Metro Rod lend a hand to keep Stretham Old Engine firing, so to speak, on all cylinders: you can visit on Sundays until the end of October
- Credit: Archant
Stretham Old Engine is the last survivor of what was once a collection of over 100 steam-powered pumping stations in the south of the Fens; a dedicated group of volunteers intends to ensure it remains open.
Repair work is essential to keep it in pristine condition and Ely-based Metro Rod Cambridge recently stepped in replace a cable which restored the working of a river level gauge.
The replacement cable was fed under the roadway to the float chamber using specialist drainage surveying equipment.
Shaun Russell, Metro Rod senior engineer and operations manager, said "We were approached by volunteers of Stretham Old Engine asking if we could assist them with these works, following a tour of this impressive building.
"Metro Rod was delighted to carry out the work and play a small part in keeping the history of our local area in working order. It was a real pleasure to help."
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Ely mayor Mike Rouse, who was given a tour alongside a representative of Metro Rod, said: "We were led by Peter Ingram one of the volunteers who preserve this, the earliest and finest example of a land drainage steam engine in the Fens.
"It was steam that saved the Fens in the 19th century and at Stretham you can learn how the genius of James Watt harnessed the power of steam without which the land would have gone under water again.
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"Stretham Old Engine really is one of the greatest places to find out more about what for many is an unknown story and thanks to the volunteers at the Trust we can now understand more of out heritage.
The Stretham Old Engine has some open days left this year: the public can go round from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm every Sunday until the end of October. Admission is £4 for adults and a £1 for children.
Further information: Tel. 01353 648578
A large collection of drainage hand tools, some unique, is also displayed together with drainage machinery. An 1870 Easton Amos & Anderson vertical pump, being the only example of this kind of pump remaining in the Fens, and a wooden hand-operated Archimedean screw pump add to the variety of objects on display.
In addition, an 1829 vertical steam engine and a 1925 Mirrlees diesel engine provide more illustrations of the varied machinery used for land drainage. The remains of a Fenland lighter, used to transport coal and clay, have just been acquired and will be shortly on display. Again, no other example is known to be preserved.
The Engine House is five miles south of Ely and easy to identify from a distance by its tall chimney. It can also be reached by boat from the Old West River.