An Engineer in Wonderland – Tenerife mystery machine

In a niche carved high in the side of a canyon near Masca in Tenerife, I came across this machine.

thumb.jpgIn a niche carved high in the side of a canyon near Masca in Tenerife, I came across this machine.

It is labelled Petter Yeovil.

My best guess is that it is a diesel engine, but heaven knows if that is right, or what it used to do half way down a canyon miles from anywhere.

To give some idea of scale, the flywheels are a bit less than 1m in diameter.

Nearby (see below) were:
A concrete tank, probably a water tank – behind the machine.
A disused mounting pad with four bolts that aligned with the machine’s belt pulley.
A steel vessel – a pressure vessel or a fuel tank?

machine-and-tank.jpgdetail.jpgmount.jpgsteel-tank.jpgA couple of hundred metres away was small disused dam. 

Any ideas?


A little later after a bit of googling. It looks very much like a Petter S 18/21 – according to this web page – scroll down to ‘The ex-Edgington Petter S 18/21’

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  1. These are relics from mining activities. The machine with the wheels is an air compressor, and the tank is simply the air receiver. There are similar things to be found in places like Swaledale as a result of the Lead mining industry.
    If you were looking at a water pump rather than an air pump, you would expect to see it close to the lowest level that it was needed rather than on the surface. This is because you can push water through pipes to any reasonable height, but to pull it up by suction only works for the first 32 feet, above which you just form a vacuum.
    Whoever operated the mine clearly had high expectations since these things then would have represented a significant investment. Exploiting systems of mineral veins is notoriously unpredictable, so few would invest this heavily if there was little more than speculation behind the plan. But the fact that the whole island is primarily of volcanic materials means there is a high likelihood of finding metaliferous ores; though not knowing the geology in detail, I’d rather not speculate on what they would have been.

  2. I think this is a typical stationary engine used for agricultural and other purposes. They run off almost any kind of oil, often cooled just by a built in water tank. You can see dozens of different types at any steam rally. The hand crank may be some kind of speed control.
    I think this one was used to pump water from the dammed stream into the concrete water tank, maybe to water crops or provide water for animals. The stream was probably erratic, so storage was necessary.
    The steel tank may have been for fuel, or even for hot water with a fire lit underneath?

  3. my first guess was that it was an engine used as a water pump. The final comment about a nearby dam makes me wonder if this wasn’t actually a motor powered by water?
    The hand crank on the engine/motor at first had me thinking it was for starting the engine, but then it seemed that the flywheel would be turned by hand instead.
    Very mysterious!

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