Model steam engine, horizontal, metal, A A Stewart collection, maker unknown, (United Kingdom), 1921-1926
This model is a part of the A. A. Stewart collection of ship, mechanical, and railway models acquired by the Powerhouse Museum over nearly 30 years from 1938 to 1963. Albyn A. Stewart was a trained engineer fascinated by engineering models and he constructed some of those in the collection. Others however were brought from other amateur and commercial modelers at great expense by Stewart who travelled regularly to England to seek out models. In January 1938, Percival Marshall, the editor of 'The Model Engineer' England's premiere modelling magazine devoted editorial space to the collection where he stated that "Mr. Stewart has been fortunate in acquiring some excellent examples of both screw and paddle marine engines of considerable value as records of real prototype practice."
In April of the same years he expanded his comments on the collection by saying, "As a trained engineer himself, his judgement of the technical merits of a model is very sound, and I should imagine that his collection is now the finest of its kind in Australia, in private hands. Many of the models are undoubtedly worthy of careful preservation, and I hope that they will eventually find a suitable resting place in one or other of the Australian national museums."
Stewart was first contacted by the Technological Museum, as the Powerhouse Museum was then known, in 1933. The then Director/Curator A. R. Penfold immediately recognised the importance of the engineering models and in 1935 began to loan items for display. Penfold expanded the area available for displaying the models as they were seen as instructive for students at the adjacent Technical College as they were for the general public.
In early 1938 Stewart's company 'Lymdale Ltd.' which owned most of the models was approached about the purchase of a large part of the collection. Stewart was appointed to the Advisory Board of the Museum and in July 1938 it began to purchase the models it had loaned as well as the best examples in the rest of the collection. The cost of this was estimated at over ?3000.00 pounds. By 1943 the museum was still acquiring material from the collection and the Advisory Committee made a special appropriation request to the Minister of Education. "In view of the advantage of retaining a collection intact, and the national asset which the museum possesses, the committee recommends the purchase of the remainder of the Stewart collection offered at approximately ?2,400." This sum was approved and between 1943 and 1945 around 80 more models were purchased. Apart from the monetary limitations the acquisition was spread over a number of years because some of Stewart's models needed to be finished before they could be sold.
The high costs reflected the quality of the models. Many of the working steam engines are one-off examples hand crafted by amateur modelers over the course of years. The same is true of some of the ship and locomotive models which are made to exact scale and often include many working parts. The models were carefully collected by Stewart who collected as much for posterity as he did for personal interest. Once contacted by the museum he deliberately sought models which would fill historical and technological gaps and as a result the collection is one of the most significant in still extant in Australia. A. A. Stewart died in 1961.
This model was one of the first selected from Stewart's collection. In February 1935 it was loaned for display in the museum before being purchased in 1938. Although we do not know who made the model it won a diploma at the Society of Experimental Engineers in London. Although not as expensive as some of the other models purchased from Stewart it is never-the-less a fine example of a working model of a horizontal steam engine.
Geoff Barker, March, 2007
Marshall, Percival, 'The Model Engineer and Practical Electrician', London, April 29, 1937
Marshall, Percival, 'The Model Engineer and Practical Electrician', London, May, 27, 1937
Marshall, Percival, 'The Model Engineer and Practical Electrician', London, January, 27, 1938
Marshall, Percival, 'The Model Engineer and Practical Electrician', London, April, 14, 1938
Chalmers, A. Mar, 'The Model Engineer in Australia and New Zealand, Melbourne, January, 1939
Davison, G., Webber, K., 'Yesterday's Tomorrows; the Powerhouse Museum and its precursors 1880-2005', Powerhouse Publishing, 2005
Lavery, B. and Stephens, S., 'Ship Models; their purpose and development from 1650 to the present', Zwemmer, London, 1995