What happens on a Steaming Day?

On the last Sunday of each month*, we hold a Steaming Day. Really, it is a working day as many exhibits, steam powered or not, are hard at work. You can see our extensive collection of static and portable engines including the magnificent Basford Beam Engine and the Fowler ploughing engine. Steaming Day is a favourite with adults and children alike.

Everyone is fascinated by the beam engine and its graceful movement. Steaming Day is an opportunity to understand how it works and, if you wish, learn from our volunteers some of the many mechanical features which developed since Thomas Newcomen’s first engine in 1712. Many famous engineers had a role to play, including James Watt who added a separate condenser and his ingenious parallel linkage. The elegant Victorian ironwork speaks to the pride of the builders; R. W. Hawthorn of Newcastle upon Tyne. You can see the engine from two raised platforms.

Keep your eyes and ears open for one of our two grand Fowler Ploughing Engines that may be out and about in full steam in the yard. You can’t miss its whistle! These huge traction engines were the last two made by John Fowler & Co Engineers of Hunslet, Leeds. Farmers used two engines like these to drag ploughs across fields reducing dramatically the time taken to plough a field. Our engines enjoyed a different role and ended their working days ploughing in treated sewage at a large dairy farm at Stoke Bardolph. We also have several vintage tractors in our collection.

In addition to these two giants of steam, many more steam and diesel engines work during the day. One is a vertical compound steam engine (perhaps you can help us identify it?) driving a dynamo built by Siemens Brothers Dynamo Works Ltd in Stafford. Several of our small portable engines will be working. These 1-5 horsepower engines powered by steam, petrol or oil, provided farmers with much-needed assistance.

Basford Beam Engine
One of our volunteers recorded this video to show you what happens on Steaming Days.

Add to this the many other exhibits in the museum, and there is plenty for everyone in the family to see. Children can draw pictures for our monthly art competition, and we have a trail for those who like to find our secret items. We often have object handling sessions and demonstrations, for example of bobbin lace making.

Volunteers work hard on Steaming Day and to maintain the exhibits all year round. The museum is open every weekend. We can only steam once a month due to the considerable costs involved. Your support allows Nottingham’s only industrial museum to celebrate the efforts of workers in the coal, textile, communications and engineering industries over the last 300 years. Please do visit and share the experience with us.

*In December we steam up at our Christmas Extravaganza, rather than the last weekend of the month, look out for the date.

Step into Nottingham’s industrial heritage