|Full Steam Ahead for Wigan's Favourite Engine
One of Wigan Borough's finest examples of engineering excellence is set for a new lease of life following the approval of a significant investment. Wigan Council's 'Overview and Scrutiny Committee' on Monday evening endorsed the cabinet's decision, to install a new boiler to power the Trencherfield Mill Engine, subject to final ratification of the new boiler meeting the Council's value for money criteria.
Reputedly the world's largest in-situ, original working, mill steam engine, the four-cylinder 2,500 hp giant was built and installed in its specially designed engine house at Trencherfield Mill in 1907 and is a popular tourist attraction and engineering feat of historical importance. In order to prolong the engine's working life and to ensure that it remains hugely valuable to Wigan's heritage it has been accepted that the boiler needs to be replaced.
"Recently it has become evident that the old boiler is coming to the end of its working life. The mill engine has not been running as efficiently or consistently as it should be. This is standard practice as part of the Council's maintenance programme," says Emma Birkett Project Manager for Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust. "The new boiler will be more economically and environmentally efficient and will support the steam engine's value as a heritage attraction as part of the regeneration of the Wigan Pier Quarter. In order to conserve the engine it needs to be able to run consistently."
In September 2004, much of the Trencherfield Mill engine was restored thanks largely to a £369,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery. This helped confirm the Engine's status as a unique example of Britain's industrial heritage, however the funding could not be extended to fund the cost of the new boiler system as part of the restoration.
"Heritage Lottery Funding cannot be extended towards funding the maintenance of a facility, so we needed to obtain funds through the Council," explains Emma. "The existing boiler is actually designed to heat the whole of Trencherfield Mill as well as power the mill engine. The new boiler will focus purely on producing steam to run the engine and the rest of the mill will be heated by independent sources such as electricity."
The improved boiler system is part of the trust's exciting plans for the heritage element of the Wigan Pier Quarter regeneration. This includes the recent employment of John Garvey as the new Heritage Engineer on site who has specific responsibility for the maintenance and long term success of the steam engine. For further information please visit www.wlct.org/wiganpier.