The Steam Engine

The fine old portable steam engine standing in front of the house was built in 1913 by James’ great grandfather, another James Paxman in Colchester and shipped to Oporto, Portugal. It took three teams of six oxen three weeks to haul it up into the forests high above the Douro river, where it provided the power for a sawmill.

All its life it was fired by the sawdust and off cuts from the oak staves it generated, destined for the Coopers at the great port houses of Oporto.

Steam Lovers Weekly

Always wanting an engine from the old family business, Philip advertised in the Steam Engine journals, to receive a cryptic note with the map coordinates of three defunct engines. “But” he exclaimed to the writer, “They are all in Portugal!”, “That’s correct” said the finder, a good excuse for a family holiday. So in 1978 the quest led to the old saw mill where Philip negotiated the repurchase from his Grandfather’s customer’s Grandson, to everyone’s mutual delight.

57 Years of Action

It transpired the engine, commissioned in 1913, was in continuous service until 1970. In fact the old boy who fired it up for Philip had started work on it age 13 and he and the engine retired together when he reached 70. By then a white elephant, dominating the factory floor, the owners were delighted to find an eccentric Englishman prepared to pay for a crane to remove first the factory roof and then the engine, at his expense.

Flat Bed to Tilbury

Hoist by crane, the engine, weighing in at over ten tons, was dropped on a flatbed container, a case of celebratory port stowed in the fire box, and shipped back to Tilbury, eventually ending up at South Farm where it stood proudly in front of the farmhouse and has been captured in many couple’s wedding photos.  In January 2014 our steam engine began another journey travelling to H Maskell & Son Ltd in Bedfordshire for renovation work. It took two tractors and considerable man-power to move the engine from South Farm and onto the lorry to travel to its temporary destination where it will be stabilised and preserved and returned to its original colours.  It is believed to be the largest extant portable boiler in existence and is highly unusual in that its massive boiler drove not one but two huge flywheels.