Water only flows one way – downhill – so maintaining a water supply for the summit level has been a problem for every canal designer. Tap a nearby river or build a reservoir were the usual solutions but neither would have worked on the K&A so instead the ingenious engineers enlarged a small lake further down and built Crofton Pumping Station with two huge steam powered beam engines to pump water from there back up to the summit.
Two hundred and one years later they still do the job (albeit only occasionally now as electric pumps perform the day to day job). That makes them the oldest working steam pumping engines in the world. The newer of the pair was built by Harvey's of Hayle in 1845 but older, built by Boulton & Watt, dates from 1812. And to put that in perspective, that was the year Napoleon was retreating from Moscow.
They're impressive beasts to see, even if it wasn't a steaming day. but more than the sheer size what thrilled me was the sheer elegance and quality of the engineering. I fancy a Formula One engineer would look at it and be impressed.
PS After grumbling about the state of some K&A locks it was good to see some serious improvement works going on at various locks today.