Interesting roller at Morwellham Quay Living History Village

Posted by Chris Graham on 16th May 2023

James Hamilton reports on an interesting steam roller that’s now to be found at Morwellham Quay Living History Village.

Living History Village

Morwellham Quay Living History Village: A 1926 Babcock & Wilcox 6-ton roller No. 95/4011, formerly an exhibit at the Bicton Countryside Museum.

Morwellham Quay Living History Village in west Devon is owned by the Liston family, who also own Bicton Botanical Gardens & Countryside Museum, and within the superb collection of museum exhibits are a number of steam engines. 

It was suggested to Valerie Lister that one of the engines might be in a suitable condition to return into steam without requiring major work. An initial assessment was made of the 1926 Babcock & Wilcox 6-ton roller No. 95/4011, and the results were encouraging enough to arrange for it to be transported to the nearby workshop of steam engineer, Adam Mckay, where the repair work could be carried out.

The engine was completely stripped down and steam-cleaned prior to a boiler thickness test, which it passed. Work then began on a thorough rebuild, dismantling all moving parts and ensuring that everything worked as it should. The boiler tubes were removed and replaced with 34 new ones. The injector was missing, a replacement was sourced and fitted. The engine had a hydraulic test which it passed. Rebuilding continued before having a steam test in April 2022, an appropriate date as the roller is 96 years old.

Having passed the steam test, the lagging was refitted. Cosmetically, no work was required and the roller has retained its original paintwork from the last days it worked, and remains in original condition. It does not officially have a name but, during the rebuild, was affectionately referred to as Babs. 

It was decided that there was more freedom for the roller to move around at Morwellham, so it was transported there for the first public steaming which took place over the May Bank Holiday weekend in 2022. By chance, that proved to have been a fortunate decision, for in one of the residential cottages at Morwellham live John and Lo Atkinson, a couple who have vast experience with engines, including once owning and rebuilding the most powerful McLaren road locomotive, Colussus. Retired now, they are more than happy to be on hand to steam Babs when required for Morwellham events, such as the Lister Stationary Engine Rally.

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


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