Bradley Engine

In 1901, a Smith Bros. & Eastwood, 300 hp. tandem compound engine was installed at Cross Lane Mill, Bradley, Nr. Skipton, for Peter Green & Sons cloth manufacturers. The company was well established with its parent mill in the next village of Cononley, it replaced an earlier beam engine at the mill. This tandem engine, built in Bradford, went on to extend the life of the mill for another 77 years.

Early in 2003, the mill premises were sold for domestic development but the previous owner was anxious that the engine should be preserved. To this end, an enthusiast was given ownership and permission to dismantle and remove the engine, and to find a new home for it. The position became more acute as the engine was dismantled, with nowhere to store it under cover. At this stage, the Committee at Bancroft offered to find room in a large store at Bancroft Mill, and the Bradley engine parts were transported there. Talks were instituted between the engine owner and the Museum, which resulted in a plan to re-erect the engine at Bancroft Mill as an added attraction, with the hope of eventually running it on steam.

The Smith Bros. & Eastwood engine is an example of a different type of engine to the Bancroft Roberts engine; it has a tandem configuration of its cylinders as opposed to the cross-compound arrangement. The tandem engine has both cylinders in-line with only one crank where the cross compound has its cylinders side by side and a separate crank for each of them. It is an example of a northern-built engine with several novel features, and is in a condition commensurate with its age and requiring repair in some areas. A very few important parts were missing. It is believed to be the sole surviving engine built by Smith Bros. & Eastwood who were established in Bradford and went out of business in 1902.

This rare engine has an overall length of 41 feet, its new home, a large brick/stone/steel building at Bancroft Mill, previously used as a store, was 30 feet long and 20 feet wide. At the front of the building, facing Gillians Lane, are, presently, four wooden, sliding doors which are to be replaced, when funds allow, by a new wall with windows, which would enhance the appearance of the frontage and be in keeping with the new role of the building. Underpinning of this end of the building will also be necessary. To accommodate the engine within this building, it had to be extended by approximately 16 feet at the end nearest the chimney. This work was enabled in 2006 by a grant of 15,000 from the Lancashire Environmental Fund. Stone cladding was erected around the extension by members.

By April 2011 the foundations for the Bradley Engine were completed and both main bed castings were installed and levelled. Anchors to tie the engine to its foundations were manufactured by members whilst design work on replacement piston rod bearing/seals and bearing shells continued

The crankshaft of this engine is carried in bronze bearings, one on the bed casting and the other as an "outrigger". Both bearings, unusual in their design were missing on arrival at Bancroft. The bearing on the bed is of 3-segment design which allowed both horizontal bearing adjustment as well as vertical. The split line is at 30° to the vertical thus allowing the main piston thrust to act away from the joint between bed and bearing cap. The outrigger bearing uses only a bottom half bronze insert whilst relying on flywheel weight (c. 8.8 tons) to hold the shaft down. The casting and machining of the new bearing shells cost 9,300; 80 percent of this was covered by a grant from the Arts Council.

Unfortunately the main bearing seat on the main casting had suffered cracking at some time with a small crack in the bore and one down each side of the casting. These have been stitched.

Reassembly of the engine continued steadily over the following years, requiring tremendous physical (and mental) effort from a dedicated band of volunteers, moving very heavy elements of the engine with great precsion using only chains, pulley blocks, levers and jacks. A new steam pipe from the Cornish Boiler to the engine was installed, tested with steam, and lagged. In addition to the physical work there was much effort going on behind the scenes to secure grant funding for major elements of the cost.

The flywheel was eventually moved from its temporary home in the car park, one half carefully lowered into the pit by a telehandler and the crankshaft put in place on top of it, followed of course by the top half of the flywheel some time later. After much careful work to 'true-up' the flywheel an electric barring system, designed and manufactured by one of our volunteers, was installed in May 2016 so that the engine could be slowly turned under power to allow final checks and timing settings to be made.

Finally, on Friday 8th September 2017, the engine was returned to steam for the first time in 39 years and it stands as a wonderful tribute to the thousands of man-hours of volunteers' effort that has been expended in the process of its restoration.

The Bradley Engine can now be seen running on our regular steaming days.

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