Three machines made in Leeds

For my wife’s family it is the crockery. Staffordshire-raised, they can’t resist upturning plates and bowls to check their makers’ marks – Doulton, Wedgwood and what-have-you. And my own father grew up near Sheffield, so in restaurants I also study the knives and forks – David Mellor was a Noughties Brit cuisine staple.

But Leeds, well Leeds made all sorts of stuff, and much of it too big and heavy for fine dining. So here I present three machines that have recently caught my familiarity-biased eye – all of them survivors still making their marks on the world in different ways.

Thing 1. I’m loving Chris Thorpe’s series on “Preserving the past with the near future” – the story of Winifred, a Hunslet-built steam engine that has travelled to Wales, the USA and back before being recorded as part of a unique project with lasers, 3d-printers and stuff.

The work is beautiful, and so are Chris’s blog posts describing the project at the Bala Lake Railway, especially like the bit about how future generations might view the recording.

Thing 2. On the first Sunday of many months, I had my Remember The Milk app pop up a repeating reminder, if in London, to visit the Kirkaldy Testing Museum a block inland from the Tate Modern at Bankside. Last Sunday we did, and were not disappointed.

David Kirkaldy was so convinced of the need for independent testing of construction materials that he commissioned at his own expense a massive testing machine from Greenwood and Batley of Armley.

Kirkaldy's testing machine - Wikimedia Commons

The machine served for 99 years through three generations of a family business, crushing, pulling and bending metal girders, concrete beams and much more – literally testing to destruction. Now it is cared for by knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers. You should visit too.

Thing 3. At the back of my mind since our summer holiday in Scotland, this…

… a Leeds-built John Fowler & Co. steamroller upcycled into play equipment in a park at Aberfeldy. I guess there must be a few of these in playgrounds around the world. With a bit of imagination, you can flatten anything.

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