Roland's Cornish Steam Engine Page

About this page

This page contains some pictures presented in two versions:

- first as small thumbnails on buttons,
- second as bigger JPGs, loaded by pressing the buttons.

Make sure your www browser's helper applications are setup correctly for viewing the big versions.
(2nd February 2009) updated links to the intersting other pages : "Updated"

Thanks for all peoples comments, I try to update more often this year!


The history

In 1994 my wife, some friends and I visited Cornwall. Up to then, I didn't know anything of the specifics of cornish steam engines. On an earlier visit to the Science Museum in London, my interest in steam engines was aroused. By accident, I got a brochure which showed the picture of a Winding Engine in Pool, Cornwall, owned by the National Trust. So a trip to Penzance led me to the much bigger engine right in the neighbourhood.

Those steam engines were mostly used at tin mines, propably the oldest industry in Cornwall, if not in England. There even is a beer can illustrating this fact.

Tinners Ale Can(23kB)

On this page I arranged some information about those steam engines in general. Because I am living in Germany, no photos of real engines are included. One of my hobbies is 3D modelling, so most of the pictures you will find are from a 3D-model, existing on my computer. The pictures on this page are all around 600x400 and 24bit JPEG (between 103 and 133kb). Of course, there are bigger versions of these pictures on request.

Harvey's 90 inch Engine at Taylor's Shaft (Pool, Cornwall)

This pumping engine, which was saved by the Trevithick Society from destruction, now owned by the National Trust, is described in a leaflet you get on entering the Museum, it can be found on the Trevithick Trusts page, which runs the museum and several other sites in Cornwall. In addition to that I have written a description about it.

The only source of information for this model are the leaflet from the Trevithick Trust and some books. After my stay in England in 1996, this list of books was extended significantly. In addition to Cornish engine literature, there are some other hints to related topics, like mining and iron making. 

Cornish Boiler and Harvey's Engine (133kB)

A pumping engine has a wooden pump rod attached to it's beam, which heads down into the shaft several 100 meters, and is connected to to pumps. As this new picture shows, the house is now 'build' of proper stone, a new texture I prepared from a photo. (original: a farm house nearby, camera: Canon ION 260, texture preperation: Photoshop)
Engine with pump rod.(65kB)

Being at home again, I started to model with Strata Studio Pro, a 3D modelling and rendering program on my Macintosh. I hadn't taken any photos, because I thought a book with several ones would be available, but it wasn't. So my memory, sometimes inaccurate, was the only resource. That's why some 'errors' could be found in the model, the layout and architecture of the house are not accurate. 
Now, during my 1996 vacation, I made photos and it took me a while to start introducing more details into the model. I had to buy more memory for my computer in order to be able to raytrace this picture, but the results is ... ok. On the picture you see the cataract chamber (which is new, details will follow) with an improvisational staircase leading to it. Behind the pump rod a balance bob can be spotted, but because it's not made of metal like the original, I didn't prepare any pictures showing details.
The arrangement of the staircases in the house is totally wrong, but ... be patient.
An open house shows everything!(140kB)

The most complex thing for me is to make this model really work. I. e., an animation of the whole machine, with everything moving, just like in reality. Up to now, only the beam, the piston rod and the parallel motion really move in the right rhythm. Next thing to work on is the valve gear ... but as you see, it has not been finished yet.
The Valve Gear, prerelease(130kB)

Because my 3D Graphics program was incompatible with my model, it took me (and the manufacturer) quite some time to be able to edit the model again. Many hours of work were in vain because of this, but finally, it works! Now the picture shows the taps to work the valve gear handles. 
The New Valve Gear, (70kB)

Until it's finished, I tested some new viewing techniques. QuickDraw 3D or VRML is not applicable on the net right now, for the model of the Steam Engine is much too big to be downloaded. But QuickTime VR seems to be a very nice thing! I just prepared three panoramas from inside the engine house. 
First you have to install the 'Quicktime VR Player' OR the 'QuickTime-PlugIn' dounloadable from the Apples QuickTime Site as part of the QuickTime package. It's available for Macintosh and Windows! The following three links load the panorama files, each 154Kb in size:  If you set up your helper applications in your web browser correctly, the QTVRPlayer automatically starts with the panorama. With Netscape 3.0 in place and the QuickTime-PlugIn installed, try this page to view all three files in the browser. Netscape 4.x installs a version of the QuickTime Plugin, which is QuickTime VR compatible right away!
Please tell me what you think of it! 

The most important thing of a steam engine is of course 'steam'. So I guessed, relying only on some sketches and bad pictures that a Cornish Boiler had to look like this.
Five cornish Boilers(115kB)

There has more to come, I know. In the first place, I have to complete the valve gear, then an animation of it all, then a landscape with engine, boilers, chimney ...

It will take some time, but I will carry on. Just look by from time to time.

Because Strata decided to give away their 3D Modelling software for free, I make my model publicly available for those of you who want to see how its done!  However, in the meantime (November 2002) the policy has changed, so what you are able to get is a demo version only. I haven't tested my model with this demo version, any reports about this are welcome.
The 3D software is availabel for Windows and Macintosh users aswell, and allthough it is not the professional version, it allows you to create great 3D renderings. This site leads you to the shop area: After you have installed the software on your computer, which should have a serious amount of RAM build in (about 128MB for loading my model and looking at he construction, about 256MB, if you wish to render a picture using the Raytracer), you can download and unpack my model, contained in a ZIP archive 3.8MByte in size.
The model is quite complex, you should get used to the navigation facilities of the software first (move forward, turn arround a model etc.).  The 'Windows->Camera Windows' menu will open additional, predefined views on details of the steam engine and certain parts of it.
Have fun!!

Any comments?

If you have any comments on this project, any hints to improve it, any books or book titles, that I shouldn't miss, then PLEASE send mail or email!

References to other sites Updated 

Roger Pattenden designs and publishes card model kits, mostly architectural subjects. His newest model is a model of the Grand Junction 90, as seen at the Kew Bridge Steam museum. One of his others is the East Pool Whim. You can even order his model kits on his web site.

David Hulse from Stone, Staffordshire UK, has invested many years researching the history of early steam engines, and he has written a book about his findings. You can look at his models he made, and find out how to buy his books. The walls of his models are made of tiny small bricks, not like mine, which are simply  made up from numbers. Look at  his website.

John Hazell sent me some links to a very fine engine house on the Kennet & Avon Canal. Look up Crofton Beam Engines on . 'Our Boulton & Watt 1812 engine still operates doing the same job it did when built albeit on selected weekends during the summer & is said to be the oldest working beam engine in the world. '

Jory Bennett suggested some 'new' books, and I added them as reference 9-11 the literature page.
Martin de Little has compiled some tips about steam engines to be found in England. So I have put them on to This page. A very good site for hints on steam engines and related industries is Fred Dibnahs page. His book is one of the recent publications on industrial heritage in Britain. For those interested in the working principle of a steam engine, you should try Fred's virtual steam engine, a Shockwave animated page.

If you want a quick glimpse on some real steam engines on the web, try the homepage of the Kew Bridge Steam Museum. If you are in London on a weekend, this museum is a must! You don't just see engines moving, all machines get steamed up during Saturday and Sunday, so ... you have to have time. My favourite one was the 100" engine (running in the afternoon only once a day) because it is almost the same size than Taylors Shaft engine.

My most recent visit was to the Cruquius Engine near Harlem in the Netherlands. The website has a lot of 3D models available, and lots of pictures! The engine was built by Harvey of Hayle, Cornwall, and is supposed to be the biggest engine of that kind in the world. See the site for yourself.  The engine is operated hourly, driven by a hydraulic system and not by steam. The small museum has some other nice machines and models on display. Very nice, very impressive!

The Cornwall Online page leads you to some other aspects of the beautifull country. Via this page, the Trevithick Trust has released information about their work. There is a nice writing about Richard Trevithick and the complete text of the booklet from the East Pool Engine Museum.

There are other countries with Cornish Engine history. Look at John Symmonds Homepage to find references to Cornish Engine preservation activities in Australia!

Yet another interesting set of books about steam engines seems to be Stationary Steam Engines of Great Britain by George Watkins, edited by A.P. Woolrich, of the Landmark Collectors' Library. This is actualy a series of 11 books, with some 7 yet to be published, containing pictures of about 1.500 engines located in all areas of Britain.

Rob Preston has started to build models of products from an old foundry called Neath Abbey Iron Works, (1792-1888), which will include beam engines. Right now, some locomotives they built are available, and several others are yet to come. Look at his website for more information.

And some movies ...

Boulton&Watt engine The first one is a short movie, but some 2 MBytes in size, shows the Boulton&Watt engine (from 1797) in the London Science Museum. The clip was digitized from a videotape my brother shot on the Easter Weekend 1996. Allthough it's of small size, the sound of the running engine (run by pressured air?, no, just by an electric motor!) is amazing.

The second one was shot during my visit to the Kew Bridge Steam Museum in 1996. It shows the Grand Junction 90 inch engine running during it's 150th birthday. The movie is created with Apple's Quicktime, and to view it you must have at least this version installed (but it's for free here!). One benefit of the new Quicktime-Software is the Sorensen-Codec (a way of compessing video) allowing to resize the movie-window without loosing too much quality. (Size approx. 2.5 MB)
Picture from Movie

During the last years, several people visited this page and gave tips and hints. To all those:

I didn't imagine that kind of response, and it definitely convinced me to carry on. 
Last edited: 2nd February 2009

Roland Wagener
Send email to: