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A stationary steam engine, preserved at Tower Bridge in London. This is one of two tandem cross-compound hydraulic pumping engines formerly used to raise and lower the bridge.

Stationary steam engines are fixed steam engines used for pumping or driving mills and factories, and for power generation. They are distinct from locomotive engines used on railways, traction engines for heavy steam haulage on roads, steam cars (and other motor vehicles), agricultural engines used for ploughing or threshing, marine engines, and the steam turbines used as the mechanism of power generation for most nuclear power plants.

They were introduced during the 18th century and widely made for the whole of the 19th century and most of the first half of the 20th century, only declining as electricity supply and the internal combustion engine became more widespread.

Types of stationary steam engine

Double-acting horizontal stationary steam engine. The piston is on the left, the crank is mounted on the flywheel axle on the right.
Mill engine, Queen Street Mill, Burnley. William Roberts horizontal tandem compound engine - 'Peace'.
Marshall undertype steam engine

There are different patterns of stationary steam engines, distinguished by the layout of the cylinders and crankshaft:

Stationary engines may be classified by secondary characteristics as well:

When stationary engines had multiple cylinders, they could be classified as:

An engine could be run in simple or condensing mode:

Stationary engines may also be classified by their application:

Stationary engines could be classified by the manufacturer

The restored Kittoe and Brotherhood beam engine at Coldharbour, which is steamed up regularly on Bank Holiday weekends.


In order of evolution:


See also



Vol 1, Yorkshire (2000)
Vol 2, Scotland and Northern England (2000)
Vols 3:1, 3:2, Lancashire (2001)
Vol 4, Wales, Cheshire,& Shropshire (2002)
Vol 5, The North Midlands (2002)
Vol 6, The South Midlands (2003)
Vol 7, The South and South West (2003)
Vol 8, Greater London and the South East (2003)
Vol 9, East Anglia & adjacent counties (2004)
Vol 10, Marine Engines (and readers' notes, indexes to the series etc) (2005)

This series reproduces some 1,500 images from the Steam Engine Record made by George Watkins between 1930 and 1980, which is now in the Watkins Collection at English Heritage's National Monuments Record at Swindon, Wilts.