Object In Focus-Crab Engine no. 513, by Wood and Gee, Wigan
Wood & Gee of Wigan Crab Engine no. 513, installed at Woodhorn Colliery by the Ashington Coal Company in 1894.
The crab engine, sometimes known as a capstan at Woodhorn Colliery, was manufactured between 1884-1894. On May 1st, 1894, the crab engine was erected at the newly opened Woodhorn Colliery. Installation took longer than planned, lasting from April until 7th of August of 1895, because the masonry that needed to be moved to build the housing for the engine proved tougher than expected.
The crab engine house is the third of the oldest of the buildings still standing at the Colliery, after the jack engine and the blacksmiths shop. It was used for lowering cables down the mine shaft.
The manufacturing company that produced the engine started life as John Wood and Co, later changing its name to Wood and Gee around 1890, then finally to John Wood and Sons Ltd. The company made various machines under the name Wood and Gee were known to be specialists in the production of compound steam engines. Models they manufactured included the no. 494, the no. 513, and the no. 562.
John Wood was a self-made man, having started his career as a mechanic. He partnered with William Knott, a moulder from Wigan, around 1870. Over the next decade the pair built their business Wood and Knott, before expanding their business and rebranding as Water Heyes Foundry of iron founders. Later, John Gee became a partner, and the company expanded into engineering. It changed its name to John Wood and Co and moved premises to the Barley and Brook Foundry.
Wood was also a director of May Mill Company textiles firm in Pemberton, Wigan, in addition to a magistrate and member of the board for Lancashire and Cheshire Miners Permanent Relief Society.
John Gee started his working life as a greengrocer and had a career of great variety, with roles such as iron founder, theatre proprietor, theatrical manager and tramway proprietor.
The firm was very successful and had many customers amongst local collieries, textile mills and coal mines. It produced colliery appliances for winding and pumping, hauling and screening, picking and coal washing, and transported them as far as Ireland. Owing to its success, the Tickle brothers of Vulcan Foundry in Wigan bought out John Wood and Sons Ltd in 1929.
Technical information: The engine comprises a pair of 12″ cylinders x 20″ stroke and is geared 25 to 1 3rd motion. The drum 4ft diameter drum
On 20th December 1941, two 500-kilo bombs dropped at Woodhorn Colliery. One of the bombs destroyed the Walker fan house and demolished part of the Crab Engine house, which was during 1942 and 1943. To find out more read here.
The crab engine is the smallest steam engine on site at Woodhorn. At present it is not accessible to visitors, but you can see behind the scenes images of it from earlier this year below.
The engine roof will be subject to a restorative project later this year. Keep an eye out for updates on social media.