrow access road. We had to unhitch the horses and jack the trolley round each time.

The most difficult bits were the two flywheel halves. I measured that they would just go through the door at the head of the engine room steps. So I rigged up shear legs and a platform level with the top step. When we got it up, I took a line out from the overhead gantry crane. Once inside it was 'plain sailing', but during the operation we all realised the threat of death if anything had failed.

I aligned the engine and pumps by driving into the end wall of the building two circular section rods -dead opposite one another. A groove was filed along the top of each rod in which a wire fitted exactly. This was my base line.

The contract time for installation was 12 months. Extra water was urgently needed for the tyre factory (now Michelins), and the job was completed on time in spite of a small domestic hitch.

My daughter was born whilst I was on the Mill Meece job, but my wife had gone south for the confinement. I had obtained permission for three days absence. The baby was slow in coming and I stayed on. After four days, I received a wire 'return to Mill Meece at once'. After five days another ‘If you are not back tomorrow consider yourself fired’ . Then another ‘You can come to the works on Monday and collect your cards’. Well, I thought it over, measured it up, and realised they could not really get rid of me so I went to Mill Meece on the Monday, not to Leeds and never heard another word!". (in 1927, it took courage as well as confidence in one's worth to cock a snook like that).

When the installation was almost complete, Harry Cusworth was called to another job and Harry Greenfield (just out of his apprenticeship) was entrusted with the responsibility of commissioning the engine and pumps. ("Harry" was evidently a proud forename for young competent engineers in the 1920's).

Harry Greenfield was a member of the Preservation Trust for several years, and wrote an article for our Newsletter of November 1985. Among other things, he reminded us that standard working hours in the 1920's were 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 6:00 a.m. to noon on Saturday, although he acknowledged the great job satisfaction in seeing the engines start up at the completion of the work, and the added pleasure of seeing the Hathorn Davey engine still running "as smooth as oiled silk" over half a century later.