Built for Bright Bricks and part of the Bricks Brittania touring exhibition.
James Watt did not invent the steam engine. We can thank Thomas Newcomen for that, several decades before.
His improvements to the idea did make it much more efficient, and viable.
1776 is soon after production started, although this was preceded by many prototypes. Watt was almost broke when he teamed up with Matthew Boulton, who promoted his design effectively, firstly to West Country tin miners.
Boulton had the inspired idea to allow mine owners to absorb the huge up-front cost by licensing agreements that meant they paid Boulton and Watt a third of the cost of the coal they saved over an equivalent Newcomen engine. Everybody wins. Watt needed Boulton; he was about as good at business as, well, me...
Watt's main idea was that the cooling / heating cycle that the cylinder underwent with each stroke in earlier designs could be eliminated with a separate condenser. It's here on the left, and a valve would open at the bottom of the main cylinder when the piston reached the top, sucking the air into the condenser's partial vacuum and forcing the piston down again, allowing power to be transmitted on both parts of the cycle.
The separate boiler (not shown) sends steam into the inlet (red), via another another valve and into the bottom of the main cylinder forcing the piston up again.
Watt needed a way to keep the piston parallel throughout it's stroke, for which he invented this linkage which bears his name.
The beam of the beam engine...
Connected at the other end to this arm...
.. and the knee bone's connected to the ... thigh bone...
... which turns this crank. Earlier versions used a Watt-invented planet and sun gear system to perform this function, since Watt didn't want to infringe on others' patents. When the patent for the crank expired he swallowed his pride and used the better, simpler solution.
And the crank turns the flywheel, thus converting the engine's strokes to rotational motion.
The wheel breaks my own personal record for bigness... These were not small machines in any case, and usually needed a small building or at the very least a large room.
The centre of it uses the same principles as these.
No reason a machine can't look nice... each of these was different, since Boulton and Watt provided only the expertise, some drawings and essential components to allow the machine to be constructed on site with the help of their experts.
The XL motor in the base drives it from the wheel's axle for illustrative purposes and the batteries live in this hole here...
Some more restrained Georgian styling...
The Watt linkage had another important advantage - the piston rod had to be rigid (Newcomen needed to use chains) to transmit power on both up and down stroke.
The other rod to the left of the fulcrum is an auxiliary pump, if you were wondering.
I had so much fun making this, it felt almost rude to give Bright Bricks an invoice for my time! I still did though, so many thanks to them for this wonderful opportunity.
Quoting Jeremy McCreary
Wonderful replica and write-up, Nick! Boulton and Watt made a good team until they fell out. (Don't remember why. Money, maybe.)
Probably not money - the business they built up was carried on by their sons. Watt did have a difficult personality, including many traits that these days will have people assuming Asperger's syndrome. Boulton was a patient man but everyone has his limits!
Wow, Nick! This may be your best yet! Absolutely love it, and it's further proof that LEGO is a great medium for anything, in this case, an educational historical model, and an extremely accurate one at that!