Brownsea Island's SE Type Special Electric Light Gas Engine circa 1907

The gas engine restored to its former glory

The engine dates back from around 1907 and it is thought to be the only one of its kind to remain in its original location in the former engine house on Brownsea Island. Originally installed to supply electricity to Brownsea Castle, the engine sat derelict for decades, its glory of olden days stripped away and in pieces.

SE Type Special Electric Light Gas Engine circa 1907

For nearly a hundred years, the engine had sat in one piece in its original location.  However, in the 1990s it was dismantled for a restoration project that never began.  The parts were left in the engine room but following the transformation of the engine room into a shop, pieces of the engine were relocated across the island with some being left outside in the elements. 

The challenge was on to gather all the missing pieces together and to restore them to working order.  Unfortunately, some of these parts were badly corroded and many parts were also found scattered all over the island.  One of the pieces, the piston, was found propping up a derelict trailer in the farmyard.

Due to insufficient workshop space on the island, many of the larger parts were taken away for a detailed overhaul, the most difficult and expensive part of the restoration was fitting a new liner to the cylinder, without which it would not be possible to run the engine.  Once the parts had all come back to the engine room, the volunteers spent many evenings of their own time, fixing and fitting the engine.  The work could not have been done without the expert assistance and detailed involvement of brothers Dennis and Chris Barnes and their friends, Paddy Sinnick, Nick Maloy, Michael Hopkins and Patrick Parker.

Fitting the cylinder on the gas engine as part of the restoration project on Brownsea Island

With the help of the East Dorset National Trust Association and their generous donations, Brownsea Island is now lucky enough to be able to show case this single cylinder Otto cycle engine and cutting edge technology of its time.  The volunteers have trialled running the engine and it runs magnificently.  It provides an interesting insight into the past and a fantastic opportunity for people to witness such a beautiful piece of engineering. The engine now sits proudly in all its former glory in its original engine house on Brownsea Island.