Crofton Beam Engines Mechatronics
Crofton Pumping station on the Kennet and Avon Canal in Wiltshire houses the oldest working beam engine in the world and is still able to do its original job, pumping water to the summit of the canal. Our 1812, Boulton & Watt engine and our 1846 Harvey engine are regularly in steam.
With the help of graduates from the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston and students from Bath University we have installed a sophisticated Mechatronics’ system, as used in F1 racing cars, to measure and record key parameters such as pressures and valve timings. We do not think this has been done before for such historic engines.
Figure 1 shows a typical Indicator Diagram produced after the engine has warmed up and is running smoothly. It shows both above and below piston pressures and shows that for the major part of the cycle pressures are below atmospheric. The approximate position of the valve timings is also shown.
Figure 2 shows the plot of a single cycle of the engine against time. The precise timing of the opening and closing of the valves can be observed. Variations in the pressures over the cycle can be seen, with fluctuations, most likely resulting from leaking valves or the piston.
The results enable us to monitor the performance of the engines, to prevent any damage, to monitor any changes and to show the visiting public their detailed workings. We are happy to make this data available to suitable accredited academic establishments.
By analysing unusual occurrences and comparing results over time we are in a unique position to identify any problems, ensuring early intervention if required. Analysis of the data can also significantly increase our knowledge of how these amazing machines work.
On Saturday 24th and Sunday 25th June we will hold a special Mechatronics Event when there will be experts available to explain the systems and presentations throughout the day.