The International Steam Pages

An Empirical History of Tangye Horizontal Engines

This is part of a series of pages covering the known steam engine manufacturers for Burma, although in this case the field is wider. Click here for the full list.

This page has been updated (15th May 2012) to reflect the fact that 'George Garrett' girder engines, like those carrying 'Hosein Hamadanee' are actually Tangyes.

For some very basic information on Tangye oil engines please see (Link broken by December 2023. RD) also

For the first one and half of our trips to Burma, we were simply amazed at the variety of Tangye engines we saw and wondered how we might ever make sense of them, particularly the lettering which at first sight appears to have a significant random factor built in, I am almost certain that they were added to the basic casting individually. Once Yuehong had spotted where the serial numbers were applied, life became significantly easier, but still there are many questions left unanswered. We have since revisited a number of mills with Tangyes and we now have a register of some 75 serial numbers, there are more to check as can be seen from the pictures below, but alas some engines appear to be unnumbered and I think they may have been deliberately erased when engines were sold second hand from the UK to Burma. I believe that many Tangye records do exist in the care of the local authority for the Birmingham area but they are inaccessible and are likely to stay that way.

From early days, we learned that the presence of a raised "+" on the valve chest cover was a good indicator of a Tangye product in the absence of anything else as can be seen in a number of the pictures that follow, but often on earlier engines such a feature is absent, whether this is is because it was a later feature or because new ones have been fitted I do not know. A few Tangyes have their own governors but often these have been replaced by Pickering type ones. Unlike Marshall of Gainsborough who preferred to build right hand engines by default, Tangyes are almost equally left and right handed - stand next to the fly wheel and look which side of you the cylinder is.

Finally, please remember that almost everything which I have written below is (intelligent) guesswork. A few people have offered advice but if you can contribute, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me, see below for the kind of information which is needed. Some of these pictures necessarily appear elsewhere on this site and unless otherwise stated the engines shown are in Burma.

Using the basic criteria above this is probably an unnumbered Tangye ("+" and Tangye governor) and if it is then it is probably one of the oldest, nothing like it appears in the old 19th century catalogues (1876 and 1891) distributed by Phoenix Publications. It's a ''sort of MacDonald engine'.

Turning to the numbered engines, the smallest number we have seen is #519 on this "Colonial Engine", currently stored in the UK as the Chinese so not allow private individuals to import 'machinery' even if it only a museum exhibit, unfortunately it seems to have lost its original U-crank. 

At about the same time, Tangye were building their 'Soho Engine', this is #1107, like that above it will be on its way to the UK in due course. Click here for more pictures of this engine.

This later one (#3143) is at Candi Sugar Mill in East Java, Indonesia:

According to the 1876 catalogue, what was to evolve into the standard Tangye Girder engine was introduced in 1869. Characteristically, they bear the term "Tangye's Patent" -  sometimes "Tangyes' Patent" instead - often the word "Birmingham" underneath with "E size" or similar underneath. Basically this indicated the cylinder diameter according to the table below (data from the catalogue), the stroke being twice the cylinder diameter:

4" 5" 6" 8" 9" 10" 11" 12" 14" 16"

The only Tangye M Size (#3869) we have seen was in store, looking for a buyer, in the Yangon industrial zone in 2009.

The oldest engine of this type, #1410, is also one of the biggest, K size. For some reason the "Birmingham" has been ground off. 

This is a J size of similar age from the other side of the engine, it is #1446, although the "1" is not certain:

This a later H Size, #4248, like the Soho engine #1107 above it carries the medallion commemorating Tangye's Gold Medal at the Paris Exhibition of 1878:

This is also H size, #6575:

This is also H size, #6922:

This is a G size, #3110:

This is an E size, #3982:

And this is the only D size, #6619, we have yet seen, a late discovery in 2009:


At some stage the inscription was changed to drop the reference to the patent and explicitly state the engine size, this is H size, #6976:

This is a very large engine (#6690) with only the actual measurements (14" x 28") but no letter size:

Not long after, the size is no longer stated at all, this is #8029, about 10" in size, it appears to have once been a Tangye-Johnson engine (see below):

The second eccentric necessary for the Tangye-Johnson system has been removed which may account for the unusual pair of valve chest covers. 

While this larger one (#7709) is 14" or 15":

Later engines were similar, but the "s" is then dropped (this engine is 10757 or 10842, I forget which) at Rejosari sugar mill in Java.

This is a 12" version of the same engine, it also has a specification plate similar to the one shown below (12" x 24", 100 psi, 85 rpm), we don't have a number for this engine yet:

This is another similar twelve inch engine at work, #10252:

At about this time, Tangye introduced what (for me at least) was their ultimate design, the girder engine, of which there are many examples, this is a fine 10" engine, #12290:

They seemed to have been fitted with a specification plate originally:

This is another 10" engine, #12387 (with #12389), almost the highest number we have recorded so far - we have subsequently seen #12531. This seems to have been the most popular size among the later engines in Burma.

This is a 9" example, we do not yet have a number for this engine:

This is an 11" example, we do not yet have a number for this engine:

 This is a 12" example, #10429, stripped for repairs.

While this late example, #12312, was seen working on a later visit:

Just to confuse everyone, this 'modern girder type' 12" apparently has the 'wrong wording"! However, as #9530, however, it must be an early example of this type:

Like most manufacturers, Tangye occasionally 'forgot' to badge their engines, this is #12075, stored ready for eventual re-use:

The only marks on it are for Hosain Hamadanee, clearly local agents:

These Hosain Hamadanee engines (this is Tangye #11564) usually have a different valve gear, no doubt there are other detail differences an expert might spot which I would miss:

Relatively late in our researches, it became clear that many girder engines bearing the name 'George Garrett' and 'Taylor' similar to the Hosain Hamadanee engines also had Tangye characterisitics although they are not of a standard design and sure enough they have numbers which make sense in the right place.

This first example seen working in Kyaiklat in 2010 carries the number 10908.

This engine is at an abandoned mill at Kwewan in Mon State and carries 9267.

This engine was photographed at Pathein in Irrawaddy Division in 2005, no number is available.

This one was photographed near Hinthada in Irrawaddy Division in 2006, it carries 'George Garrett' and 'Taylors.Type', no number is available:

Agents and makers were both promiscuous, other Tangyes carry plates from Jessops (Rangoon) and Cowie (Glasgow, with Rangoon branch), other Hosain Hamadanee and Cowie engines are obviously not Tangyes....

All the engines shown above have a single eccentric. Some time between 1876 and 1891 Tangye began to offer engines with the Tangye-Johnson automatic cut off system (with twin eccentrics), they are normally easily identified by the 'bulge' on the valve chest cover even though in every case bar two, like #8029 above, so far they have been 'simplified'. So we were delighted to find this intact engine in the Shwebo area in 2007, and, to boot, it is an early engine, J size, #2740. On the other hand the noise it made suggested that the automatic cut off at best needed tuning and at worst needed removal:

On the other hand, at the other end of the age range, #12386, we were unaware of its significance when this engine was only the second one we saw working on our first bash:

The 'Tangye Birmingham' on the crosshead guide is clearly visible. This engine also carries an unnumbered Cowie agents plate.

I would be very glad to receive comments and corrections. Particularly, I am trying to correlate serial numbers with delivery dates which is best achieved by comparison with preserved engines of known provenance. That is, unfortunately, a very short list! I have had suggested:

745 1880
4376 1883
5123 1885
10453 1896

I have always thought that it would be relatively simple to establish when Tangye built their last steam engine and what its serial number was. Maybe it's not that simple, because the company also built gas, oil and diesel engines. Were they numbered in the same series? I don't even know if they numbered steam pumps at all and, if so, whether they too were in the same series? Having seen more working Tangyes than probably anyone else on the planet, I suppose it makes me some kind of expert, but surely there must be a few people out there who can help.

These are the individual pages from the 2007 trip:

Read more about our travels in:

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson