MIGHTY steam engines at an industrial monument have been fired up to mark a special milestone.
This Easter weekend marked 40 years since Ryhope Engines Museum threw open its doors to the public so they could hear and see the engines in motion.
Ryhope Engines Museum is based on the Ryhope Pumping Station – regarded as one of the finest industrial monuments in the North East – which was built in 1868 to supply water to Sunderland.
The station, which was the vision of Victorian engineer Thomas Hawksley, ceased operation in 1967 – after 100 years of continuous use.
Today the Grade II Listed building is looked after by a dedicated team of volunteers from Ryhope Engines Trust who operate the engines for the steaming events, which take place on selected weekends throughout the year.
Today’s open day coincided with a vintage car rally which saw hundreds of enthusiasts flock to the site.
John Fraser, treasurer with Ryhope Engines Trust, said: “We run about six steaming events a year, but this one, which coincides with the classic car rally, is one of the busiest we’ve had.
“It’s very impressive to see the engines operating, they are world-famous, and are one of the best preserved of their kind.”
As part of the open weekends, the volunteers show people around the giant beam engines, which date back to 1868, and hand-fired Lancashire boilers from 1908.
Though the steaming events are intermittent, the trust works hard throughout the year to save the pumping station from crumbling away.
Entry to the events are free, thanks to owners Northumbrian Water.
Trustee Stafford Linsley recalls the first public steaming weekend.
“Before then we could run the engines electronically, but there was no smell or hiss of the steam,” he explained. “Fortunately, the last engineer to operate the engines commercially, Jack Robertson, was still living here at the time and he helped us to operate them.
“The public steaming weekends are a chance for people to see the engines as they were intended. We get a lot of people through the door and they say they’ve never seen anything like it.
“One American boy just stood at the door, looked in, and said ‘that’s awesome!’.”
•Ryhope Engines Museum is open Easter Monday as part of the steaming weekend.