John Child’s


IN THIS the tercentenary of the world’s first steam engine, it was  joy to see a model Newcomen engine at the Bristol exhibition in 2012 built by John Child. John originally built a small model which was difficult to get to perform satisfactorily.

A larger version was decided on, and discovery of a ‘previously enjoyed’ oil drum pump started a search for other discarded items which could be employed. The result is the magnificent model shown, built from scrap.

Among items incorporated are a copper tea pot, copper vase, sweetcorn tin, cast iron gutter hopper, brass door furniture, bicycle chain and other cast offs. However, it looks far from a heap of junk. It is a very convincing and well finished model.

Not unnaturally, perhaps, the design evolved to suit the available material, although concept sketches were made initially. Predictably there were many trials and tribulations along the way, and details will appear in the October 2012 issue of Engineering in Miniature, along with drawings and photos.

John describes operating the engine as a “bit of a balancing act.” However, the engine will run continuously for several hours.

The recycling approach worked extremely well. total cost of materials was just £52, the most expensive item being the copper tea pot at £15 from an antique market. Construction took around 150 hours, spread over two years of evenings.