The International Steam Pages

Just Another Marshall, 2006?

This is part of a series of pages covering the known steam engine manufacturers for Burma. Click here for the full list.

Marshall, Sons and Company, England was the king of steam power in the Raj.

Use the following links for more pages on surviving Marshall engines:

I had 5 days in Yangon in April 2006, as we had two large souvenirs waiting to be paid for and their dispatch arranged to China to part fill the garden of our house in the country. With a couple of days spare in the middle, it made sense to do a little rice mill gricing despite the oppressively hot weather. I had anticipated that the main season would have finished but in practice, most mills we visited were hard at work. I saw more Marshall engines than I would have liked (nearly all 12 inch), normally sights like this are a big turn-off these days.

But this time, one of their machines had me drooling. In fact, it is arguably the most unusual engine that I have seen active in Burma (so far!). Approaching the engine room, it was obvious that silhouetted in the dust was a larger than average engine, from this angle it looks nothing special.

From the opposite angle, there are stronger hints...

Normally, I am very slow on the uptake but this time I immediately realised it was similar to two other engines I had seen here, although both were out of use, the give away was the presence of the two drop valves over the cylinder. The 'clunk, clunk' noise too was unlike anything I had ever heard, different even from a Corliss engine. Going round to other side, the full glory of this amazing machine is revealed:


Confused? Need a closer view? You may need to consult Chris Hodrien's explanation.


The backing plate for the regulator gives its identity, No. 21541 which makes it rather more than 110 years old:


Viewed from the other side again, the reason for the clunks is quite clear, the semi-circular lever trips the valves.


This is one of the lower (outlet) valves, which are of the twisting type:

Looking back here the upper rod is for the governor system, the middle rod operates the top (inlet) valves, the bottom rod the lower (outlet) valves. 

Behind is the governor, driven by a rotating shaft off the crankshaft, connected by a chain and two further geared shafts.


The capacity of this country to produce the unusual and the unexpected is boundless. Where else in the world might such a machine be found working in anger in 2006? Needless to say large amounts of video tape were consumed over a period of about an hour. Even the boiler was a relatively unusual specimen:


Afterwards, I asked the owner about the engine's provenance - he said he had bought it from a sawmill in the Moulmein area about 12 years before. The boiler came from a steam locomotive, indeed it had a Davenport builder's plate, 2708 of 1944, this means it came from the MAWD Mikado (MacArthur) 1023. 

Along the way I clocked up my 100th new working rice mill for 2006.  The overall tally in the country is now a mere 217! One other mixed blessing was to nail the names Alexander Young and George Garrett (later Garrett and Taylor) as agents rather than makers from their plates on Marshall engines. This gives me a significant percentage of engines with no obvious parentage, particularly that group of engines known locally as 'MacDonald engines' - these have narrow parallel frames (usually with one or both rounded ends) and two separate 'bar' crossheads. Often the agents have their names cast in the frames. Similarly quite a few girder engines, some of which are called 'Taylor type' and bear a fair resemblance to Robey and Tangye engines.

When I showed Chris Hodrien of the ISSES a picture of a similar (probably later) engine I had seen in store in January 2006, he commented:

Oh, what a beauty. It's a little Marshall "high class" (steam-jacketed) high-speed trip-motion drop-valve engine. We have 2 of these, both tandems, in the UK, one preserved in-situ static in "oily black" at Owston Ferry pumping station in Lincolnshire (52767/1910) coupled to a centrifugal pump (ran at 140 rpm), one off-site in lined maroon at Gladstone Pottery Museum at Stoke (32967/1900) cunningly motorised "backwards" via the belt drives. I was there in 1974 the night it (belt drive on flywheel rim) was first started up, with some idiot with his elbow crooked round a flywheel spoke trying to get it to "pick-up" while the belt was already running! Hayes comments that this design was "highly publicised" by Marshalls - it represented a very high class build of engine and efficiency for such a small size. The upper (steam inlet) valves are double-beat drop valves (a re-introduction for higher speeds derived from Continental practice, led by Sulzer and Stork, c. 1900), the lower valves are Corliss semi-rotary valves (invented in USA c.1845) driven by rodding from a separate eccentric. In between the drop valves is Marshall's patent trip gear. The central semi-circular lever is rocked by an eccentric rod and you can clearly see the two lever trips. When these release, the valves are smartly shut by the springs and cylindrical dashpots above them giving a sharp, efficient cutoff. 

To which Colin Bowden subsequently added:

The engine illustrated by Rob Dickinson and also the one preserved at Gladstone Pottery have steam valves (driven by eccentric rod from the crankshaft as explained), with “Proell's two-valve releasing gear” (not Marshall's gear), and Corliss exhaust valves. This is Marshall's G Class.

The Owston Ferry engine is of the later drop valve type, Marshall's L Class, and is very different. All the valves (double beat steam and exhaust) are driven via a gear-driven layshaft. The steam valves are driven by eccentric rods, and here they are controlled by Marshall's own patent trip gear, and the exhaust valves by cam and roller gear. (L Class engines with larger cylinders normally had exhaust as well as steam valves driven by eccentric rods – this was the No. 2 Gear.) The governor is still Proell's.

These are the individual pages from the 2006 trip:

Read more about our travels in:

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson