Summary

A working model of an inverted compound high-speed reciprocating steam engine, with enclosed crankcase, solid flywheel, overhead steam cylinders and eccentric-operated independent piston valves on both high and low pressure cylinders. The model is fitted with a hydrostatic lubricator on the steam inlet and a sight-feed lubricator on the back of the crankcase, which feeds lubricating oil to the valve rods and main crankshaft bearings. The crankcase has been sectioned on one side to create an opening that enables the crankshaft and other internal components to be seen.

In the early 1900s, a new type of steam engine was developed with an enclosed crankcase and forced lubrication that pumped oil into the main bearings. These engines were able to operate at speeds of up to 600 rpm and proved ideally suited to tasks such as driving electric generators and centrifugal pumps. Belliss & Morcom, of Birmingham, were one of the best known manufacturers of high-speed steam engines of this style.

This model was acquired by the museum from The Model Dockyard Pty Ltd, a business founded by Captain E.H. James and a friend in about 1932. Situated initially in Flinders Street, the shop became so popular that it relocated to larger premises at 469 Elizabeth Street soon afterwards. By 1936 it had moved to the basement at 216 Swanston Street, where it would remain for over 20 years, becoming something of a Melbourne institution and popular destination for both children and adults alike on trips into the city. The shop sold both complete models, modelmaker's lathes and other tools, kits, castings for models and blueprint plans, as well as a large catalogue of other modelmaking supplies. Specialities included model trains, aeroplanes, steam engines and ships - ranging from fully-rigged sailing vessels to power-driven ocean liners. It is not known whether the model was made by the Model Dockyard or just supplied by them from another manufacturer.

The model has been adapted by the museum to operate with a push-button controlled electric motor drive for public demonstration purposes. Model scale 1:4.

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