Alternative Name(s): Cowley Traction Engine
Single-cylinder 6 nominal horepower steam traction engine manufactured by Cowley's Eureka Ironworks Pty Ltd, of Rodier Street, Ballarat East, in 1916. Believed to be one of only two traction engines built by this firm and the only known surviving example.

The firm that became Cowley's Eureka Ironworks was founded in 1882 by Joseph Edward Cowley and Nicholas Robinson, as a small boiler yard initially situated in Yuille Street, Ballarat West. By 1890, Joseph Cowley was sole proprietor and had relocated the business to Rodier Street, Ballarat East, adopting the name 'Eureka Boiler Works' in reference to the former Eureka Stockade site just across the road, where the infamous miners' uprising took place in 1854.

The Cowley traction engine began its working life with John Barlow & Son, a well-known Ballarat firm of cartage contractors, who employed several traction engines for hauling mining machinery and timber houses around the district. In 1919 it was sold to Thomas Murtagh, of Coleraine, who used it for contract chaff-cutting and threshing. Later in the 1920s it spent time carting logs to a sawmill at Balmoral, just west of the Grampian Ranges. By the late 1930s, the engine had found its way to Mount Gambier in South Australia where it drove a pine box-making mill during the Second World War. Donald Gregory of Yahl was the last owner to work the engine commercially using it during the 1950s for driving a chaff-cutter and pulling out pine trees and boxthorn hedges with the powerful winch. After over a decade lying neglected in a paddock, the engine was sold to a collector and later returned to Victoria. It was acquired for preservation by the Museum of Victoria in 1985.

Restoration commenced in 1988, with a new steel boiler being fabricated for the engine by Lake Goldsmith Steam & General Engineering. Later restoration tasks where undertaken at the museum's own engineering workshop at Scienceworks: included riveting a new tender; recasting and machining new bearings and several gears; forging and machining a new crankshaft; and reconstructing a new canopy based on old photographs. The restoration was completed in 2001 and today the engine is regularly operated under steam as part of the working machinery program at Scienceworks.

Physical Description

Engine Type: single-cylinder overtype two-speed steam traction engine Date Built: 1916 (re-boilered 1989) Nominal Horsepower: 6 NHP Bore: 8 inches (203 mm) Stroke: 12 inches (305 mm) Flywheel: 4 ft 6 in diameter (1393 mm) Actual Horsepower: 35 BHP (26 kW) Steam Pressure: 120 psi (827 kPa) Fuel: black coal, coke or wood Overall Weight: 12.6 tonnes Road Speeds: 4.0 km/hour (high gear) & 3.0 km/hour (low gear)


The Cowley Steam Traction Engine is one of the most significant surviving artefacts of Australia's steam age, providing an important link to Victoria's early engineering heritage. Built at Ballarat in 1916, it was the last steam traction engine made in Australia and incorporates several significant local design innovations. Today the engine is one of only two surviving Australian-built traction engines and the only one restored to working order.

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