1902 Tangye Gas Suction Engine.
On the 20th August 2005 I visited my cousin Oscar Evans in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, whom I have not seen for 44 years, and had the opportunity to take these pictures of this massive Tangye Suction Gas Engine. The farm has been in their family for over 100 years.
This engine was brought to South Africa in 1903 during what was known as "The Ostrich Boom" and sent by rail to the nearest station to their farm on the Fish River. From there it was transported by Ox wagon to its present position and installed there to provide irrigation water for lucerne pastures on which the ostriches grazed.
At 68 B.H.P. it was probably the largest engine in the country at that time and even Sir Healy Hutchinson, Governor of the then Cape Colony was present for the first official "Start up" of the engine. (At that time the Boer War with England had just ended but the 4 provinces that made up what was later called "The Union of South Africa" had not yet yet unified).
It pumped 1,000,000 gallons of water per day from the Great Fish River and worked until 1948. I believe that the engine was not used after that mainly because all the trees in the vicinity had been chopped out to make charcoal for the gas producer and it had become a problem to transport enough timber in from further away to fuel this hungry giant. The Karoo region where this engine is situated is an arid semi desert area without many big trees or forests and the vegetation consists mostly of smaller shrublike trees.
Rumour has it that the engine backfired regularly and this could be heard from 10 miles away on a quiet day!
In 1975 there were disasterous floods in the area and the engine house was flooded but the present owner dug out all the silt and cleaned up the engine. The pump pit seen in one of these pics was completely filled with silt which had to be dug out by hand to recover the centrifugal pump.
The owner would like the engine to be restored and has offered it to various museums in the area but the cost involved in removing the engine to another site would be huge and seems to have frightened off most interested parties. He would prefer the engine to remain in the area as it does form part of the heritage of the Eastern Cape.
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