• FA-108295 Technisches Museum Wien, Foto: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Energy & Mining
Mechanical Engineering
1800 - 1849
  • Dietmar Linzbacher

Watt's steam engine

The mother of all machines: the oldest preserved steam engine in Austria was constructed in the calico factory in Atzgersdorf near Vienna in 1826.

It was used to drive the roller printing machine, the fulling machine and other machines. The ‘energy management’ of that time was resourceful: the waste steam from the machine was fed though pipes to the drying room, and heated it to approx. 45° C. Its final destiny was to be used as an engine for the bone mill at the glue factory of Alfred Pollack.

The factory owner recognised the value of the engine and donated it to the Museum österreichischer Arbeit (Museum of Austrian Work), a precursor to the Technisches Museum Wien (Vienna Technical Museum). In both museums it was considered (in spite of a wooden and completely disproportionate mock-up flywheel) to be the central object for representing the development of the steam engine. In 1998, after complete restoration at the British Engineerium in Brighton, England, it was again set up in the Technical Museum.

Johann Fichtner, the builder of the engine, kept closely to Watt's model, as can be seen in the cast cartwright beam and the parallelogram for the straight-line motion of the piston rod. What is striking is the fluted column based on ancient models. The careful and harmonious design of early steam engines underlines on the one hand the unusual quality of this engine and the esteem in which it was held, and on the other hand it is witness to the skills of the metal foundrymen. It is at the limit of what is possible in casting large pieces. A flywheel of this size (2,800 mm) would certainly have fractured during cooling. On recasting the flywheel in 1997, workers kept to the former model and produced it in six segments.

Inv.Nr. 641
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