As with most museums, The Steam Museum began with the enthusiasm of one man. Beginning his collection in the 1960’s “as an over-reaction to being denied a steam roller as a boy” Michael List Brain, researched, discovered and assembled what today forms the nucleus of The Steam Museum.
This core collection includes many fine examples of rare or unique steam powered machinery; ranging from WW2 special forces steam generators, to Traction Engines and Steam Rollers, Stationary Engines, Railway Locomotives, Historic Fairground Rides and Steamships. Of particular note is “CERVIA”, the 1,000 H.P. steam tug which can be seen at her berth in Ramsgate Royal Harbour ().
One of the star exhibits of the museum is the famous Foden steam wagon “Britannia”, whose long association with Michael goes back to 1969 when he embarked on an unrivalled steam adventure to become the first person to circumnavigate the globe in a steam powered road vehicle. Having travelled many tens of thousands of miles in places as diverse as Afganistan and Australia, “Britannia” certainly has many stories to tell..! (Click here for further information.)
The museum has attracted a group of volunteers, from the local community and from further afield, and has formed a Friend’s Group – if you would like to be involved with the Trust’s work, please do get in contact…
The Steam Museum collection has been based at Preston Court since the late 1970’s. At first, visits here were only by invitation to this ‘hidden gem’ of the world of steam preservation. However, as word spread, more and more enthusiasts discovered Preston and were made welcome. In 1991 The Steam Museum Trust was formed, with the intention of safeguarding the collection for posterity and to examine ways of extending access to specialists, enthusiasts, heritage societies, and educational groups.
From the early 1990’s a collaboration with Ramsgate Maritime Museum (a fully registered museum), led to the creation of a successful and popular series of steam events including: the Civic Trust Heritage Open Days, New Year Open Days and Preston Rally each June. These are centred on the museum’s headquarters in the Oast House, where an impressive array of stationary engines are demonstrated operating under steam.
These events – particularly the Preston Rally in the summer – have become special days on the calendar for the village of Preston-next-Wingham. The Friends of Preston Church, the beautiful 13th century St Mildred’s, support the museum events by providing catering and craft stalls which add to the uniquely ‘English’ atmosphere of the site and help raise funds for Church projects.
The Steam Museum Trust has been steadily consolidating the Steam Museum collections, adding interpretation and seeking advice on how best to share this important resource with a wider audience, without compromising its unique setting. Leading this process is Michael Cates, FRSA – a member of the Council of the Association of Independent Museums and former Chairman of the Kent Museums Group.
The Steam Museum Trust is a not for profit organisation (application for formal charitable status is in progress). It is a member of AIM, KMG & D.S.M.G. and intends to apply to the MLA for accredited status for The Steam Museum in due course. A collections management document, containing the acquisitions and disposal policy of the Museum, has been adopted and copies are available on request.