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Our biggest adventure of our England trip was to get ourselves out to the Crofton Pumping Station during the Annual Steam Gala, where we could see the 200-year-old steam engines still doing the work that they were installed to do. To get there, we took the Tube to Paddington Station, two trains to get to Great Bedwyn in Wiltshire, and a two mile (or more) walk along the Kennet and Avon Canal to reach the pumping station.
The Crofton Pumping Station is at the highest point on the Kennet and Avon Canal which runs between London and Bristol. The problem with a hill for a canal is that you have to pump water to the top so that it can feed the locks on both sides. Before steam engines, canals had to be built around or through hills, an undertaking that might require years of blasting and digging. After steam engines, a canal could go right over the top of a hill. Two hundred years ago, two steam engines were installed at this station to pump water to the top and they still do that same job today!
Here’s a video of the Boulton and Watts engine in action:
And, here’s the point of it all — water gushing out at the top of the hill.
One of the reasons we enjoyed this day so much was because we were so far off the beaten track for tourists. There were plenty of visitors, but they were British steam, history, and canal enthusiasts. Do you have fond memories of visiting sites that most tourists never see?