Super steam at the Black Country Living Museum

Posted by Chris Graham on 1st May 2024

Simon Colbeck revels in the chance to see steam engines in the fabulous Black Country Living Museum, under the cover of darkness.

Photography: Simon Colbeck

Black Country Living Museum

1894-built Aveling & Porter 8hp general purpose engine No. 3387 Big Ben, ex-Wingham Engineering, Kent.

Once again, the Black Country Living Museum’s Red by Night event on 17 March 2024 provided a unique opportunity to witness the sites, sounds and smells of the industrial heritage of the Black Country after dark. The museum is a constantly evolving site with new buildings and attractions being added all the time. This was the first year for the new post-war high street to feature in the Red by Night event.

Black Country Living Museum

Burrell road locomotive 3996 of 1924 Conqueror in the 1930s street.

The 1950s butchers shop was doing a roaring trade in hot food for the duration of the evening. This interesting combination of buildings provided a new vista to photograph some of the road steam exhibits that were visiting for the weekend. Foster traction engine No. 14410 of 1920 Sprig looked like a scene from early preservation history parked up outside the 1960s TV and record store.

Black Country Living Museum

Red sky over the Black Country Museum shows the Anchor works is busy.

At the end of the street the funfair was busy with plenty of happy children riding the Chair-o-planes. Marshall tractor No. 68754 of 1915 The Mascot was nicely positioned next to the fairground, providing the sounds and smells of a steam-powered fair.

Black Country Living Museum

Foster No. 14410 of 1920 Sprig outside the newly opened 1960s TV and record shop.

Burrell road locomotive No. 3996 of 1924 Conqueror looked very much at home sitting outside one of the two pubs now open at the museum. Reopened in 2022, the original Elephant & Castle pub was built in 1905 and was once a grand Edwardian pub situated on the corner of Stafford Street and Cannock Road in Wolverhampton. Famous for its fabulous ceramic tiled frontage and prominent figurine of an elephant, the pub was once part of the Bank’s estate.

Black Country Living Museum

Aveling & Porter BTD 8-ton roller No. 8550 of 1915 rests outside the brick works in the new industrial quarter.

In an interesting parallel with the recently demolished iconic Black Country Crooked House pub, the Elephant & Castle was also unexpectedly demolished in 2001 just as it was being considered for listed status. The Black Country Museum’s stunning re-creation of this famous pub looks superb on the corner of the 1930s street with its period shops and vehicles.

In front of the chair-o-planes, Marshall tractor 68754 of 1915 The Mascot.

Also, in the same street was 1894 built Aveling and Porter GP engine No. 3387 of 1894 Big Ben. The lovely old Aveling was one of three engines from Rochester attending the event this year. Rollers Nos. 8550 of 1915 and 11446 of 1926 were on display in the courtyard of the newly-opened Industrial quarter with Tasker tractor No. 1592 of 1914. The industrial quarter has a brickworks, an aluminium foundry and tool-making factory showcasing just some of the many industries that were once common in the Black Country.

Burrell No. 3996 of 1924 Conqueror in the 1930s street raises steam outside the Elephant & Castle.

A highlight of the Red by Night events is the operation of the Anchor Forge and its fabulous Charles Ross steam hammer. The hammer and furnace both came from the works of Isaiah Preston of Cradley Heath. Both date from around 1886 and had been purchased second hand by Preston’s in 1920. To feel the heat from the open furnace and the rumble of the ground as the 1-ton steam hammer forges the Iron is a rare visceral treat in today’s sanitised world!

The unforgettable sight of the Anchor Forge in full swing. The steam hammer team await the freshly heated billet to come out of the furnace.

Up at the recreated drift mine Fowler No. 8889 of 1901 and Wallis & Steevens roller No. 7878 of 1926 completed the contingent of road steam visiting the museum this year.

Sparks fly from the Charles Ross steam hammer working at the Anchor Forge.

The damp conditions of the evening only added to the atmosphere at this highly recommended event

This feature comes from the latest issue of Old Glory, and you can get a money-saving subscription to this magazine simply by clicking HERE


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