The Crossness Pumping Station

A Cathedral on the Marsh


Work commenced in 1985 to restore the Engine House and the engines to their 1899 condition, (the year in which the engines were upgraded). In 1988 the Crossness Engines Trust replaced the original Preservation Group in order to put the enterprise on a sound business and legal basis.

The Crossness Engines buildings are on a much larger site owned by Thames Water Utilities, but the Trust has the area round the original buildings on a long lease.

The Beam Engine House contains four engines - Prince Consort, Victoria, Albert Edward and Alexandra. Prince Consort was last run in the 1950's and was fully restored by 2003. Victoria is now the engine on which the current restoration activity is concentrated.

When the buildings were abandoned, the pumps and culverts below the Beam Engine House were filled with a weak sand and cement mix to reduce the risks from methane. This has meant that some 100 tons of this sand had to be excavated from around and beneath the pumps before there was any hope of moving the beam and flywheel. Further, there was a considerable ingress of rain water which had resulted in serious rusting of the engine parts.

The restoration work is broken down into several groups covering:

  • Engines
  • Pumps
  • Auxiliary plant
  • Decorative cast iron work
  • Buildings and Services

The restoration of Prince Consort can best be summarised as follows:

  • The engine cylinder heads and valve gear were removed.
  • The valve gear was restored to its original bright steel state, and then re-installed.
  • All the pistons were removed for renovation and re-emplaced.
  • The High/Intermediate piston rod was removed and then skimmed, by an outside contractor, to remove rust which would otherwise destroy the steam-tight glands. The low pressure piston rod was similarly treated.
  • The steam governor was removed, stripped, restored and reassembled for display.
  • The steam-driven barring engine has been fully restored and is operating on a small boiler acquired from a laundry.
  • The hand-barring engine was restored to enable the flywheel and beam to be moved when the pumps were clear of sand.
  • Sand was excavated from the culverts and from beneath both pump plungers.
  • The water and air pumps have been stripped and the steam pipes removed.
  • The beam was moved over almost the complete range, rust was removed by the use of needle guns and repainting commenced.
  • The flywheel was needle-gunned and repainted.
  • The cast iron screens were cleaned of rust and repainted in the original colours, together with many of the ornaments on the capitals of the columns.
  • A number of the cast iron flooring panels were removed, cleaned, painted and replaced.
  • The high level iron work in the Beam Engine House was shot blasted and repainted.
  • The Triple Expansion Engine House (an 1899 addition to the Beam Engine House) was drained and cleaned of accumulated debris.
  • A centre for visitors has been created in the Boiler House and this is being improved.
  • Extensive re-wiring has been carried out in the Beam Engine House and the Fitting Shop.
For the future, there are some immediate areas of concern:
  • The unique Grade 1 Listed building requires considerable work to restore the fabric and the interior.
  • Considerable further work needs to be done on Victoria to bring it into steam.
  • The work towards establishing a new exhibition is progressing and should be completed by 2013.
All these tasks required a  considerable amount of outside funding.