An update on the Allen Engine

Written by Ed Fagan, Collections and Estates Manager 


As many of you will know, Graham Walker and his dedicated Friday Team have been working in the diesel house to bring life back to our 1934 Allen engine through a carefully planned and skillfully implement programme of conservation, maintenance and repair works. The project has been running for a year, and like any great opera is building steadily towards its crescendo. (There is a line about a fat lady singing somewhere in there!)

The team have removed, repaired and reinstated most of the cooling water system, including the design and installation of a new water tank, a fuel system suitable for the 21st century, ensuring that we comply with a variety of legislative devices has been devised, and is being installed as my fingers move on the keyboard. The engine has been extensively cleaned, we have worked hard not to re-paint it, preferring to keep the work-worn honesty of the object intact, but where this has not been possible, clean green paint now gleams amongst the sparkling bright work.

I never knew how much bright metal there was on this engine until Ron and David began cleaning it in earnest some months ago; they assure me that they are not done yet, but already the Allen engine stands off its background, a credit to the time and skill that has been lavished upon it these past months.

Writing of time and skill, we often fail to look down and appreciate where we walk and our special thanks must go to Tom Traynor who has worked in all weathers to bring a level and paved pathway to the Diesel House door, seldom have I experienced a new volunteer with such dedication and pride in his work.

A project really does seem to come together when the interpretation arrives, which it did, on Friday last week. Whilst Graham and Co. have been spanner wrangling, I have been working with Tony Jones, who produced much of the printed interpretation for Project Aquarius, to develop our interpretive style a little further and tell the story of the Diesel House in a way that, hopefully, makes the engine and the building relevant to our audience; a difficult task given the diverse society one can experience in our museum on any given day. The panels will go up on the walls presently, and I am told we are in the process of testing the cooling water systems and chasing leaks – it will not be long before our first engine start in the diesel house in four years.

Once the engine has been started we will deal with a backlog of maintenance issues and work through the testing and inspection regime outlined in the original manual to ensure that the engine is once again, fit for service. Of all the working objects in the Museum collection, I have missed the Allen engine the most and look forward to hearing it waltz just like it used to.