The museum was previously a pumping station used to pump sewage to the treatment works at Beaumont Leys, and was opened in 1891. The grand Victorian building, designed by Stockdale Harrison (city architect in 1890) and beautifully decorated beam engines were a cause of great civic pride. It continued pumping Leicester's sewage until 1964, and then underwent renovation. It opened as a museum in 1972. It is one of a number of historic pumping stations which have been preserved in the United Kingdom.
The steam engines (see below) which drive the sewage pumps can be seen. In addition, there is combination of informative educational displays (mainly about water and sewage), an old-fashioned film theatre, and collections of artifacts and pictures ranging from domestic appliances to trams. An eclectic collection of larger items of industrial archeology is in the grounds. This includes a narrow gauge railway and some other transport related items.
The four steam engines were built in Leicester by Gimson and Company and today are rare examples of Woolf compound rotative beam engines. At the time these engines were built they were considered an old-fashioned but very well-practised design, as many engine designers had turned their attention to horizontal and early vertical designs instead.
These engines are rated at 200 hp, at 12–19 rpm, of which they pumped 208,000 imperial gallons of sewage an hour (263 L/s).
It is the only engine house in the world where you can see four working examples of the same beam engine in one building. Three of the four engines have been restored back to working condition, by a dedicated team of volunteers: the Leicester Museums Technology Association.
Current projects in the engine house are the on-going maintenance of the latest restored engine, No.4 (restored over a period of some 10 years by the volunteers), and the total restoration of the only non-working engine (No.1), of which the sewage pump is currently seized due to old age!
The Engines are now run off a modern oil fired steam package boiler. There is one non working original coal fired boiler left in-situ in the boiler house, with the rest of the space used for exhibit space.
The Pumping Station is normally open Daily from 11am - 4:30pm. Engines can be seen in steam at various steam days along with other steam and early internal combustion exhibits.
The Museum has a narrow gauge railway which is normally operated by an 0-4-0ST 2-foot gauge locomotive Leonard, built by W.G. Bagnall, Stafford as works number 2087 in 1918, but four diesel locomotives – three Simplex and one Ruston – are also available if needed.
There is also a collection of vintage road vehicles which are operated on selected days. Exhibits include: fire engines, buses (see below), an 1894 Aveling and Porter steam roller, three diesel rollers, a Bedford fish and chips van, Tramway line tower lorry, several cranes anda Ruston and Hornsby steam shovel and an Austin K2 brewery dray lorry with ales.
- 1939 Leicester City Transport: AEC Renown 0664 CBC 921. In an operational condition, usually displayed at Snibston Discovery Park but returns to Abbey Pumping Station at the start of each year.
- 1958 Delaine Coaches: Leyland Tiger Cub PSUC1/2 MTL 750. Fully restored and operational.
- 1958 Leicester City Transport: Leyland Titan PD3/1 TBC 164. Fully restored and operational.
- 1984 Midland Fox: Ford Transit 190D B401 NJF. On display at Snibston Discovery Park.
The museum holds a number of themed events during the year, when local collectors bring other vehicles and machinery along with exhibits of historical interest.
- Abbey Pumping Station Vintage Event - vintage vehicles and entertainment - Held in June
2012 Event exhibits
- Museum web page
- Steam Toys in Action – annual event held at the museum in January/February, organised by the museum volunteers
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