The Smethwick and Ashted Engines

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Archaeological investigation and historical research have thrown light on the location, structures and use of the Smethwick and Ashted steam engines, which served the needs of West Midlands canal transport in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Steam engines pumped water on the canal system to replace losses through leakage, particularly at locks. There were numerous pumping stations along West Midland canals, but the original engines have long since been removed and only a few engine houses are visible above ground.

The Smethwick Engine is on display in Thinktank in Millennium Point in Birmingham, and the Ashted Engine and other steam engines which originally operated in the West Midlands can be seen at Henry Ford’s museum in Dearborn, Michigan, in the United States. Archaeological excavation has revealed substantial remains of the engine houses at Smethwick and Ashted which can be compared with the actual engines and the documentary record to throw light on their installation and operation.

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Steam