The International Steam Pages

Marshall Heaven

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:

If you had asked me before I left for India what I would have expected to see there, then I would have said "Marshall engines, most likely 12 inch and built between 1910 and 1930". And so, by and large it proved. I had hoped to call this page "Marshalls and more" but it was soon clear that finding working examples of other manufacturers' engines in West Bengal would require nothing less than total patience and dedication. At its worst, it could mean a whole day looking at nothing but standard Marshalls - one trip along the Great Trunk Road produced 13 examples in 11 mills, 5 working, 4 warm from working an earlier shift, 2 under repair and 2 more derelict; hardly the stuff that dreams are made of, but at least we got into all the mills. The most exciting thing that (nearly) happened all day was our taxi driver attempting to drive down the wrong side of the dual carriageway for 1km to save having to do two 2 U-turns en route to his lunch; not much scares me but that did and he was rapidly rerouted. The fact that we later saw a fully laden truck doing the same manoeuvre coming straight at us did nothing to calm me. Anyway, we usually felt more comfortable on the by-ways, even when it meant crossing the Indian branch of the Ganges on the kind of ferry which would give any European Health and Safety Executive nightmares. Ready, steady, go...

Why do we do it? It's a peculiar kind of masochism, best understood by those who have had the dubious benefit of an old fashioned British education. Put simply, no words can describe the ecstasy of the moment of discovery and if it means putting up with some desperate mediocrity, then so be it. Endless standard Marshalls are a small price to pay - viewed objectively, each is an amazing survivor for which we are privileged observers. Read this page in that certain knowledge. Yuehong's own flash went off in the middle of my time exposure with excellent results:

This engine is 'complete' with twin eccentrics:

which are controlled by a Hartnell governor:

The fine head of hair in the previous image is Yuehong checking the equally fine worksplate, typical examples are shown below and this is me 'doing the business' in the reverse of the picture above:

This was on day one, we had seen just one active engine, but also 6 more. Of these just one was derelict, one was taking a break during our visit and the others were awaiting completion of their new home. Thereafter day 2 produced more Marshalls, day 3 more still and so it went on.... Here is a photographic sample:

Even at rest between shifts, these are impressive engines:

The Indian dimension is always present:

'Dark satanic mills', not really, gloomy and dusty but no worse than much of the alternative employment offered in this part of India:

Just occasionally a bigger engine pops up, this is a 14" model, and, yes, that is a Belliss and Morcom engine behind (formerly used as a generator):

The final Marshall engines were equipped with piston valves, we saw just one here, we have seen several in Burma:

Now and again, some gems, even if this cross compound was running on just the high pressure cylinder:

But two days later we ran into 'the real thing', we saw four more later, three of which were working:

This was one of the later engines:

We also saw some exotic Marshalls with drop valves - look for the links below to the 'Just Another Marshall' pages.

The age of these engines cannot always be given with certainty as some of the early Marshall records are lost, many have lost their worksplates but a selection of those seen are below. 22788 will be the early 1890s, 28132 the late 1890s, 32843 the turn of the century, 39742 the early 20th century, 48276 about 1905, 55322 just after 1910, 60675 about 1913, 75021 about 1920, 77149 and 77800 1924. The latter two plates may reflect whether engines were direct sales or engines supplied to the Indian branches 'for stock', but most of the later engines with plates bear some kind of Indian reference, it well be of course then that the only significant market left was there. The lowest number we found was 21297 and the highest number was 88342 which would have been delivered about 1937. We have seen one similarly aged old engine in Burma, but the youngest one there was built as late as 1954, since it was delivered to India, it is likely there are still similar engines around there too. About half the engines have no identification, I am sure these will be earlier ones on average:


Click here for:

Stationary Steam in India 2006 - introduction

A Reason to Return - a brand new steam powered rice mill in a green field site. 

Just Another Marshall (Part 2) - too bad it wasn't working!

Just Another Marshall (Part 3) - drop valve action...

My Other Steam Engine is a Marshall too - if you're going to be different then don't do it by halves.

Make Mine a Robey, Please - as common as in Burma.

Many Happy Returns - unexpected returns to old gricing spots.

All I want for Christmas... - anything but another bloody Marshall.

The Loose Ends - the bits and pieces that ask as many question as they answer

Robert Clive's Sugar Mill - well, it's not quite that old.

Rob and Yuehong  Dickinson