It is one of Bolton town centre's most striking landmarks and a reminder of the town's great industrial past.

Encased in a glass box, the steam engine, built in Bolton, was restored and installed on Oxford Street in 1974.

Today a special ceremony was held to mark 50-years of it being placed and preserved in the town centre.

A commemorative plaque was also unveiled to mark the occasion.

The huge engine was rescued from a silk mill in North Yorkshire in 1969 and was painstakingly rebuilt in Bolton town centre by engineers from Hick Hargreaves Ltd, the same company that had manufactured the engine nearly a hundred years earlier.

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Its installation is said to serve as a reminder of Bolton’s proud industrial heritage at a time when heavy industry was giving way to a changing economy.

It represents a typical steam engine that would have powered so many of the mills throughout the region which were busy spinning and weaving when the dye works were thriving.

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Schoolchildren from Clarendon Primary School, Beaumont School and The Valley Community Primary joined the Mayor of Bolton, Cllr Mohammed Ayub, town hall leaders, volunteers and engineers for the celebration.

Bolton Council’s Executive Cabinet Member for Culture, Cllr Ayub, said: “I remember coming into the town centre when I was child and seeing this huge engine in motion and it made quite an impression on me.

The Bolton News: Picture by Paul Heyes - Pupils from Clarendon Primary School and Beaumont Primary School with Frank and Ginger RatcliffePicture by Paul Heyes - Pupils from Clarendon Primary School and Beaumont Primary School with Frank and Ginger Ratcliffe (Image: Paul Heyes)“It had been inactive for quite a while, so when Labour came back into office at the last election, we were keen to get it working again, in the hope that today’s generation of children will also remember it and feel a connection to our heritage through it.

“I want to especially thank all the volunteers from Bolton Steam Museum, who do such a marvellous job of looking after the engine at no cost to the council.”

Executive Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Cllr Martin Donaghy said: “We have big [engineering] names in the town such as Hicks, Dobson and Barlow, among others.

“There were engineering workshops everywhere.

“I see this and the other iconic monuments around our town as not only preserving our history, but learning from it, and going forward for a brighter, and more prosperous Bolton, which our town will be once again.”

The Bolton News: Engineer Frank Dagnall with some supportersEngineer Frank Dagnall with some supporters (Image: Newsquest)When the team of fitters from Hick Hargreaves rebuilt the engine in its case in 1974, the engineer in charge was Frank Dagnall.

Frank is retired now but he also worked on the refurbishment of the machine in 2018 and 2024. 

The steam engine was powered up again this year.

He is one of the many volunteers who maintain, repair and service the array of engines at the Bolton Steam Museum, which has the biggest collection of working mill engines in Europe.

Frank Dagnall said: “It is amazing to see the engine turning and bringing so much joy to the passing shoppers in Bolton, especially the young people.

“Looking back on fifty years since we first rebuilt it brings back many very happy memories of all the people who worked on it.

The Bolton News: Samantha Palmer, Year Six teacher with Clarendon Primary School pupilsSamantha Palmer, Year Six teacher with Clarendon Primary School pupils (Image: Newsquest)“We’re lucky that these marvellous machines are part of our heritage.

“If anyone is interested in these engines, I encourage them to visit Bolton Steam Museum, the official museum of the Northern Mill Engine Society, which is a charity, and is open to visitors off Chorley Old Road.”

Since then, the steam engine has become a much-loved attraction that generations of Bolton children have grown up with.

Samantha Palmer, Year Six teacher at Clarendon Primary School, said: “It’s extremely exciting.

“The children are thrilled to be invited to come and take part in the whole event today.

“We regularly come and visit Bolton Museum, and this monument in the centre is part of our local history, and it’s really important for the children to get a sense of how their local area has impacted history in the UK and the wider world.”

The steam museum is run entirely by volunteers and is open every Wednesday and Sunday from 11am to 3pm, with the engines working on five steam weekends each year.

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