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Festival of Steam 2012

Newcomen

09 July 2012

 On Saturday 14 July Black Country Living Museum launches its celebrations to commemorate the Tercentenary of the invention of the world’s first steam engine. TV presenter, Adam Hart-Davis will re-open the Museum’s replica Newcomen engine which has been the subject of a £100,000 refurbishment. The steaming of the Newcomen engine forms the focal point of a week-end long Festival of Steam. The Museum will be steaming many of its steam engines – including steam boat ‘President’ and the Colliery Winding Engine. In addition the Museum is hosting several visiting steam engines, including the ‘Catch Me Who Can’ – a working replica of the world’s first railway engine, several traction engines and a display of model and toy steam engines. 

The Museum is also staging a poetry festival, family activities including Pneumatic rocket cars. Also at set times through the weekend, there will be an Interactive History and Science show explaining all the ins and outs of the Newcomen engine. 

In 1712, Thomas Newcomen, an ironmonger from Devon, invented the world’s first steam engine in which mechanical power was achieved by a piston moving in a cylinder. Newcomen’s pioneering work, subsequently refined by James Watt and others, established the steam engine as one of those few inventions which it can be claimed, changed the course of world history. 

The Museum has a particular connection with this anniversary as the first fully successful installation of a Newcomen engine was at a Black Country colliery where it was used to pump water our of deep mine shafts. Nothing remains of the original engine and its exact location is still debated but there is strong evidence that it was put to work on a colliery at Coneygree in Tipton, within view of DudleyCastle and no more than a mile from the Museum where the only full sized working replica of the engine can be seen in use.  

Newcomen’s engine established all the major components of later steam engines and the development of mechanical power from heat began here with this engine. The Newcomen engine accelerated industrial growth in the Black Country and first made possible the twenty four/seven regime which propelled industrial growth across the Western World.  

David J Eveleigh, Director of Collections, Learning & Research said, ‘This anniversary is of massive significance to the Museum, to Dudley, to the wider Black Country and arguably, to the entire World. We are very proud that the Museum’s unique association with the Newcomen steam engine provides us with the opportunity to mark this momentous historical event of 1712’.

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