You may recall that MrB on our first trip to Lisboa found something completely different for us to do, and he did the same on our most recent trip. On this occasion it was Estação Elevatória a Vapor dos Barbadinhos, which was once one of the steam pumping stations for Lisboa’s residential water supply. For most of the 18th and 19th century Lisboa never had a sufficent supply of fresh water its population, and so this pumping station had a signficant impact on the lives of Lisboetas.

Now I must admit the detail of the mechanics and engineering may not have caught my attention quite the same as MrB’s, but I did appreciate the size and beauty of it all. I was also amazed that you could stand underneath the enormous flywheels and go up to the second floor. The only thing that surprised us was the lack of tiles inside. Most English pumping stations were tiled inside to enable the workers to keep everything clean. However there were no sign of tiles here which is surprising given Lisboa is the home of azulejos. Perhaps they have been removed, who knows. Still the brick, wooden floors and white walls did create a different kind of beauty.

These four enormous steam engines, fed by five coal-fired boilers, were built by E. W. Windsor & Fils, an English owned company based in Rouen, France. Their engines began pumping water from the Alviela River in 1880 and continued to do, without any interruption, until 1928. If you got a job here in the 19th century it was a career for life!

The pumping station would probably still be going now if more efficient pumps hadn’t replaced them. You can see their replacements as they are located in a building next door. They didn’t capture my imagination or camera in quite the same way though. I am sure this pumping room and pumps are very efficient but I did not find them as beautiful as the ones made by E W Windsor and his sons!Barbadinhos modern pumping station

I suspect not everyone will want to visit this museum, but if you do go then a word of caution. The museum directions in their leaflet can be misleading. My tip is ignore their suggestion of the water route from Santa Apolónia station, and instead make sure you stay on the city side of the railway tracks before you attempt to take the diagonal’ish stroll uphill. If you do then you should find it relatively quickly!