Visit of Peter Gibson, MP

The MP for Darlington, Peter Gibson, paid a visit to Tees Cottage yesterday, Monday 9th May 2022. He was welcomed by the Chairman, Dave Smart, Director Responsible for Education, Martyn Brown, and Vicky Cairns, Northumbrian Water Partnerships Consultant. Peter visited the Beam Engine, Gas Engine and Smithy and was impressed by the condition of the equipment and the site in general.

As a record of his visit, Peter presented Dave with a framed certificate to commemorate the Queen’s forthcoming Platinum Jubilee.

Presentation of the Platinum Jubilee Commemoration Certificate
Vicky Cairns, Peter Gibson, Dave Smart and Martyn Brown
In the Smithy

In discussions, Peter was very happy to promote the site with other organisations in the region, particularly regarding its role in the local cultural heritage, the forthcoming 200th Anniversary of the Darlington and Stockton Railway and its unique educational offerings.

Successful April Open Days

The Easter Open Days, held on April 17th and 18th, proved to be very successful. Decent weather and an article in the Memories section of the Northern Echo attracted a bumper attendance of more than 850 people over the two days. In addition to having the Engines and Boilers operating, the Blacksmiths were in action demonstrating their skills.

The Great North Air Ambulance had a successful day on the 17th April, raising funds for their charity and the Darlington Crafty Painters brought crafts and paintings which they offered for sale.

Refreshments, prepared and served by TCPS volunteers, were sampled and enjoyed by many of the visitors over the weekend. The Open Days were also an opportunity to launch the new TCPS Guidebook which has been written and illustrated by a group of the volunteers. In total, 88 guidebooks were purchased, a really good start for this new venture.

We now look forward to our second Open Weekend of the year, on 21st and 22nd May, and look forward to repeating the successes of the April weekend.

Jim Prentice

It is with great sadness that we report the death of one of our founder members, Jim Prentice.

Jim was born in Nottingham and lived in Mansfield where he studied at Brunt’s Grammar School. He was academically bright and became Vice-Head Boy in the Sixth Form. He joined the School Photographic Society where his life-long love of photography developed. On leaving school Jim went to Manchester University where he gained a degree in Civil Engineering. In 1970 he moved to Teesside where he joined Tees Valley and Cleveland Water board, later to become Northumbrian Water, as a Graduate Engineer. He remained within Northumbrian Water in various roles including responsibility for all the dams in the North East. One of his duties was the inspection of pipelines and tunnels leading from one reservoir to another and this was best achieved with the aid of a bicycle. It aroused so much interest that Tyne Tees Television did a News item on him as he pedalled through the Tyne-Tees link that carried water from Kielder to Teesside.

Later Jim’s career assumed a more international aspect where he travelled to Argentina, Mexico, Guyana, Norway, Italy, Ireland, South America, and India on a variety of projects. Probably his favourite country was India. His work continued there after retirement from Northumbrian Water on his 60th birthday in 2008, working on behalf of Water Aid on a series of projects and mentoring young engineers, becoming quite a celebrity in the process.

Following the public steaming of the beam engine as part of the 150th Anniversary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1975, several attempts were made to preserve the Tees Cottage site which had been made redundant as the Broken Scar treatment plant expanded. All of these attempts failed until a few years later when a group of enthusiasts including Jim and some of his colleagues successfully secured the site and prepared it for its first public steaming in 1979. From these humble beginnings Tees Cottage Pumping Station grew into a successful museum with Jim an important driving force as engineer, trainer, project manager and at one point, Chairman.

The beam engine was his pride and joy and he taught several volunteers, including myself, how to operate it and deal with its many foibles. As well as the beam engine, Jim enjoyed working in the smithy and on the gas engine where he played a significant part in 1984 getting it running after not turning a wheel since the mid-1950s.

Jim’s interest in photography ranged from plate cameras right through to digital work and he amassed a collection of around seventy cameras of all kinds. He would often bring a large plate camera to the pumping station and using time exposure, would create some stunning pictures.

In addition to photography, Jim enjoyed walking especially in the North York Moors. He loved everything steam and would often visit the North York Moors Railway and take photographs. In addition to walking, Jim was interested in old machinery, heritage railways, dams and water supply. He liked reading poetry and was able to choose an appropriate verse for any occasion. Last but by no means least was his love of vintage cars, especially those made by Jowett of which he owned two. He often brought them to Tees Cottage on our open days.

Sadly Jim suffered a stroke last November leaving him without use of his left arm and leg but his mind remained as sharp as ever. Unfortunately he contracted an infection and was taken back into hospital where he passed away peacefully on the 25th February. He leaves his wife Hazel whom he met at school and children Ian, Steven, John, Kevin, Helen, Brian and Yvonne and seventeen grandchildren.

Jim was much loved and respected at Tees Cottage. He was friendly, approachable, calm, softly-spoken, kind, patient, tolerant and knowledgeable with a mischievous sense of humour. We owe him a large debt of gratitude for the knowledge of the beam and gas engines and water treatment we have gained. His method of teaching was legendary. He would counter a question with a series of further questions, the answers to which would give you the answer to your initial query. It could sometimes be a laborious process but it ensured that not only did you find the answer – you also understood it.

Thank you, Jim for your friendship, kindness, tolerance and comradeship. We will miss you. George Beautyman.

Visit by Old Glory Journalist, David Reed

David Reed from Old Glory magazine visited Tees Cottage last week as he is writing an article about the pumping station. He was given a guided tour of the site and enjoyed meeting a number of the Wednesday volunteers who explained the various exhibits on the site.

He was very impressed with what he saw, “Everyone has done a fantastic job in maintaining the engines to their working condition, their enthusiasm is infectious,” David said. “It is amazing that most people who live in Darlington don’t realise that the pumping station exists, especially as historically, it was arguably the most important improvement to the resident’s lives during the 19th Century”.

No date can be given for the feature’s publication in Old Glory, but it will hopefully bring Tees Cottage to the attention of more people who will visit the pumping station in the near future.

October Open Days

The bright weekend weather saw a bumper crowd attend the final Open Weekend of the year at the Tees Cottage Pumping Station, in Darlington. More than 800 visitors enjoyed seeing the 1904 Beam Engine and associated Boiler, and the 1914 Gas Engine, in operation and watched the site blacksmiths working at their forge.

Sunday also saw 120 exhibitors, many from the Teesside Yesteryear Motor Club, bring their prized vehicles to the site.

Bob Barfoot

Robert John (Bob) Barfoot was born in Warwickshire on the 11th December 1944 and attended the local Grammar School in Rugby where he did well academically. He played guitar and keyboards and in his twenties was a member of a band playing pubs and clubs in Warwickshire.

He worked as a self-employed service engineer travelling all over the country quickly gaining a reputation for being “the” man for the job. Bob worked hard, but he played hard too. He gained a private pilot’s licence and flew his family to all parts of the country for holidays. In addition to his love of flying Bob had a collection of road motorcycles and trials machines that he rode competitively. Narrow-boating was another of Bob’s hobbies. He owned several boats during his lifetime and the family would enjoy holidays exploring Britain’s network of canals. In later life he developed an interest in caravanning and eventually bought a static caravan.

During his eventful life Bob served on the committees of several societies and groups concerned with preserving Devon’s countryside where he lived. He was successful in rejecting several planning applications for structures that would ruin tourists’ scenic views. His expertise in this field brought him to the North-East when he was asked by a local group for help.  The attractions of this area resulted in him leaving Devon to live in Darlington, to the surprise of many who knew him!

Bob visited Tees Cottage one day and became a member where he helped with both practical and administrative tasks. His expertise on committees quickly gained him an invitation to join our Board of Trustees where he took on the increasingly complicated role of Finance Director and helped guide the way through the early stages of our charitable status application.

The last few years witnessed deterioration in Bob’s health as his blocked arteries forced him to use a wheelchair, but he continued his work as a trustee from home. He passed away on the 7th October in hospital the after a fall at home led to a bleed on his brain. He was 76 years old.

Bob was well-liked and highly respected at Tees Cottage. He was friendly and easy-going with a keen sense of humour and a collection of fascinating anecdotes about his past, which he shared over lunch or whilst working in a team. Bob was very helpful to me in my role as Secretary and I’d often seek his advice on dealings with external organisations and regulatory bodies and I’d run things past him for comments. He was very supportive and showed his appreciation to volunteers for a job well done. His favourite place during open days was a bench near the entrance to the beam engine house where he would welcome visitors and answer questions.

Our thoughts are with his wife Sheena and his three children, two step-children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

Thank you for your good-natured support and camaraderie, Bob. We will miss you.

George Beautyman

Bill Beattie – Obituary

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of volunteer, Bill Beatie, who died on the 1st September.

Bill was born in Montrose and after leaving school he served an electrician’s apprenticeship in a canning factory in Montrose. His first move was to GlaxoSmithKline in Montrose where he worked as a shift electrician. He quickly gained promotion to the position of Training and Development Manager and in 1999 moved to Glaxo in Barnard Castle.  His next move took him to Glaxo at Greenford where he commuted every weekend to his home in Staindrop.  He took early retirement at the age of 50.

Bill always showed an interest in Tees Cottage and was welcomed into the fold where his engineering knowledge was quickly put to use around the site. He was particularly interested in the gas engine and became a highly-valued member of the team, working on the engine and associated equipment in the building.

In recent weeks Bill was instrumental in the renovation of the spare gas engine piston, which had been left, unloved, for many years. In addition, he helped to strip down the gas engine’s south cylinder, in order to cure an annoying water leak that had frustrated the team for several years, and refurbished and re-erected the access ladder to the upper floor of the gas producer plant

In addition to the above, Bill’s engineering knowledge and management skills were utilised to the full when he developed an action plan for all outstanding work in the gas engine house.

Away from the pumping station, Bill enjoyed several long trips around the world with his wife Irene. They visited all fifty states in the USA and went on six cruises. At home he enjoyed golf, cycling and motor cycling.

Bill worked well with volunteers and was liked and respected by everyone. He will be greatly missed.

We extend our deepest sympathy to his wife Irene and their daughter, son and four grandchildren.

George Beautyman and Martyn Brown

Lathe and Equipment Preservation

Maintaining a piece of Victorian engineering carries many challenges. One of the main headaches is corrosion. Our cherished beam engine built in 1904 has many large rods, cranks and levers made of bright steel. During the winter months these parts suffer from rust, necessitating many hours of polishing and cleaning when warmer weather returns. For forty years we have tried to protect these parts with various oils, greases and wax polishes smeared over the surfaces. The former were messy and had to be removed prior to open days and re-applied afterwards, whilst the polishes were only partially effective. About two years ago we tried Steelgard on the beam engine’s handrails and control levers and were very pleased with the result. They remained rust-free over two winters and haven’t needed cleaning for open days, with a considerable saving of labour time.

In the workshop, the large lathe and other machinery were removed in order to fit a new floor. The lathe was stored outside, in the open air, due to its size, protected only by a tarpaulin and Steelgard. After eighteen months we were delighted to find no rust when the tarpaulin was removed. Following the success of these trials we have made plans to apply Steelgard to all bright steelwork on the rest of the beam engine and also our unique 1914 gas engine. The product has made a significant and welcome contribution to ensuring the future of our treasured historic relics.

Learning of our success with Steelgard, the manufacturers asked if permission could be granted to use the TCPS project as a case study for their product. Permission was granted and the case study can viewed at:

Tees Cottage Pumping Station

Mike Holden

In the early 1980s a group of volunteers worked hard to turn a fledgling Tees Cottage Pumping Station into a viable working museum. One was a young student with an interest in all things mechanical called Andrew Michael Holden or Mike as he was known. He had many practical skills which he applied to the boiler and beam engine as well as the maintenance of ancillary equipment and buildings.
Among his hobbies were the restoration of Land Rovers and vintage motor cycles so it was no doubt inevitable that this would lead to a keen interest in the gas engine. Mike’s other favourite place was the boiler house where he did his share of stoking as well as joining the merry gang of stalwarts who cleaned the flues every year.
Soon after qualifying as an electrical engineer and joining Siemens in Newcastle he became a member of the Board of Trustees at Tees Cottage where he shouldered responsibility for Health and Safety and sorted out numerous problems with the old wiring that was present in the buildings at the time. He was an active participant in meetings where his knowledge of rules and regulations always came in handy. He had the rare ability to ‘question the question’ and suggest alternative ways of looking at problems leading to practical and workable solutions.
One of our volunteers had a 12-ton Marshall steam-roller and a small gang from Tees Cottage helped him restore it and drive it around the North East, under its own steam, to traction engine rallies and other gatherings. Mike was one of the gang and his enthusiasm led him to buy a 10-ton Aveling steam roller, in partnership with another member. On the 1st August 1991 Mike, Mark Sutherland, Bob Baker and I entertained the residents of Ferryhill by taking our driving tests on that Aveling. It was a day to remember and what’s more, we all passed.
At around this time Mike became a volunteer engine driver on the Tanfield railway. I remember a very enjoyable day sharing the footplate with Mike where I learnt that wielding the shovel on a small industrial loco required more finesse than a big main-line one. He also drove traction engines, rollers and railway locomotives at Beamish museum.
Mike’s hobbies were many and varied. In addition to the above he drove trams at Crich Tramway Village in Derbyshire where his electrical expertise was welcomed. He also explored old mine workings and owned a vintage Bedford RL pipe-carrying truck that once belonged to the Auxiliary Fire Service. Finally he was a short-wave radio enthusiast with a fine collection of vintage radios he restored to working order.
Mike was affable and sociable with a sharp wit and a sense of humour that poked fun at life in a ‘Pythonesque’ fashion. He was also an accomplished raconteur. I remember fondly those happy times at the end of the day enjoying his latest story or joining in the laughter as he ‘wound someone up’ over some incident on the rally field.

A few weeks ago Mike fell victim to the Covid-19 virus and was eventually taken into Durham hospital. Sadly at 3.30pm on Tuesday 9 February he lost his battle.
A well-liked and respected member of TCPS, he was taken from us too early. We will all miss him.
He leaves behind his son Matthew and daughter Nicole to whom we extend our deepest sympathy.
George Beautyman
Secretary – TCPS

Refurbishment of East Sand Filter Drain Valve

One of the necessary tasks, at least once each year, is the cleaning of the Sand Filter Ponds, particularly to remove weeds which grow between the base slabs, and any other organic matter. To perform this task, it is necessary to drain the pond to at least the level in the clean water outlet channel. Over the years, the channel drain valve on the east pond, just behind the Gas Engine House, has become more difficult to operate, hence the decision was taken to refurbish it.

To gain access to the valve, it is first necessary to lift a very heavy, steel, cover plate (a hazard in itself) before looking into the 8-foot-deep brick lined chamber. At the bottom of the chamber are two valves, the 6-inch drain valve and a larger, 18-inch, valve in the line between the pond and the east Clean Water Tank. Both valves looked as though they had never received any attention since their installation in the late 19th century.

The valve is on the left hand side, below the drain pipe, in the photo below.

Lubrication and movement of the drain valve proved unsuccessful in freeing it, so it was decided to strip the valve down and refurbish it. Removing the valve completely was not an option as its inlet and outlet flanges were partially buried in the concrete floor of the chamber. The decision was therefore taken to uncouple the valve bonnet from the valve body and then withdraw the valve spade. The six bolts, attaching the bonnet to the body, were corroded so badly that they couldn’t be removed with a spanner and so had to be cut off with a cutting disc. A gas test had already been performed and proved that the atmosphere was safe for breathing and safe from explosion risk. However, it was still necessary to wear breathing apparatus whilst cutting, to avoid breathing in the disturbed dust and rust in this confined space.

Once the bolts had been removed, we discovered that the valve spade was well and truly stuck in position and, although it could be moved in the horizontal plane, it would only move incrementally in the vertical direction. However, a good number of hours later, with the help of chain blocks and an assortment of prising tools, the spade came free.

The spade, bonnet and gland assembly were then taken to the chain store for stripping down, cleaning, and reassembly.

Stripping this unit down required the two gland packing bolts to be removed, again using a cutting disc. These bolts each had a locating lug at one end and two new ones needed to be fabricated.

The valve internals were cleaned and wire brushed in order to more easily facilitate replacement in the valve body and a rubber gasket was fabricated to make a seal between the valve body and the bonnet. The gland seal was repacked with half inch square packing and tightened down.

An interesting feature was the valve shaft. The shaft, has a “two start left hand thread”. This means that the shaft has two threads cut into it at 180deg. apart. With two threads, this means that for every full turn, the nut and valve spade assembly raise twice as far, as a single thread. The thread form, as stated above, is Left Hand – most people are familiar with a standard thread form, i.e. Right Hand. When viewed from the side, a right-hand thread raises from left to right and from the top it screws in, clockwise. A left-hand thread, when viewed from the side, raises from right to left and from the top it screws in, anti-clockwise (we believe that it was standard practice to use left hand threads on water valves and right-hand threads on gas valves in the 19th and early twentieth century). One other feature of the thread is that it has a “square” thread profile. Square threads are used in heavy load applications as they are stronger than a normal triangular profile. Since this shaft is made from brass (or perhaps phosphor bronze), it was in almost perfect condition.  

The valve assembly was then greased and the externals and internals painted with a protective layer. The valve body was cleaned internally and the bonnet, shaft and paddle reinstalled. After proving that the valve operated freely the new, exposed bolts were wrapped in Denso tape, hopefully to make the next maintenance schedule a little easier.

The final task was to cut a hole in the chamber cover plate through which to access the valve spindle, without need to raise the heavy plate, for future operations.