Last steam engine roars back to life

Reporter: Marina Berry
Date published: 10 February 2010

THE last ever steam engine to power a British factory has been restored to its former glory.

The work was funded by a People’s Millions prize of £48,000 won in a Granada TV competition last year.

And yesterday, the 30-ton Marsden horizontal single cylinder steam engine roared into life at Ellenroad Steam Museum at Newhey.

Rochdale’s Mayor, Councillor Keith Swift, threw the lever and the occasion was witnessed by Oldham’s Mayor, Councillor Jim McArdle and his fellow-mayors from across Greater Manchester.

The 22ft-long engine — donated by steam enthusiast John Wilson — had been lying in 10 pieces at a Yorkshire workshop since the 1980s.

But the People’s Millions prize from the Big Lottery Fund allowed the museum’s trustees to renovate the engine with the help of young people with an interest in engineering.

The Ellenroad engine house is also home to the colossal “Victoria and Alexandra” machine which was once part of one of Lancashire’s largest cotton mills.

The Victoria and Alexandra can generate 3,000 horsepower — enough to run 20,000 light bulbs, and it’s flywheel is as tall as a house, weighing in at 82 tons.

Both the Victoria and Alexandra and the Marsden, together with Ellenroad’s impressive Whitelees Beam Engine were all in steam for the visit by the mayors and the Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester, Warren Smith, and the High Sheriff, Christian Wewer.

Chairman of Ellenroad committee, Bernard Rostron said: “Although not from the textile industry, our Marsden is recognised as the last steam engine to run a factory in the UK.”

It was built for Wm. Barker & Sons Ltd Tannery in Ossett, West Yorkshire, where it spent all its working life. The engine was stopped in 1988, Museum opening details are available from