Page last updated at 15:31 GMT, Saturday, 4 July 2009 16:31 UK

Historic steam pumps 'save' canal

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Museum steam pumps 'rescue' canal

Two historic steam pumps, built in the 1800s, are being fired up to save a canal in Wiltshire from running dry after modern electric pumps failed.

British Waterways asked Kennet and Avon Canal Trust volunteers, who run the pumping station at Crofton near Marlborough, to save the lock.

Three tonnes of coal will be used, over two days, to fire up the Georgian beam engine pumps - built in 1812 and 1843.

The canal has been closed between Crofton Crossing and Wootton Rivers.

The canal is owned and operated by British Waterways.

The failure of the electric pump meant that no water could be pumped back up to the highest point of the canal, near Crofton.

British Waterways decided to close the canal because if boats used the lock system to get up the hill the canal would quickly run dry.

Pam Holt, from Cambridge and currently on a long boat holiday on the canal, described what happened when she arrived at the lock on Friday.

She said: "We arrived at the lock yesterday and were told it had closed because one of the pumps had 'blown up'.

"It has been a wonderful thing to see the team from the museum using the old pumps for the thing they were intended for and actually doing it for real and not just for show."

Crofton Pumping Station was opened in 1810 and fell into disrepair in 1959. It is now a museum exhibit run by the volunteers.



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