Summary

Oscillating single-cylinder non-condensing steam engine, rated at approximately 1 horsepower and operating at 75 rpm.

In this unusual design, the cylinder oscillates or rocks on a central pivot as the flywheel and crankshaft rotate. Oscillating engines were often used in early paddle steamers because of their compact size and the ability for the cylinder to be mounted at any angle. This small and compact full-sized example was intended for driving small machines like a printing press or sewing machine.

This type of steam engine was first designed by the Scottish engineer, William Murdock (1754-1839). He was employed from 1777 to1830 by Boulton & Watt, steam engine manufacturers, Birmingham, England. He produced a model of this engine type in around 1784, that was subsequently copied by other manufacturers. Several other inventions relating to steam power are attributed to Murdock and he also pioneered the use of coal gas for illumination in 1792.

The engine was donated to the museum from the Estate of Mr James Alexander Smith, of 25 Collins Place, Melbourne, a prominent Melbourne engineer who began his career with the railways before establishing himself in private practice as a consulting engineer and gaining a 'world-wide reputation' for 'his research into challenging engineering problems'. He was president of the Victorian Institute of Engineers from 1908-1911 and was one of three experts appointed by the Commonwealth Government to judge the worldwide competition held seeking designs for the Federal Capital, that became the city of Canberra. He also served as president on the Council of the Melbourne Working Mens' College (now RMIT University), and it was probably through this connection that he developed an interest in the Industrial & Technological Museum, a predecessor to Museum Victoria.

The engine was previously incorporated into the large interactive Working Models Case at the old Swanston Street museum and more recently has been adapted by the museum to operate with a push-button controlled electric motor drive for public demonstration purposes.

Physical Description

Varnished wooden base with most of the model components of green painted metal and some bright steel parts. There are also a few lacquered copper alloy parts, some with an orange paint coating. There is a chain to drive the model. There is a small plastic label bearing the number "7" glued to the wooden base.

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