Deep clean for Leeds's own supersonic steam-powered marvel

It was the made in Leeds supersonic steam-powered marvel that helped revolutionise production in factories all across the world a century ago.

Thursday, 18th February 2021, 5:25 pm

Today, the impressive De Laval Impulse Steam works at an altogether different pace, enjoying a well-earned retirement at Leeds Industrial Museum.

On display in the museum’s Power House Gallery, this week the mighty turbine has been getting cleaned and conserved while the site is closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Named after Swedish inventor and turbine pioneer Gustav de Laval, who devised the impulse nozzle steam turbine in 1890, the machine was originally made by Leeds firm

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John McGoldrick, Curator of Industrial History for Leeds Museums and Galleries, looking at De Laval Steam Turbine Engine from Greenwood & Batley Ltd. PIC: James Hardisty

Greenwood & Batley at their Albion Works in Armley in the early 20th century.

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Life at Quarry Hill Flats during the 1930s

Part of a huge range of products manufactured there between 1856 and 1988, including horse shoes and railway locomotives, the turbine was much more efficient than a

conventional steam engine and worked in excess of a dizzying 2,000 revolutions per minute.

John McGoldrick, curator of Industrial History for Leeds Museums and Galleries, inspects a working Steam Powered Fan, from Holbeck's Hattersley, Pickard & Co. PIC: James Hardisty

The object was donated to Leeds Museums and Galleries by Leeds Polytechnic where it had been used as a teaching aid.

John McGoldrick, Leeds Museums and Galleries’ curator of industrial history, said: “The invention of increasingly sophisticated turbines like the De Laval took production to a new

level of speed and efficiency by harnessing the power of steam in a much more dynamic way.

“The turbine we have at the museum was made right here in Leeds and is an example of the scale and variety of machines that were manufactured in the city during what was a really

exciting period of ingenuity and innovation.

“Engines like these were the driving force behind a golden age of British industry and we’re very proud to be helping to tell the story of the important role Leeds played. It’s also good

to be taking this opportunity to give our engines a bit of care and attention so they’re in top shape when we welcome back visitors.”

Power House features a unique collection of Leeds-made engines including a large hydraulic pump made by Berry of Leeds for the Columbia Gramophone Co. who used it for powering a

record pressing machine.

Also part of the display is a Hattersley Pickard Fan, once used in the traditional Russian steam rooms at Leeds landmark Bramley Baths.

Leeds Industrial Museum is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. More information can be found at:********************

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Laura Collins