World's Biggest Steam Engine Is Star Attraction At Wigan Pier

By Zoe Graham | 10 September 2004
Shows a photograph of a young family looking up and smiling at the enormous Trencherfield Mill Engine.

The enormous Trencherfield Mill Engine was once at the cutting edge of industrial technology. Courtesy Wigan Pier.

To the sound of applause, the Trencherfield Mill Engine at Wigan Pier powered up with a full head of steam to celebrate its re-opening last weekend.

Following a £600,000 two year restoration programme, part funded with a £369,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the engine’s pumps and pistons powered up to ensure that the steam whistle could once again be heard over two miles away.

Ahead of its time, the engine house was one of the first buildings in Europe to have fire sprinkler systems.

Built and installed in this specially designed engine house in 1907 by John and Edward Wood of Bolton, the four-cylinder engine is the world’s largest working steam engine, originally designed to power the cotton mills inside Trencherfield Mill.

Shows a photograph of the vast Trencherfield Mill Engine, which has steam rising from its centre and is under glowing pink and white light.

A full makeover has restored the engine to its original bright green colour scheme. Courtesy Wigan Pier.

Taller than a double and single decker bus placed on top of each other, the engine and its flywheel has had a complete overhaul and restoration.

The project was one of the most complex and delicate jobs that specialist company Heritage Engineering Glasgow has ever undertaken.

Speaking about the challenges of the project, Technical Project Manager Richard Gibbon said: "The engine had worked continuously at full power driving thousands of spindles and generating electricity in the mill, for 60 years…there was much more wrong with the engine than had been anticipated at the start of the project. We soon discovered that some parts had smashed into pieces and needed extensive replacement."

A sight to behold, this giant creature gives a sense of the history behind the mill and the honour of powering it up for the first time went to seven-year-old competition winner Jonathan Siney.

An engineering enthusiast, Jonathan was obviously excited and according to his mum "wants to be an engineer when he’s older".

Shows a photograph of a group of children sitting on the floor behind some bunting, clearly watching a show of some sort.

That's the way to do it - it's traditional entertainment all round as the mill roars back into life. Courtesy Wigan Pier.

In addition to the restoration of the engine, the way in which it is displayed to the public has changed, giving visitors the opportunity to see the engine, in its newly restored glory, as the star of the show at Wigan Pier.

"To complement the restoration, an exciting display programme has been devised which includes an audio-visual show telling the story of the engine’s history along with demonstrations and a new drama performance by the Wigan Pier Theatre Company about the original opening of the mill," explained Wigan Pier Manager, Carole Tyldesley.

To mark the grand re-opening, Wigan Pier hosted traditional activities like clog and Morris dancing, stilt walkers, Victorian sideshows, a town crier and music from the George Formby Appreciation Society.

The mix of old and new technology are what makes the engine really special, it is a unique example of Britain’s industrial heritage, as well as being of international importance as an example of 20th century technological advances.

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