It was the model engine that inspired James Watt to have his big idea ….

The model Newcomen Engine is now on show in a glass case in The Hunterian Museum within the University of Glasgow.

It was once used for teaching and demonstrations. But it was unreliable. Between 1763 and 1764, the young James Watt – employed by the University – was tasked with repairing the troublesome engine.

But he then came across an idea to make it better – improving its design and increasing its efficiency.

Watt success in developing the steam engine – inspired by that model – made him one of the fathers of the Industrial Revolution.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) has now noted the model’s significance by awarding it one of its Engineering Heritage Awards. At a ceremony on August 19, 2019, the Hunterian was presented with a plaque (pictured above).

Listen to audio from the event here. We started with a welcome from Steph Scholten, the director of The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, who  about talked the significance of Watt’s big idea.

The model Newcomen Engine at the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow.
The model Newcomen Engine at the Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow.

Mr Scholten was followed by speeches (in order) from Professor Frank Coton from the University of Glasgow, Alan Stewart from IMechE, Dr Nicky Reeves from the Hunterian, Professor David Cumming and Professor Colin McInnes, both fom the University of Glasgow.


You can see the model Newcomen engine on display at The Hunterian during normal opening hours. Admission is free of charge.

As well as the model engine in The Hunterian there is also an exhibition on James Watt in the University Library until December 2019.