The Garrett Portable Steam Engine

Garrett portable from the
mid nineteenth century

From the mid- nineteenth century, Garretts were famous for their portable steam engines.

Portable engines provided belt-driven power for farm machinery. They were commonly used to power threshing machines. At first, portables were hauled into place by the horses whose energy they were to improve upon and replace. Later portables had the capacity to move into place ‘under their own steam’ and became increasingly powerful. Garretts made over 20000 portables.

Garretts exported portables throughout Europe and worldwide, including as far away as New Zealand and Argentina.

The Siberian Timesreported the discovery of a Garrett Portable at a deserted gold mine in October 2018.

‘The spectacular machine was made in Leiston Suffolk in England. The machine was likely used by gold miners to pump out water and to bring ore to the surface’

Garrett portable from the early twentieth century

See how a
portable works

Exports of Garrett portables 1860-69

In the space of just 10 years, the firm’s export market grew to become world wide

A Portable Returns Home

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This 1924 Garrett Portable was sold to J Brace and Sons, timber merchants in Ongar Essex. The Long Shop Museum acquired it in 1984 and it was later dismantled and stored for future restoration.

These photographs show it returning to the Long Shop in 2016 after external restoration by Mark Armstrong. Volunteers in the Long Shop then completed the task of fully restoring it to its current display condition.

The Museum aims to acquire the oldest surviving Garrett Portable for display back at its home in Leiston when sufficient funds become available.

The restored portable on display at the Long Shop during a Christmas fair.

Garrett Engines in New Zealand

Garrett portable engines were exported all over the world.

This example is displayed in the Kauri Museum in Matakohe in the North Island of New Zealand.

It is a 12 horsepower portable steam engine built in 1906 and shipped to New Zealand. There it had several jobs. During its lifetime it was used as the power to drive a chaff cutter and in flax and timber mills. The engine served several timber yards - the final one was a mill owned by a Mr William Smith on Greenhill, Ruawai close to Matakohe. Its aging boiler tubes forced it into retirement in 1956.

workers stories

Naaman Pearson

1844-1928 Boilermaker

I came to Leiston in 1867 after learning my trade as a boilermaker in Lincoln. I became the foreman boilermaker at Garretts. I ran a tight ship and gained a reputation as a no-nonsense foreman. I certainly had no trouble with the men under my command.

My wife, Sarah and I had eight children and we moved several times in Leiston as the family got bigger. We lived in Station Road, Prospect Place and in Eastward Ho. By 1889 we could afford to have our own house built for us in the High Street.

All five of my sons followed me into Garretts.

My daughter, Alice, married Fred Chaplin who also became a boiler maker there. My son, Herbert was always very musical and played the euphonium in the works band.

After Sarah died in 1899, I moved back to Lincoln.

A page from Naaman's notebook and a photograph, showing the Garrett Corrugated Firebox. Naaman kept records of boiler parts and their dimensions. He was working at Garretts at the time that the corrugated firebox was being developed and patented by Garretts.

© The Long Shop Museum 2019

The Long Shop Museum is a charity registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales.

Registration Number 1167945