Appeal sets sight on restoration of two popular steam old-timers

By Geoff Courtney

An 81-year-old steam crane that was in commercial use for nearly half a century is to be restored by Amberley Museum, the West Sussex attraction that has its own working steam railway and is home to the country’s most varied collection of different gauge locomotives.

The crane, which runs on standard gauge track and originally had a maximum loading of five tons, was built in 1937 for an Essex company by Thomas Smith & Sons of Rodley near Leeds, at a time when there were many examples on the railways and construction sites, and at docks and factories. The Amberley crane was bought by Charlton Saw Mill of Chichester in 1963 and remained in use there until 1986, when it was donated to the museum.

Wood you believe it: the Amberley Museum steam crane displays its load-carrying capabilities prior to it being taken out of service last year for boiler repairs. The museum has launched an appeal to raise funds for the repair of the boilers of both the crane and another steam resident, road roller Joan. Inset: A Thomas Smith & Sons’ brochure of a steam crane of the type at Amberley Museum in West Sussex. AMBERLEY MUSEUM

There it became a popular working exhibit for many years, being demonstrated lifting wood, but last year it was withdrawn for repairs to the boiler, for which the museum has launched a fundraising appeal.

Rebecca Main, the museum’s marketing and communications manager, said that fewer than half a dozen similar cranes remained in operational condition in the country. “We are appealing for funds to employ a specialist welder to carry out the boiler repairs. Our aim is to reinstate the crane and saw benches as a working exhibit in the wood yard.

“This will greatly add to the educational and enjoyment value of the yard – the working crane is a dramatic and exciting sight.”

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