THE LONG SHOP

The Long Shop

The first purpose-built flowline factory in the World

A print of 1865 shows the assembly of portable engines in the Long Shop

The Long Shop can claim to be a world ’s first!

Henry Ford is famous for building factories with production lines to assemble motor cars. But did you know Richard Garrett beat him to it over 50 years earlier?

A print of 1865 shows the assembly of portable engines in the Long Shop

Creation of the Long Shop

Garretts, along with similar manufacturers, submitted products to be displayed at ‘The Great Exhibition’ of 1851. There, Richard Garrett was exposed to the ideas being developed in the USA to increase the efficiency of the manufacturing process. It has been suggested that he was especially impressed by the ideas of Samuel Colt, the gun manufacturer, who employed workers each of whom he instructed in a specific task in gun manufacture. The gun being made would pass from worker to worker until it was complete.

Richard Garrett recognized that the same principle could be applied to the mass manufacture of larger machinery. The portable steam engine was an ideal product but would need a special building.The Long Shop was started in 1852 and opened for production in 1853.

The Long Shop looking West

The Long Shop in operation

The idea behind the operation of the Long Shop was that the boiler mounted on its wheels would enter the Long Shop from the western end (where the car park is now) and would progress through the building as components were added in each of the bays. The large pieces were made in the ground floor bays and the smaller parts were manufactured in the gallery and lowered down by the gantry crane.

The completed portable engine would then leave by the east doors. This method allowed for several portable engines to be constructed simultaneously with a new wheeled boiler entering as a completed engine left.

‘The Cathedral’

The Long Shop, with its great height and lovely proportions, was called ‘the cathedral’ by the workers.

As you enter the Long Shop, it becomes apparent why it was known as the ‘Cathedral’ by the engineers employed to work there. As its name suggests, it is a long building with a central ‘nave’. At each side there are bays separated by columns and above there is a high gallery where the arches are topped by a track for the massive gantry crane.

‘ A fine and lofty building constructed in 1852, expressly for the manufacture of portable, fixed and traction engines’

From Bells Weekly Messenger, 1863

The Windows

The windows on the ends and north side of the Long Shop are large to give a good working light (the Long Shop was originally lit by gas). However, the south wall has only one small window. This is because it was attached to another building – the foundry.

The Block Floor

The floor of the central section of the Long Shop is made up of blocks of wood set on end. Many parts used in the construction portables were made of cast iron and a wooden floor reduced the risk of breakage. The end grain also absorbs spilt oil, making the surface less slippery.

Powering the Long Shop

Running along the length of the Long Shop, just under the ceilings there ran line shafts. These were rotated by five powerful steam engines located outside the Long Shop. Pulleys at intervals along the line shaft were used to drive machinery below via long leather belts.

The steam engine that drove the lineshaft outside the east door of the Long Shop

The Gantry Crane

Look up to the top of the gallery. There you will see the gantry crane - there were two originally. It runs on tracks running the full length of the gallery and can be moved in each direction using chains. There are gates at each end of the gallery. If an item needed to be moved between the gallery and the ground floor, the crane would be moved to one end of the gallery and loaded. The load could then be deposited wherever it was needed with precision.

The Gantry Crane

A section of lineshaft in the Long Shop

The steam engine that drove the lineshaft outside the east door of the Long Shop

The Gantry Crane

Look up to the top of the gallery. There you will see the gantry crane - there were two originally. It runs on tracks running the full length of the gallery and can be moved in each direction using chains. There are gates at each end of the gallery. If an item needed to be moved between the gallery and the ground floor, the crane would be moved to one end of the gallery and loaded. The load could then be deposited wherever it was needed with precision.

The Gantry Crane

Production outgrew the Long Shop and a range of new buildings supplemented its use in the 1860s. But the Long Shop remains a testament to Richard Garrett's talent for innovation in the 1850s.

workers stories

Alfred Nicholls Clarke

1848-1941 Engine Fitter​

I started at Garretts as an apprentice blacksmith in 1869 and I've been there ever since. I had to cycle 12 miles from Eyke where I lived with my wife, Miriam but, in 1881, we moved to Aldeburgh Road with our eight children. I worked as an engine fitter, up in the gallery, on engine governors -the devices mounted on the top of steam engines that help to keep the speed steady. We lowered them down onto the engines using the big gantry crane and the workers below would fix them onto the engines.

A Steam Engine Governor. This device is used to keep the engine speed constant under different loads.

Working on the lathes in the fitting shop was dangerous and accidents were not uncommon. I got pretty good at getting metal splinters out of eyes - they used to call me the 'eye doctor'. I was one of the oldest people working up in the fitting shop and the workers made me the 'Patriarch of the Gallery' - a title of which I am most proud.

Left, a Steam Engine Governor. This device is used to keep the engine speed constant under different loads.

© The Long Shop Museum 2019

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

Registration Number 1167945