otto engine

Edwardian era Otto engine restored to former glory

A single cylinder Otto cycle engine built over 100 years ago by British engineers has been carefully restored decades after being discovered in pieces on Brownsea Island in Poole harbour, Dorset.

The engine dates back to around 1907 and it is thought to be the only one of its kind to remain in its original location in a former engine house.

It was originally installed to supply electricity to Brownsea Castle but fell into disrepair.

In the 1990s it was dismantled for a restoration project that never began and the parts were left in the engine room.

After the transformation of the engine room into a shop, pieces of the engine were relocated across the island with some being left outside in the elements.

A team of skilled volunteers worked with the National Trust to lovingly restore the engine.

Dennis Barnes, a stationary engine enthusiast and one of the volunteers behind the restoration project, first saw the engine on Brownsea Island 30 years ago.

“As luck would have it, Phil Pickering, one of the boatmen and rangers on Brownsea Island, shared the same passion for engines as me and mentioned it at a local engine show,” he said.

“We had a chat about it and decided to start work restoring it during the late summer of 2014.”

Pickering took up the story: “The challenge was on to gather all the missing pieces together and to restore them to working order.

“Unfortunately, some of these parts were badly corroded. Some parts were also found scattered all over the island.

“One of the pieces, the piston, was found propping up a derelict trailer in the farmyard.”

Due to a lack of workshop space on the island, many of the larger parts were taken away for a detailed overhaul.

The most difficult and expensive part of the restoration was fitting a new liner to the cylinder, without which it would not be possible to run the engine.

Once the parts had all come back to the engine room, the volunteers spent many evenings of their own time fixing and fitting the engine.

“We have now trialled running the engine and it really is quite magnificent,” Pickering added.

“It is such an interesting insight into the past and a fantastic opportunity for people to witness such a beautiful piece of engineering.”

The National Trust hopes to run the engine at scheduled times during 2017 when visitors will have the opportunity to witness the machine running again.

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