Historic steam engine back in one piece after 20 years

The 1924 Garrett Portable Engine is returned to the Long Shop Museum in Leiston for the next stage o

The 1924 Garrett Portable Engine is returned to the Long Shop Museum in Leiston for the next stage of its restoration. L-R: Simon Middleditch, Peter Reader, Neil Parsons, Richard White, Tabitha Runnacres, Paul Chandler and Colin Pestell. - Credit: Archant

It spent more than two decades in pieces, but this historic Suffolk-made engine is beginning to look like its old self again, thanks to a dedicated restoration team.

The 1924 Garrett Portable Engine is returned to the Long Shop Museum in Leiston for the next stage o

The 1924 Garrett Portable Engine is returned to the Long Shop Museum in Leiston for the next stage of its restoration. - Credit: Archant

The Garretts Works in Leiston, now home to the Long Shop Museum, produced about 20,000 portable engines between the 1840s and 1930s, including one sold to J Brace and Sons timber merchants in Ongar, Essex. There it stayed from 1925 until returning just before the museum opened in 1984, when it was dismantled for future restoration.

More than 20 years after its homecoming, the engine is fit for display at the museum, which stands in the original 19th century works site.

Marketing assistant, Karen Hubbard said: “About 90% of steam engines made in Leiston were portable, and about 95% were sent all over the world to places like New Zealand, Malaysia, South America and Eastern Europe.

“Very few are left, particularly in this country, as they’re not as attractive to private owners as steam tractors or showman’s engines that move around.”


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With external restoration complete, a group of volunteers from the local Men’s Shed project, who meet at the museum each Wednesday, are piecing together the mechanical parts of the engine.

Hundreds of rivets have already been screwed into place by the experienced hand of local man, Mark Armstrong.

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The engine will be officially unveiled by Suffolk County Council leader Colin Noble at the museum’s annual spring Steam-Up open day on March 26.

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