The International Steam Pages
21st Century Stationary Steam Engines in Thailand
I had heard for some time that stationary steam engines were still used in Thailand, but the first photographic evidence I saw came in 2005 courtesy of Rob Berkavicius who has made a study of them in the same way as I have done in Burma and Indonesia. We are both very conscious of the 'Lonely Planet Effect' and hence we are withholding locational information to ensure what are small private businesses (albeit currently extremely hospitable) are not swamped with visitors. If you are a serious student of these machines, feel free to get in touch. Apart from Rob, I would also like to thank John Baker for his invaluable help in getting us started during our visit as Rob was, alas, incapacitated.
Click here for an introduction to stationary steam in Thailand's rice mills.
Click here for examples of machines in mills.
Click here for one of my favourite mills in detail (2006 visit).
Click here for Thai stationary steam's last hurrah (2006 visit).
Click here for more 21st century stationary steam engines in Thailand (2006 visit).
The country is the world's leading rice exporter and rice mills are found all over the lowlands, just how many exist is not known, the majority now use electrical power but a significant minority use steam. The exact origin of the similar design used throughout the industry is not known, but it is clear that even if it originated in Europe then there was a strong Chinese connection. At least four local companies of which only two probably still exist built the engines, it is not impossible that a few of the older machines were actually imported from China. With the capable assistance of John Baker we tracked down and visited an active workshop in Bangkok. Buried among the iron work are two cylinder blocks and at least one Pickering style governor (there were a large number of others present).
Note the trunk type cross head guide - I wish I could see a machine that needs a Pickering size 10 governor!
At the back of the workshop was the real treasure, a brand new stationary steam engine built for stock and yet to work in anger. It is a typical 'modern' Thai machine, a tandem compound with high pressure cylinder forward.
This shows the single eccentric and 'round the corner' device to transmit movement to the valves.
The shiny bolts show up clearly in this picture.
Unfortunately, I did not have a tape measure but I would guess that the high pressure cylinder was of the order of ten inches across, the low pressure cylinder would then be fifteen inches. Whether it will ever run 'in anger' must depend on the future trend in world oil prices.
Rob and Yuehong Dickinson