The world’s oldest working steam engine is once again running on steam, after a local restoration project.
The Smethwick Engine was designed by James Watt in Birmingham, and first put into service on the Birmingham-Wolverhampton Canal in 1779, saving water by pumping it back up the canal locks.
Ian Colley, a heritage engineer with ThinkTank, said:
“This steam engine made a significant difference because it’s the blueprint to all modern steam engines that came after it,
(James Watt’s) use of a separate outside condenser allowed the engine to work faster and be more efficient, so it could do more work for less coal use firing the boiler. It became a serious proposition then, for powering up small factories, mills, throughout the land, which really started the industrial revolution.”
The engine’s creation was a result of the partnership between James Watt and Birmingham industrialist Matthew Boulton.
The firm of Boulton & Watt held a leading role in the industrial revolution, first in the Midlands and then across the world.
The newly restored engine was on full steaming display at ThinkTank 3-4 November.
The display of the restored engine is the first step in preparations for the bicentenary of Watt’s death, to be celebrated in 2019 across the country.
Birmingham Museums Trust and the Lunar Society are organising prominent museum events to honour Watt and his legacy.