The Osborne-Killey steam engine built in Hamilton and installed in 1890, seen through the flywheel of the John Inglis engine built in Toronto and installed later in 1896.

The massive Victorian steam engines and water pumps at the museum are true pieces of industrial art. They came to live when steam propelled them from 1890 until 1944. Towards the end of their active lives the steam pumps were only on stand-by, the pump house used electrically driven centrifugal pumps from 1917 onward.

What if the Osborne-Killey engine could run again? Running the engines with live-steam is now out of the question, there are too many real and perceived safety hazards, and the fuel bill for making steam would be too expensive. But there are other means to demonstrate the impressive and beautiful dynamics of a slow moving steam engine. Queen’s University came to the rescue in 2006…

“Bring the Osborne-Killey back to live, animate her flywheel and piston mechanism,” was the design project in 2006 for a group of final-year students in engineering at Queen’s University. The basic idea was already explored and it would be a wonderful cooperative project for the students to come up with a “turn-key” drive unit.

And they did, see the video! Click HERE or the icon below.


The team of final-year engineering students April 2007. From the left: Curator Gordon Robinson, engineering students Paul Murray, Salmaan Moledina, Cox Wensink, Geoffrey NG and technical adviser Henk Wevers.

The drive unit the students designed on a shoestring budget worked well. The animation delighted visitors for eight years. The unit was maintained by museum volunteers. Then in 2016 some “issues” stopped the animation. Museum staff consulted and contracted a local company to solve the issue. We don’t know what they modified or repaired but it worked for a short while then stopped again. Towards the end of the 2016 season the steam engine was no longer animated. The company apparently went out of business and we have been informed by Cultural Services staff that the animation will not be working during the coming 2017 season.

What a pity.

By reaching out to retired professionals who have extensive contacts in our engineering community and are ready to volunteer their services, the Osborne-Kelley steam engine could once again become an animated Victorian industrial artifact. 

For the technical details and testing for the drive unit click HERE.


To go to the site INDEX click photo of the drive unit below: