Before the advent of the National Electricity grid in the early 1930’s, cities, towns, factories, large private houses, tramway systems, etc., generated their own electricity using dynamos driven by various steam or oil engines. Up to the 1890’s steam engines tended to be large and slow running, and so the much higher speeds demanded by the dynamo were met by belt drives designed to multiply the speed. But a smaller, direct coupled engine running at the same speed as the dynamo made for a better and more efficient layout and in 1890 the famous Birmingham company of Bellis and Morcom Ltd, brought out their first engine of this kind running at 625 r.p.m.
The secret, as with the Sisson’s and many others, was total enclosure and forced lubrication – like a modern car engine – and this example, last used at the Besco Laundry at Beaumont, Jersey, can generate 25k.w. at 220 volts.