The beam engine was built by John Key of Kircaldy and was used to pump water from the dock when a paddle steamer was inside. When not employed for this task it was used to pump water to two underground tanks for irrigation for the gardens at Randell’s home “Bleak House” on the hill above the dock.
An engine of this type would use a beam. The connecting rod from the piston is connected to one end of the beam while the “pitman” from the crank is connected to the other end. The beam is pivoted at its centre. The traction engine would drive a centrifugal pump to move 40,000 gallons of water per hour through a 9 inch pipe (register 12th June 1876).
This engine is of historical and archaeological significance as a remnant of past technology and its association with the first irrigated garden, ship building technology and economy, and as the only remaining graving dock on the river.
Built by John Key & Sons, Whitebank Foundry at Kirkcaldy, Scotland
Extensive research reveals it is one of two engines exported to South Australia in 1854 and the only one in operation.
The Key Beam Engine was originally used in the Aldinga Flour Mill and then used briefly at Landseer’s Flour Mill, Milang.
In 1880 the Dry Dock at Mannum had been reconstructed and it is believed the Key Beam Engine was installed at the time powering a centrifugal pump to empty the Dock to allow repair work on vessels. It was also used to pump water to two underground tanks to irrigate the gardens at William Randell’s home on the hill above the dock.
The Key Beam Engine was recommissioned on April 1st 2009 and was expertly restored by Mannum Dock Museum Volunteers over three years.
In the realms of industrial archaeology the Key Beam Engine is regarded on the world stage as being an important example of early