Tinkers Bubble Saw Mill, Somerset Help Save Our Steam Engine or Suggest A Replacement

Tinkers Bubble Saw Mill, Somerset
Help Save Our Steam Engine or Suggest A Replacement


Please donate now to help save our beautiful steam engine from the knackers yard.
We are planning a promise auction for later in the year to help raise money, and so are requesting promises from our wider community. Have a look here for more information.

About our steam engine

Tinkers Bubble is a small woodland community in Somerset, established in 1994. We use environmentally sound methods of working the land without a need for fossil fuels. Most of the fruits of our labour go back into sustaining the community, but we do sell some produce  mostly organic apple juice, cider and timber.

Our engine in happier days. Marshall Britannia No. 88270 was built in 1937

Producing timber here involves managing a 26 acre woodland in a sustainable way – felling selected trees with two-person handsaws and axes, transporting logs with the help of our handsome horses, and processing these logs on a wood fired steam-powered sawmill.

We have heard that we may be running the only remaining commercial portable steam engine in the country. Our steam engine is 83 years old, and we’ve been using her almost constantly for 26 of those years. She is now in need of a new lease of life; a once-in-a-century major refurbishment.

For us to continue to produce timber, and to continue to act as an example of what is possible in this country without fossil fuels, we need to urgently raise the funds to replace the firebox. We will be carrying out as much of the work as we can, but the costs are far beyond our reach.

We have a crowd funder underway and greatly appreciate all donations. We will also update this page to let you know how on how we are getting on with our repairs!

If you think you might be able to help with the engineering, please email tinkersbubble@riseup.net.

Woodlanders Video

Click here
to see Woodlanders excellent video of our sustainable forestry operation, including footage of the steam engine sawmill in operation.

An Escalation

Bad news, folks. Ole’ Steamy requires a little more attention than first expected. If new tubes, firebox, tube-plate and a good dollop of molten metal wasn’t enough, the other tube-plate and most of the outer jacket had better be. We got the news a week or so after her triumphant shift over to James in Shaftesbury who gave her a good tickle with a needle gun and got the inspector in to see what was left. A combination of age, good use and poor maintenance means the metal of the outer shell of the boiler has corroded down to less than 6mm. On a vessel running at almost 150psi for most of the day I can assure you more than 6mm of metal holding everything together is a good idea (not to mention legal).

To get Ole’ Steamy from the stripped down condition she now finds herself in to belted up and running the saw-bench again puts our funding aim up to £20,000. On hearing the bad news and the advice from both James and Dave the inspector to “maybe-perhaps-a-good-idea-might-be… to find a new one?” my heart sunk and my head hit the desk. But, we forge on.

This last in a line of set-backs really shook the boat. So much so I started considering other alternatives. There is some pretty nifty little electric saw-benches out there and even feasibly within range of a decent solar set-up. Other ideas included stationary steam engines, generators, gasification units and hydro via our little stream but its fair to say nothing quite inspires the glint in the eye of a volunteer like a dirty green fire-breathing behemoth (ignoring the smutty, sweaty Bubbler shoving Douglas up the back end).

So even though this seems yet more of a mountain (like contemplating the weeding of Greg’s carrot bed) we will rise with the morning dew, put on our boots and cap (sometimes nothing else) and get out there and do it. We need to get this money raised to get Ole’ steamy back. There is not enough thanks that can be conveyed by technology for what everyone has already done for us during this mammoth task. I am incredibly grateful for the advice and support I have received while figuring out the work the steam engine has needed and all the possible alternatives. And, of course, a great big thank-you to everyone who has already donated. Although we are asking for more, it in no way lessens the value of that initial push.

To get ‘Ole steamy back we are also doing fundraising-style open days, a promise auction, and probably other exciting things so please keep an eye on our events page.

19 April 2021

Please comment...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.