Worth-Mackenzie triple expansion steam engine receives Engineering Heritage Award

The 1895 engine, which is one of the oldest working engines of its type, receives the accolade from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers

The Worth-Mackenzie triple expansion, one of the oldest triple-expansion, double-acting, condensing steam engines still capable of operating under steam in the UK, has been presented with an Engineering Heritage Award by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers at a ceremony at The Waterworks Museum in Hereford on Monday 7 May.  

The engine is being recognised for its role in supplying the City of Hereford with water from the River Wye for over fifty years.

Installed in 1895 to replace two ageing beam engines which had reached the end of their working lives, the new engine fulfilled two functions: it pumped untreated water from the River Wye to the water-treatment works, and re-pumped treated water to a water tower tank. From there the water was distributed to Hereford City and the immediate surrounding areas.

The engine pumped water at a considerable rate of 4.5 mega litres (1 million gallons) every 12 hours – a similar volume to one and a half Olympic-sized swimming pools. 

Previous winners of Engineering Heritage Awards include Alan Turing’s Bombe at Bletchley Park, the E-Type Jaguar and Concorde supersonic airliner. Other similar winners include the Claverton Pump built by John Rennie which worked continuously from 1813 to 1952, pumping water from the River Avon to the Kennet and Avon Canal, and Papplewick Pumping Station, which was built by Nottingham Corporation Water Department between 1881 and 1884 to pump water from the Bunter sandstone beds and provide drinking water to Nottingham.

The Worth-Mackenzie is the 116th recipient of the award.

John Wood, Chair of the Engineering Heritage Committee and Past President, said:

“The engine was at the forefront of steam engine design at the time. An early example of a triple expansion engine with advanced valve gear, it was economic to run and worked for many years until replaced by more modern technology in the form of the electric pumps. Ironically, these electric pumps failed during an inundating flood in the 1950s and the triple-expansion engine was brought back into service for a short and final time. It is a tribute to all involved that this unique engine is preserved in such fine condition and can still be seen running.”

Dr Noel Meeke, Emeritus Chairman of the Waterworks Museum, Hereford, said:

“The Worth MacKenzie Triple Expansion Steam Engine is the Waterworks Museum’s prize exhibit, but it is also the reason why the Museum was created in 1974, 14 years after first Chairman, Stephen Southall, had seen the mothballed engine on a tour of the works of the newly created Herefordshire Water Board. This award recognises the efforts not just of the Volunteer Engineers who have restored and maintained the Triple over the past 40 plus years, but of all the Volunteers (past and present) who have enabled the Museum to become what it is today.’ 

For an image of the presentation, please click on the link at the top of the email which shows John Wood, Chair of the Engineering Heritage Committee and Richard Curtis, Chairman Waterworks Museum, Hereford.