Strange Machine at Preston Park Museum c2014

t15890t15891I believe that this rather odd machine was saved from Head Wrightsons, and is now at the back of Preston Park Museum. Can anyone explain what it was used for and what the various wheels and gears were supposed to be doing?

Photographs and details courtesy of Fred Starr.

27 thoughts on “Strange Machine at Preston Park Museum c2014

  1. Geoff… was not the same incident.
    In my case the truck had been partially dismantled for months with major bits lying around on the grass (roughly where the gasholder was).
    No one was doing anything with it so I made off with it. I kept it in 17 St Annes Terrace for a long time until any possible heat had died down. Then I got it over to Skuppy’s in Norton Road.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What Goff Marshall says about the time machine makes sound sense, as we can actually date its construction fairly accurately. The electrical wiring may have disintegrated because of time travel overloads. But it seems more likely that this, and the control system, was ripped out for fear that vandals from Portrack and Tilery might have got it to back to work and disrupted the space time continuum.

    But the absence of stainless steel part puts the machine before 1906, and even more tellingly, the absence of aluminium, before 1886. Strange that there is no brass or bronze, so perhaps the Portrack lads have been at work, after all..

    PS: In my youth I stole the differential from a broken down truck on waste land at the back of Browns Foundry and eventually got it to Skippy’s scrap yard on Norton Road. I was paid a £1, worth about £20-30 in spending power in modern day money…..My first exercise in practical metallurgy ….Dr F Starr PhD, FIMMM, MIMechE, C.Eng


    • Thank you Fred for the confirmation of a little known Stockton legend. By the way, that truck behind Browns wasn’t broken down, I’d just popped round to me nanas for some panakalty, when I got back the bugger wouldn’t start. Now I know why!!!!


  3. Kris Ward, who runs a website devoted to Leeds Crane Makers, confirms that this is the remains of the crane that was supplied to Browns. It is listed in the Booth Bros. order books as no. 1390. At the time of its removal from Browns, it was thought to be the last steam powered overhead crane in the country. One wonders what Preston Hall Museum plans to do with this machinery. In view of the lack of care received by the old chaldron waggon, it might be best offering the machinery to Beamish Museum whilst it can still be saved.


  4. Thanks everyone. So I find out that this strange machine was running in Browns Foundry, near the railway crossing in Portrack Lane, not half a mile from where I lived.

    I must have seen it in action many times, or at least the loose fitting leather belts from the machine, slanting upwards, to a crane one, I would guess. The belts would make a slapping sound as the join in the belting passed over the wheels.

    To think that there was once a whole industry and profession, dependent on selling belt driven machinery. There were even questions on the subject in my Applied A Level Maths books when I was at Stockton Grammar.


    • Hi Fred, this was part of an overhead gantry crane, where the whole assembly shown in the photo sat on some rails on the crane bridge, which itself then sat on gantry rails that would of been set high above the ground/shop floor.
      You can see a more complete image of an almost identical crane here:

      Quite a scary proposition having a steam boiler moving around above the workplace!


  5. All wrong! It was a time machine built by Bartholemew Pease. The idea being he could travel forward in time to Stockton to view the magnificent metropolis that his family had helped create. The great palaces of science, education and engineering. The shipbuilding and marine engineering that dominates the world. The advanced chemical industries that began with the invention of the match. His first, and only visit took him to 1967 he abruptly did a U-turn, sabotaged his machine and said no more about it.


  6. It looks to me like an overhead crane. Note the small railway wheels underneath and the word ‘Rodley’ on the flywheel in the second picture


    • Steam crane, I meant. Note also the massive brackets below the frame – to carry the winding drum that did the lifting, and the large gear, driven by a small one not visible, to turn the drum.


  7. The top part is a reciprocating steam engine it is driving the Large geared wheel after first going through reduction gearing. It appears also to drive two belt pulleys as shown in the second shot. I would assume it sits atop the rest of the machine shown in the background of the first shot and drives the gearing shown. My guess is that it’s a machine drive for multiple metal working machines.


  8. Underneath there is a crown wheel and pinion on a shaft to two grooved wheels as if it had some lateral movement, but they are not repeated on the opposite side.


    • I think they /are/ repeated. In the first picture I see (well, glimpse is a better word perhaps) one wheel on the left, above and between the ‘u’ and ‘r’ of Picture, and the other on the right, between the ‘t’ and ‘o’ of Stockton


  9. It looks like the remains of a rail mounted mobile steam crane manufactured by Booth & Bros of Rodley near Leeds. However, I could be, and probably am, wrong. The large gear underneath provides the drive to one of the axles, from the engine mounted above.


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