Boiler Test

Following the successful 10 year hydraulic test and the boiler steam test, on Friday 19th June, the Beam Engine was steamed for the first time since the open day in October 2019.

The engine started without issue and we are pleased to announce that the Condenser Pump bearing repair, performed earlier this year, was a complete success.

Bill Wood

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of long-standing volunteer Bill Wood who died in the early hours of Wednesday 22 April at St Teresa’s Hospice in Darlington. Bill brought to the Society a lifetime of engineering knowledge as a marine engineer and boiler inspector. He was a valued member of the Wednesday gang and on open weekends would selflessly give help wherever needed, either on the machinery where he particularly enjoyed the beam engine or in the entrance where he would greet visitors with a warm welcome. His encyclopaedic knowledge of Pressure Vessel Regulations made Bill a natural choice for the administration of our boilers and compressed air plant. He organised boiler inspections and took care of all associated maintenance as well as documenting safe methods of work. For many years Bill was a member of the Management Committee where he acted as Treasurer and Administrator of boiler and public liability insurance. He would often entertain us with stories of his latest dealings with the bank’s increasingly bureaucratic procedures where his calm yet rigorous approach would save the day. However did you manage to keep your cool, Bill? Outside Tees Cottage his interests included Darlington Historical Society and visiting the Scottish Isles. He was also a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists where he arranged for George Beautyman to give a talk at the local branch a few years ago. It was a very enjoyable session. We will all miss Bill. He was liked and respected by all and a good friend to everyone. We will miss his conversation and seafaring stories told in his Kentish accent which still prevailed in spite of becoming a naturalised North-Easterner. Our thoughts and kind wishes go to Margaret, his daughter Katherine and his grandchildren. Rest in peace ol’ mate.

Water Fountain Refurbished

Tees Cottage Drinking Water Fountain

There has been a drinking water fountain outside the main entrance to Tees Cottage Pumping Station since 1950, when is was installed by the Darlington Women’s Temperance Association.

By 1981 this fountain was looking unloved and perhaps had been disconnected from the water supply.

Sometime between 1981 and the present day the cast iron cowl, located above the bowl, had been removed and left the installation in an even sorrier state.

In late March 2019 the volunteers at TCPS decided to attempt the renovation of the fountain and it was duly removed. Immediately we met with good fortune when one of our members recalled seeing pieces of broken casting under a table in one of our buildings and thought they may belong to the fountain. This was indeed the case and the two pieces of casting constituted perhaps 80 percent of the original cowl.

Utilising the general engineering skills of our site engineer and the traditional skills of the site blacksmith we have reconstructed the cowl and the whole drinking water fountain has now been reinstalled in its original location. Although it would be great to return the fountain to full working order, not least to provide water to trekkers on the Teesdale Way, we have decided that the risk of damage to the installation, or contamination of the water flowing from it, is too great for it to be reconnected to a water supply.

Below is an enlarged view of the plaque located above the fountain:

The fountain was installed by the Darlington Women’s Temperance Association. An internet search quickly revealed that since 2006 this Association has been known as the White Ribbon Association in tribute to the White Ribbons worn by the women of the Temperance Movement. The Association were approached and were in full agreement with the refurbishment of their gift.

Hornsby Petrol Engine, No 48064

This single cylinder engine was installed in the Gas Engine House at the same time as its big brother in 1914. The engine has a direct-drive compressor fitted and the purpose of this was to charge the air receiver to power the start-up of the large twin cylinder engine which drove the pumps which lifted water from the river and sent the clean water out to the customers, both industrial and private.

Also this small engine drives a generator which provided electrical power for the site including the Superintendant’s cottage. This engine was thought to be originally powered by gas produced on site, but at some stage was converted to run on petrol. We suspect that the original magneto was replaced fairly early on, too.

The engine was running in the early 1980s but since then had been standing idle.

In 2017, it was decided that this engine deserved to be seen working again and so a programme was embarked upon, not a ground-up restoration, but an overhaul to get it running again.

The valve-gear was overhauled, cylinder de-glazed, con-rod and piston retrieved and fitted, petrol tank topped-up and it fired up and ran raggedly, but it ran. Over the next 2 years many adjustments were made; valve timing reset (the camshaft was one tooth out on the drive gear), the magneto arm extended and adjusted and still she ran erratically. The mixture was too-rich and we fiddled with the 1920s carburettor, noticing that it ran better on warm days. The carburettor had a facility for warming the evaporating chamber via a water jacket, so hot water was piped from the cooling-water outlet through the carb and it now runs beautifully, hour after hour.

The generator was overhauled, the distribution board dismantled, new stepped resistors made “in-house” and re-assembled and it now produces electricity, enough to power a couple of bulbs anyway. A kettle plugged into the system took all day to almost boil, so we still have to go to the tea-room for our coffees.

So now this lovely little engine can be seen and barely-heard running on our open days.

Andrew Rolland

It is with great sadness that we have to inform you of the death of TCPS member and volunteer Andrew Rolland. Andrew died suddenly at home on Saturday 21st March 2020.

Andrew was a hard working and well respected member of the Wednesday gang and a volunteer on open weekends. He was always willing to take on any job, working well either on his own or as part of a team, where his experience as a naval architect was useful.

Shortly after he joined the society, several years ago, the need for someone to take control of publicity in the news media became urgent. Andrew immediately offered his services and did sterling work placing articles and adverts in the local press and building a strong working relationship with publishers.

Andrew was not one to suffer fools gladly and he could be very forthright and honest in his views. Having said that, he was also a kind and most charming man. He had a sharp wit and a great sense of humour. It was always amusing to watch his face change from a quizzical expression into a mischievous grin at some amusing incident.

Our thoughts and best wishes are with Margaret at this sad time.

Rest in peace mate, we’ll all miss you.

Easter Opening 2019

We have had a wonderful first open day of 2019. The weather has been fantastic and we had a record number of people through the door. Tees Cottage is looking lovely in the sunshine. We are very proud of our new signage, both outside the entrance and in the main reception, giving visitors more information about the site and its history. Come and see us tomorrow! There are loads of activities to do and lots to see.

Tees Cottage Miniature Railway run by Cleveland Association of Model Engineers has had a major facelift over the winter and there are some new engines to meet as well. Perfect for a bank holiday weekend!

October Gala 7th October

What a wonderful day to finish of our season for 2018.  The weather was lovely and a huge range of vehicles and attractions came to see us at Tees Cottage Pumping Station.

We were delighted to welcome the vintage fire engines along side a number of other vintage engines and cars. We also welcomed record numbers of visitors.   The Tea Rooms couldn’t keep up with demand and sold out, which is great news, when we have a gap between steamings!

Here’s  a small selection of some of the smaller engines and some of the people who visited.

As you can see from the shot below it was a busy day.  We have increased visitor numbers for a third year running, and this year have had had over 2,200 visitors on site for our Open Weekends.

Thanks to Bob Hughes for the fab photos of the day. Next year’s steaming dates are:
21st and 22nd April 2019. 
11th and 12th May 2019.
22nd and 23rd June 2019.
14th and 15th September 2019.
5th and 6th October 2019.

We hope to see you there.

West Park Academy come to visit

On Monday 8th October we were delighted to welcome West Park Academy to Tees Cottage.  60 children and their teachers joined us for half a day to tour the facility, do some filtration experiments and look at wildlife in the River Tees.

We were really grateful to Christine and Zoe from River Tees Rediscovered and the Tees Rivers Trust, who provided a wonderful set of bug hunting activities for the children.  Zoe even took this wonderful picture of Tees Cottage from Broken Scar, which shows us steaming up for the previous weekend’s gala opening!

We were able to provide our filtration activity for the children, who ‘polluted’ the  water with a selection of brightly coloured pollutants and debris, before filtering them out using the filters.

Richard – master filtration expert!

Our filters have been handcrafted especially for schools by our, very own, Richard and the filtration activity is one of the most popular activities for schools.

Filters at the ready!

Here we are all set up to welcome the first 18 children to the filtration activity.  Change over times between the groups were challenging today, because of the large numbers of children, but plenty of snacks and drinks and one eye on the clock meant we managed most of it smoothly!

Thanks to all those involved in this event and if you would like to organise a free school visit for your school, club or activity, get in touch with Jim Eason at to arrange.  We look forward to seeing you.

School Visits

Classroom layout with tables, chairs and resources
Our classroom ready for action!

We were really excited to welcome the first of our school visitors yesterday.  A wonderful Year 4 class came to visit us from St Bede’s RC Primary School, Darlington.  They were really interested in all the engines, and created their own water filtration units, which filtered our dirty water into cleaner (if not drinkable!) water. 

3 water filters with sand and gravel in, waiting to be used
Filtration units

Because we have an open day today they were lucky enough to see our beam engine in action, although it did take the engine almost all morning to get going – all our engines are a little bit elderly and need a bit of coaxing first thing in the morning (a little bit like me!)


Pens, pencils and crayons with some examples of finished paper water cycles
Water cycle craft activity

Our visitors also made models of the water cycle and we talked about some wonderful water facts!

One of the children said we were the second favourite school trip they’d had  – the first being the beach, because they got ice cream! After we gave them sweets to take away I am reliably informed we are now top of the table! 🙂

A selection of cups with different materials in them, plastic & glitter
‘Debris’ and ‘pollutants’ added to our water before filtration!

Thank you to all the volunteers at Tees Cottage who made it a wonderful experience for the children and thank you to Year 4 from St Bede’s, and their teachers for being our fantastic VIP visitors.  You are definitely our favourite school visitors ever! Please come again!



If you would like to arrange a free school visit for your school, club or activity, get in touch with Jim Eason at to arrange.  We look forward to seeing you.