PORTABLE STEAM ENGINES



Portable Steam Engine 1
We will probably never know exactly what kind of steam engine was used to drive the mill during its later days, but it is reasonable to assume that it would have been of the "portable" agricultural variety. In this case, "portable" simply means that the engine was mounted on wheels and could be dragged from place to place by a couple of horses. The engine seen here at the Great Dorset Steam Fair is almost certainly of a much later vintage.

In essence, all we have is a 4 wheeled chasis (with modern towbar fixtures) carrying a boiler and firebox with a single cylinder on top driving a pair of flywheels. The belt to be driven simply goes round the flywheel. This is quite a large example and, at the time we are considering, they would have been quite a bit smaller, probably with only one flywheel. The funnel is usually articulated such that it can be laid flat along the body during transportation to avoid low-hanging obstructions.

The engines usually also feature a small pump so that they can keep themselves supplied with water from any convenient nearby source, typically a barrel carried for the purpose.
Portable Steam Engine 2 Threshing Crew at Work
The primary motivation for having a portable steam engine on a farm was to permit the use of a whole range of small cutting and crushing machines and, in particular, the newly-developed threshing machines. These amazing constructions of iron and timber (also known as thrashing machines) take the harvested wheat in at the top and separate the grain, chaff and straw to three different outputs. For some reason they are invariably painted a soft pink colour. The more advanced specimens would even grade the grain into different sacks for small, medium and large. Chaff appears to have been discarded, but the straw could be fed onto a separate baling machine seen here in the foreground. In this particular configuration, the motive power for the whole rig is a steam traction engine. This configuration would often be used by contractors, using the traction engine to tow the threshing machine from farm to farm in their area and then supplying power on arrival. This whole chain of machines is now incorporated into the modern combine harvester.


WHITEMILL HOME STEAM CONVERSION