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old stuff at the London Science Museum

January 24, 2012

A recent trip to the London Science Museum was all too short in duration.  If you are an inventor, scientist, engineer or tinkerer, you will be very pleased to see the items in the museum.  It would be easy to spend a few days in there, but with just one day available, I limited my viewing only to things that were 100 years old or older.  Still, there wasn’t enough time to view it all, read about the exhibits and photograph things.  Here are a few snapshots, and yes I know that it is time to get a new camera.  This one will be retired and given to the kiddos!






This model of a workshop was built in 1850-1880.  The placard reads:

Before the development of electric motors to run individual machines, sa shingle steam engine could power a whole workshop.  This model shows how different types of machines would receive power from line shafts – although the engine driving them was usually located in a separate room.  This overall arrangement continued well into the twentieth century.   This model shows the types of machines you would have seen in the a general machine building workshop.  Some small lathes would be worked by foo-treadle, giving greater flexibility than the line shaft.  Rough preparation of parts and delicate finishing was done by hand at the fitters benches with vices.  There’s also an enclosed area to store small stools and drawings.  copyright London Science Museum.


James Watt

A beautiful machine.  The ornamental ball and wings are a very nice touch.


York London Royal Mail


Grout and Michaux bikes

A Grout “Tension” bicycle of 1871, aka a penny-farthing.  And a 1867 Michaux Velocipede



A view from the driver’s seat.







Can you see the three cylinder Buchet motor behind the bike?





An air pump by George Adams of 1761, made for the pleasure of King George III.



A silver microscope by George Adams 1763, for George III.  The “Universal Double Microscope”

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 24, 2012 10:27 am

    What is the story on the 3 cyl motor? Great stuff. Thanks, Paul

    • January 24, 2012 10:52 am

      Buchet was a French company around the turn of the previous century who made some motors for bikes. I’m not sure about that 3 cylinder motor, what it was used on, etc. But it sure looks cool. I just wish that I could have gotten a better photo through the glass display cabinet.

  2. Anonymous permalink
    January 24, 2012 1:35 pm

    Hi Pete,
    That brings back a few memories! I saw my first morgan three wheeler there. When I was a kid the first room you came to in the Sci Mus was full of big beam engines, and at various times they would slowly move into action. There were hundreds of glass cases with bits of machinery inside that you could work by turning small brass handles and see the slides, valves and piston rods doing their stuff. It was marvellous to me, and had that smell of machinery and polished wooden floors. Further on up the building were yet more rooms dedicated to all kinds of stuff that could be worked by eager hands. Every now and then a Jacobs Ladder of EHT would strike and massive sparks would rise up the wall in the electrical section. Probably blotted out TV and Radio for miles around!
    It all went a bit wrong for me when the Space Gallery appeared, and the big heavy stuff went down to Wroughton near Swindon. Next the rather dull electronics stuff appeared and the place lost its soul. The last bastion of amusement was/is the aircraft gallery and engines on the top floor. Big V- JAPs and a number of Granville Bradshaw’s offerings are hidden away amongst the radials and rotaries. Plenty of interesting complete aircraft too as I recall.
    Wroughton does open on occasion, and apparently is worth a visit. It’s also the site of vintage motorcycle sprinting, though whether the two coincide I’m not sure.
    Thanks for reminding me about the place – time for another visit I think!

    Cheers for now

    • January 24, 2012 2:22 pm

      hello Doug. Yes, it probably had a lot more good stuff in the past, but I was glad to see what was on display. And I worked with Paul d’Orleans to get ourselves into the archives in Swindon a few days later! Something like 90% of the Museum’s exhibits are in the archives, not on display. We were able to see some very early steam motorcycles, early bicycles, cars, etc. And we only saw one of the airplane hangars (I think there are 8-10 hangers in Swindon, all filled up!). I’ll post more photos later, but be warned. The lighting and the background clutter in the airplane hangers didn’t make for great photography. But where else will you see a sectioned 1897 Holden 4 cylinder bike?

  3. January 24, 2012 8:14 pm

    thanks for posting this pete ,,very fascinating,, just another reason to do london to brighton

  4. Lee Samuelson permalink
    January 24, 2012 9:19 pm

    Hi Pete
    The 3 cyl. Buchet reminded me of Glen Curtiss’ wide angle W-3 motorcycle engine. Not to mention Jim Feulings W-3. Did Anzani make a W-3 for aircraft use, way back when?
    Lee in Alberta where the snoo melteth.

    • January 24, 2012 10:56 pm

      Yeah, I thought of the Curtiss too. Great looking motor. I don’t know if Anzani built one, but it wouldn’t surprise me. They did some interesting motors in their time.

  5. Lee Samuelson permalink
    January 28, 2012 10:23 pm

    Hail Pete
    I googled Anzani W-3 tonight and had 2 interesting hits: good ol’ Wiki, and Anzani W3 – 3 Cylinder Motorcycle Engine on the Kneeslider. I reckon i saw a172 degree/wide fan aircraft engine -or a radial triple- in the front window of Stan Reynolds Western Canada Pioneer Museum (or whatever he used for a name back then: it changed several times).

  6. March 21, 2013 8:29 am

    What is that machine with the ball and wings called? How does or did it work?

    • March 22, 2013 2:54 pm

      Hello Cathleen. That was a stationary steam motor. It is on the main floor of the Science Museum, near the gigantic steam motor that is in that foyer/atrium area. The machine is covered by a glass box, so it was difficult to get a decent photo. It wasn’t big, a little smaller than a typical office desk. The flywheel was about 18″ in diameter, and the machine was engraved with a really nice Greek key pattern all around.

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