The International Steam Pages

Make Mine a Robey, Please

Click here for a survey of Robey engines found in Burma.

Trying to get information about the individual stationary steam engines we have found as we travel has not been a bundle of fun. Members, particularly the officers of the International Stationary Steam Engine Society (ISSES) have been of considerable assistance technically, but historical data on builders is thin on the ground and delivery data patchy. Of the major builders, honourable exceptions have to be made for the Museum of English Rural Life (Marshall and Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies) and the Robey Trust. Marshalls are not too difficult to find in West Bengal, in fact it's impossible not to trip over them, RSJs may or may not be out there somewhere, but I have had persistent reports of sightings of Robeys without any hard recent information. Consequently, the slightest hint of one had to be followed up as soon as possible.

After we revisited the two Ruston compounds to record them working, we carried on down 'Rice Mill Row', I lost count but I think there must have been at least 80 in a 40km stretch of road. It was impossible to visit each one (at least half have no steam engines) and we relied on each steam mill to point us at the next one. Eventually we found another particularly knowledgeable Marshall owner and quizzed him about non-standard engines further out. "There's at least one Robey", he said and so off we headed down roads which the maps say are sealed but in fact are a sea of potholes. The appointed rice mill was found and yet another sceptical owner had to be persuaded to let us in and allow his workers a half hour holiday to watch us at work. Not too bad if you believe that happy workers perform better.

This engine (#38640/1919) was said to have a 13" main cylinder and although there was no mention of 'Robey' on it, then it was clearly of that ilk.


We did later find a second Robey some way distant, but unfortunately it was not in regular use. However, on Christmas Day we stumbled on yet another old Robey....

In my experience, a strong indicator of a Robey engine is the device to transfer the work of the eccentrics inwards (see also above):

But in this case, the valve chest cover carries confirmation. It reads "Balmer, Lawrie & Co., Calcutta, Sole Agents for Robey & Co. Ltd.". Cast above is a number '5732' which I had hoped might just not be a part number as found on many Robeys  (not elsewhere on this one though), but be the engine number. However, Dave Davies the Robey expert says it is a part number. 

This was not the end of the story as we found a fourth Robey engine later:

This was the fifth, the sixth was being installed for use in mid-2007:

Stationary Steam in India 2006 - introduction

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

Marshall Heaven - we always go the extra mile to bring you working stationary steam.

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.

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