They may only be in use for 21 days in an average year, but the 50-year-old diesel engines at the pumping station at Pode Hole serve a critical function for the people of South Holland.
At times of extremely heavy rainfall – such as the winter of 2013, when large tracts of land in Somerset were flooded and we in South Holland experienced the highest tidal surge ever recorded – the three engines are switched on and left running non-stop for as long as necessary.
Between them, the diesel engines at what is confusingly called Deeping St Nicholas Pumping Station and the electric powered engines at the adjacent Adventurers Pumping Station can shift a massive volume of water – 4,800 gallons per second, enough to supply London with its drinking water.
These staggering statistics must have impressed guests from Somerset who attended the Welland & Deepings Internal Drainage Board’s traditional annual inspection this year.
Operations engineer Nick Morris says the inspection is a chance to show invited guests the work carried out by the board and the plant and machinery it uses.
This year, it was also an opportunity to present a long-service award to fitter-fabricator and Vernatts sluice keeper Richard Creasey, who has worked for the board for 40 years. Richard, who also regulates the River Glen at Surfleet Seas End for the Environment Agency, was presented with a certificate and cash towards a telescope.
Another ceremony took place too: board chairman Trevor Purllant put up a plaque in the Deeping St Nicholas Pumping Station marking the fact that the diesel engines are 50 years old.
The event was attended by John Honnor, whose name is on one of the engines – the other two are named after Des Miles and Richard Casswell, a former chairman of the board.
Nick explains that Des was engineer to the board at that time and John was his assistant, and between them they designed the engines in-house.
Nick says: “These days, you would have a team of consultants doing it. It cost about £150,000 to build the station and it is estimated today it would be £7million.
“Fifty years on and they are still running well. They are marine engines designed for a lot of hours’ use, but in total the three engines have only done about 22,000 hours since they were put in in 1964.”