Victorian London - Buildings, Monuments and Museums - Crossness Pumping Station

Crossness Pumping Station

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Southern Outfall Sewer, situate at Crossness Point, about two miles across the marshes from Abbey Wood Station, North Kent line. Intending visitors will do well before taking their tickets to ascertain at what time their train will arrive, as the officials do not consider it necessary in issuing them to give any warning when the necessary change of trains at Woolwich Arsenal happens to involve a delay at that comfortable station of an hour and a half or so. The Crossness Works consist of an oblong building much less aesthetic in design and costly in its execution than that of the Northern Outfall. There is nothing ecclesiastical about the interior, the fittings of which are of a much simpler and more work-a-day character, and the whole arrangements have a more practical air, especially to the visitor, who, instead of being left to wander at his own sweet will under the guidance of the first stoker he may succeed in persuading to leave his work for the purpose, is conducted over it by one of the officials of the establishment. There are four engines, originally supplied with steam by twelve Cornish boilers. The chimney shaft is 159 ft. 9 in. high, and 8 ft. 3 in. in diameter inside. Each engine has one steam cylinder 4ft. in diameter with a stroke of 9 ft., the horizontal distance from centre of cylinder to centre of crank shaft being 40 ft., and works eight pump-plungers, in all thirty-two, which can be worked either separately or together. Any number of the pump-plungers can be disconnected when desired. The pumps of each pair of engines discharge into an iron culvert, 10ft. high and 11 ft. 6 in. wide, running along the top of the wall, divided by two pump chambers, and branching into two smaller culverts 9 ft. by 4 ft. 7 in. The straining apparatus, which was originally somewhat similar to that at Barking, has been considerably modified, and is now only used to separate the heavier deposits, the pumps themselves being found quite equal to dealing with the corks and other smaller matters. From the pumps the sewage runs into an enormous reservoir entirely covered in with a vaulted roof supported on pillars, and covered on the top by a wide expanse of grass, round which are the neat little houses occupied by the staff, of whom a large number reside on the premises. Between the lower level culvert, through which the sewage finds its ways to the pumps, and the upper one, through which it runs from them to the reservoir, is a third of similar dimensions, through which at high-water it is discharged into the river, one foundation carried to the depth of 40 feet, wing thus made to serve for the three passages. Of late years it has been found necessary to extend considerably the boiler power, the rapid increase of building over the enormous area drained by the southern low-level sewer having overpowered its original resources. Two large boilers have accordingly been placed in a vault adjoining the boiler-room, and an additional reinforcement has been supplied in the shape of four centrifugal pumps, worked by two superannuated locomotives from the Great Western broad-guage stock.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames, 1881