About Robey


Robert Robey started business in 1854, manufacturing portable steam engines and thrashing machines. His range of agricultural equipment rapidly expanded; in the Great Exhibition of 1862 "fixed engines, traction engines, ploughing tackle, corn mills, saw benches etc" were on display and soon a complete range of mining equipment was on offer from winding and pumping engines to locomotives, cages and kibbles.

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About Robey

Robey was an innovative firm. Traction engines were built to their own designs and to the patents of others, such as Thomson (road steamers), Savory (ploughing engines), Wm. Box and others. The fixed 'Undertype' was introduced in 1872 and electric motor pumps were on offer by the 1890s.

By the turn of the century the firm had been incorporated into a limited company, the works had expanded to cover 15 acres and 20 000 engines and plant had been built. Stationary engines of many types were added to the range, such as the 'Quick Revolution' vertical, for electrical generation. Indeed Robey's 'Globe works' was said to be the first factory in the U.K. lit by electricity.

Engines with simple slide valves, expansion gear, piston valves and drop valves were developed for application in many industries (our Class E is a good example of the latter). Colliery winders up to 84" stroke were amongst the largest of these, exported all over the world. Many are still in use in India and elsewhere. The Trust owns one of three examples preserved in England.

'Overtypes', 'Superheater' and 'Uniflow' engines were sold, the latter, the most efficient type of steam engine made, being a speciality of the firm. Engines were made to every configuration; horizontal, vertical and diagonal; duplex, tandem and cross compound cylinders; open and high speed enclosed, all in a variety of sizes and powers.

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The road vehicle department expanded considerably at this time. A new range of traction engines was introduced and the steam wagon made its appearance in 1906, various models of which remained in production until 1934. Road rollers were made from 1914 and steam tractors enjoyed a ready sale. Road locomotives became popular, especially in overseas markets; a few still exist in Australia. An inspired innovation was the development of a tandem roller from the stayless wagon boiler and engine unit. The Trust's first acquisition, 42693, is a 1925 example.

Robey made an early entry into the internal combustion engine market: for half a century vertical and horizontal oil and diesel engines were produced for diverse applications such as ship propulsion. Air compressors, rock crushers and hemp decorticators serve as examples to illustrate the wide range of products made.

Robey's contribution to the war effort was considerable; in 1916 Sopwith aircraft and Short Seaplanes were built in large numbers; from 1939 production centred on gun mountings, frigate engines and other heavy items. After the war the capacity and expertise of the company was used to fabricate everything from converters for steelworks to parts for the Jodrell Bank radio telescope. In the firm's later years, however, package boilers in oil, gas or solid fuel fired versions were made in larger numbers: a new boiler barrel and tubeplate for the Trust's Tandem roller was the last boiler made and tested at the works before closure in February 1988.

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