Recognising Scotland’s Engineering Heritage
Explore giant machines in our outdoor engineering pavilion.
For much of the 19th century and early 20th century Scotland were world leaders in engineering; producing a vast array of machinery, tools and finished products. On this page you will see a selection of rare and unique examples of engineering products that are on display in the Engineering Pavilion at Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life.
Explore the machines up close, find out about the skill involved in operating them and why Scotland was at the forefront in a great age of invention and discovery.
The machinery is part of the museum’s Industrial and Associated Social History Collection which was awarded National Recognition status in 2009 by the Scottish Government. The award confirms the importance of the collection to the nation’s heritage; representing over two hundred years of Scottish industrial development.
The project has been funded by the Recognition Capital Fund administered by Museums Galleries Scotland and North Lanarkshire Council.
Boiler Feed Pump
This pump was made by J&G Weir of Cathcart, Glasgow for the Dreadnought battleship HMS Agincourt (1913).
The battleship was originally ordered by Brazil as the Rio de Janeiro before Brazil suffered a recession and had to sell her to Turkey who renamed her Sultan Osman I.
At the outbreak of the First World War Winston Churchill who was then First Sea Lord ordered that the ship be seized by the Royal Navy and renamed Agincourt, a favourite name of his. Because the ship had been partly paid for by public subscription this action caused widespread anger in Turkey and may have contributed to the country’s entry into the war.
The pump would have stood vertically inside the ship. At the top was a cylinder containing a piston powered by steam taken directly from the boilers. The pump below fed water into the boilers that powered the ships steam turbines.
The boilers turned water to steam so they had to be regularly topped-up with water recycled from the engines.
Former Summerlee Curator & Engineer Daniel Mackay describes the boiler feed pump from HMS Agincourt.
The Dreadnought Battleship
The years running up to the First World War saw an unprecedented naval arms race between the world’s major powers.
The arms race was fuelled by the development of a new type of battleship that was faster and more heavily armed than all before. This new type of ship was named after the first of its type, HMS Dreadnought (1906). Dreadnoughts had bigger guns and were powered by steam turbines instead of the old reciprocating steam engines.
Agincourt took the Dreadnought concept even further, cramming in 14 12-inch guns (Dreadnought had 10). She was known as the ‘Gin Palace’ by her crew, who had to get used to the fact that most of the signs in the ship were still written in Portuguese.
In the 1920s an international treaty was introduced to limit the number of battleships that nations could have and many ships were sold for scrap. Agincourt was broken-up at Inverkeithing in 1924 but this pump was re-used in a nearby paper mill.
Today the only surviving Dreadnought battleship is the American USS Texas which is preserved as a US National Monument near Houston, Texas.
This large three-throw pump was built to generate the large amounts of power needed by a steel testing machine.
The tensile testing machine pulled samples of steel apart to see how strong they were. The testing machine itself was built for Mossend Steel Works in Bellshill and was later moved to Glengarnock Steel Works. It is now on display in the exhibition hall at Summerlee.
Former Summerlee Curator & Engineer Daniel Mackay describes this hydraulic pump.
For more than a century the planing machine was an important tool in the engineers armoury.
This machine was used to make flat surfaces in metal. The cutting tool stayed still while the piece to be cut was clamped to the flat table below, which moved back and forth on rollers.
The table moved slowly on the cutting stroke but the return stroke would be twice as fast to save time. The cutting tool was quite narrow but could be moved gradually sideways to shape wider surfaces.
The machine is described here by former Summerlee Engineer and Curator Daniel Mackay.
This particular machine came to the museum from the Fulwood Foundry in Hamilton but is thought to have previously been used at the marine engineering firm of Dunsmure and Jackson, Govan.
Portable Drilling Machine
This drill was one of two large portable drills used in the Coatbank Engine Works of Murray and Paterson.
These very versatile drills could be lifted by an overhead crane inside the factory and moved to where they were needed. This was very useful because sometimes it was not possible to transport the thing being built to one of the larger fixed drilling machines.
Neil Dunsmore worked with this machine at Murray & Paterson's Coatbank Engineering Works.
This drill was made in the 1960s to replace a very similar model by the same maker, Asquith which by then had been taken over by the Staveley Machine Tool Company.
Vertical Plate Bending Rolls
From Thomas Hudson and Company’s Sheepford Boiler Works, Coatbridge.
Known as ‘pinch rolls’, these powerful rollers were used to shape the plates used to make boilers.
The forward roller could be lifted vertically by a crane and then shifted backwards in stages to increase the curvature of the boiler plate as it was slowly rolled back and forth between the rollers.
The museum also has a set of steam-powered horizontal plate-bending rolls from Hudson’s.
Plate Edge Planer
This huge horizontal planing machine was used to trim the edges of the large steel plates used in boilers.
Boilers could be very large and had to be strong. This meant it was better to use large steel plates so that fewer seams were needed.
The flat steel plate was clamped into the planer and then the cutting head slowed moved along to cut it. The machine was driven by a belt from an overhead line shaft. Looking at the machine you can see the drum where the belt attached on the right: in fact there are three drums, one to make the cutting tool go left, one to make it go right and one to put the machine into neutral.
Butt Strap Drilling Machine
During the 1800s the steam pressure needed by steam engines got higher and higher. This meant that the outside of the boiler (called the ‘boiler shell’) had to be built very strongly.
The boiler shell was made by curving thick sheets of iron or steel into a tube. The ends were then overlapped and riveted together. A strip of iron called a ‘butt-strap’ was placed between the two ends to improve the seal.
A butt-strap and boiler shell drilling machine like this one was used to drill the holes for the rivets. The machine is lying flat now but originally stood upright with a turntable at its feet. The boiler shell was clamped to the turntable, which you can now see displayed nearby.
From Thomas Hudson and Company’s Sheepford Boiler Works, Coatbridge.
Former Summerlee Curator & Engineer Daniel Mackay describes how the machine was originally set-up and used.
Waller Steam Engine
This steam engine was used to power the flow of gas in Aberdeen Gasworks.
From the 1800s until the 1970s every town had a gasworks. This was because before natural gas was discovered under the North Sea we had to rely on ‘coal gas’ which was literally gas extracted from coal.
The coal gas had to be cleaned before it could be used and this engine drove two ‘exhausters’, which pumped the gas through the various cleaning treatments before it was stored in a gas holder. This was one of several exhauster engines in the gasworks.
Curling Stone Machines
These unique machines were used to make curling stones at the factory of Andrew Kay of Mauchline.
James Wylie, owner of Kays of Scotland describes the machines used up until the 1980s.
Both were built by Andrew Barclay and Sons of Kilmarnock to designs supplied by James Wylie of Kays. Barclays were a well-known engineering firm and locomotive builder – they made one of the locos you can see in the colliery at Summerlee Museum.
Curling is thought to have originated in medieval Scotland and has strong connections with North Lanarkshire. In fact the earliest purpose-built curling pond is at Colzium House near Cumbernauld and Kilsyth Curling Club is the world’s earliest.
James Wylie of Kays of Scotland describes how curling stones were ground on lathes like this.
The granite for curling stones was traditionally quarried from Ailsa Craig and today the running surfaces of the stones continue to be made from the stone. Kays have exclusive rights to the stone from Ailsa Craig: it was last quarried in 2002, giving a large enough supply to last until at least 2020.
Stone Planing Machine
This rare machine is an example of the first type of planer for shaping granite blocks, invented in Scotland. It is probably the last survivor.
Machine tools such as this were an important advance in building construction in the mid-1800s, particularly in the North East. They made it possible to accurately work hard granite on a large scale enabling it to used as ‘ashlar’ or dressed stone. This innovation revolutionised quarrying in the process turning Aberdeen into the famous ‘Granite City’.
The stone planer was invented in the 1830s by James Hunter a quarry manager at Leysmill near Arbroath. This particular machine was built by Nicol Esplin, a company founded in Leysmill by a descendant of Hunter. However the company only lasted for 7 years, from 1906 to 1913.
Large Radial Drill
This big Tullis drilling machine was used at Thomas Hudson and Companys Sheepford Boiler Works, Coatbridge.
This type of machine is called a radial drill because it can rotate around its centre column. This is a very versatile tool because the drill and be moved along the horizontal arm and the arm itself can be moved up and down as well as rotating around the centre column.
This drill is a smaller version of it’s neighbour from Thomas Hudson and Company.
This particular machine was also made by Tullis of Clydebank and was used in the engineering workshop of Kingshill Colliery, Lanarkshire. It is missing its gearbox, which would have been bolted to the rear of the table.
Glenfield & Kennedy Valve
This large Scottish-built gate valve was used to control the flow of water.
Glenfield and Kennedy of Kilmarnock specialised in building valves and pumps. They were created in 1899 from a merger between two connected Kilmarnock companies and grew to be the leading British manufacturer of valves. In 1852 Thomas Kennedy had patented a meter for measuring water consumption.
One of Glenfield’s biggest projects in the 1800s was supplying huge gate valves for the Loch Katrine project to supply water from the Loch to Glasgow. The pipeline was opened in 1859.
This boiler design is called a ‘vertical cross-tube boiler’. Pipes criss-cross the inside of the boiler. These pipes held the water to be turned into steam by the heat of the fire inside the stokehole. This is different to a Lancashire
boiler where the fire was inside the tubes and the water inside the shell of the boiler.
This particular boiler was used at Aberdeen Gasworks. It provided steam to power steam engines, mostly pumps. These pumps forced the dirty coal gas from the coke ovens of the gasworks through a series of tanks to clean it for use in homes and businesses and for street lighting.
Early Heating Boiler
This very simple cast iron boiler for heating water was installed in the church of St Andrew in the Square, Glasgow which was built in the late 1700s. Unlike the boiler from a steam engine this boiler wasn’t designed to create steam. Instead it was simply a pot of water with a hearth underneath to heat it.
When the church was turned into a cultural centre in the early 1990s the boiler was donated to Summerlee Museum.
By the 1890s it was becoming common to find American machine tools in Scottish engineering works. This 16 inch lathe was built by F E Reed and Company of Worcester, Massachusetts, who built machine tools of the very highest quality.
Former engineer Neil Dunsmore recalls the dangers of belt-driven machinery.
This lathe was used in Greenock, first by the Scott Shipbuilding and Engineering Company and then after the Second World War at Gardners Brass Foundry.
Long Gap-bed Lathe
This lathe by the famous Scottish firm of John Lang and Sons is almost 7 metres long. It was built around 1900.
A gap-bed lathe has part of the bed of the lathe cut away so that it can shape larger workpieces than usual without the lathe itself getting in the way.
A long lathe would be used for shaping long components such as drive shafts and connecting rods for steam engines. This particular lathe is believed to have been used in a textile mill in the Scottish Borders.
Langs of Johnstone were famous throughout the world for their machine tools for almost a century.
Back-geared Screw-cutting Lathe
This lathe by Langs of Johnstone was used at Dumfin Sawmill at Glenfruin, near Loch Lomond.
A back-gear slows the speed of the lathe in relation to the speed of the belt that drives it. Reducing the speed increases the power so that the lathe can make deeper cuts.
The stepped cone allows the operator to vary the speed and power of the lathe by changing gear. They do this by moving the drive belt to different steps on the cone, much like the gearing on a bicycle. A cone of the same size, but reversed, is attached the line shaft that drives the belt so that the belt is always at the same loose tension.
Former Summerlee Curator & Engineer Daniel Mackay describes this lathe.
Dumfin sawmill was leased by the Taylor family for about a century until 2012.
The mill was powered by water until 1957. The hub of the main waterwheel is on display at Summerlee near the colliery engine house where its construction can be compared to that of the flywheel of the 1810 Newcomen engine.
This generator was used to make electricity on board a Second World War submarine recovery barge.
The tall part is a small steam engine that powers two dynamos at the same time. The dynamos turn the movement from the engine into electricity.
The dynamos were built by the Sunderland Forge Engineering Company.
Daniel Mackay describes the steam generator.
We know very little about the barge on which this generator was used – can you tell us any more?
This American machine is designed to cut the teeth of gear wheels.
The cutting tool that you can see is called a ‘hob’. The gear wheel into which the teeth are to be cut is fitted onto the spindle in the middle of the turntable in front of the hob.
Daniel Mackay describes this gear-hobbing machine.
The machine was used in the Coatbridge works of Anderson Brothers from the 1930s. One of the engineers there, Jimmy Houston, used this machine to build the miniature traction engine ‘Tigger’ which is now at Summerlee.
Bradson Drilling Machine
This Bradson drill came to Summerlee Museum from Tambowie Smithy near Milngavie.
Former Summerlee Curator & Engineer Daniel Mackay talks about this drill & its manufacturer.
Originally powered by a drive belt from an overhead line shaft, the drill has been fitted with its own electric motor at some later stage. The motor has not been geared down so the drill bit would have run faster than needed.
The village smithy traditionally carried out a wide range of work and not just shoe-ing horses. With the arrival of the motor car many blacksmiths became country garages.
Boiler Shell Machine
This machine was used to turn and trim boiler shell plates in the Sheepford Boiler Works, Coatbridge.
After being shaped in the plate bending rolls the curved boiler plate was clamped onto the rotating table of this machine and turned against a static cutting tool.
The machine is a vertical lathe – just imagine a typical engineering lathe stood on end, the principle is exactly the same.
The Engineering Pavilion project would not have been possible without the help of many people who contributed their time. These included volunteers who helped to restore the machinery and the people we interviewed and whose voices you can hear on the wind-up audio points as you walk around the display.
The volunteers seen here with Cllr. Logue helped to restore the machines on display.