Inside the Collection

Steam powered horses

Carousel horse, reproduction, `Galloper' 1987
87/977 Carousel horse, reproduction, `Galloper’ type, fibreglass and wood, 1987 Collection: Powerhouse Museum

To generate horsepower for most of the nineteenth century, you turned to steam. At a fairground carousel, it was the way to give real gallop to a wooden horse. This reproduction ‘galloper’ is part of an exhibit copied by the Museum from a 19th Century carousel.

The exhibit was made in 1988 for the Museums opening in its current site, the old Ultimo Power House. The carousel inspired platform is located in the Steam Revolution Exhibition and helps evokes the excitement and wonder of fair grounds. The museum has long used copies, models and (my favourites)dioramas to explain and interpret.

Wide angle showing Carousel
Carousel, copy made in 1987 Collection:Powerhouse Museum

The original 19th century steam driven carousel is still in use in Darling Harbour but is no longer powered by steam. This particular carousel has a long and regular emergence in Sydney’s history. As Wayne Johnson, the Sydney Harbour Foreshore archaeologist, states

The steam engine which drove the carousel was made in 1892 by Tidmans of Norwich and the horses carved circa 1885 by G & J Lines and Co, London. The carousel was imported to Australia in 1894 by Thomas Kale and until 1987 was operated by the Kale family at country agricultural shows around NSW.”

“The carousel also appeared at many significant public events in Sydney such as the visit of the US Great White Fleet in 1908, the Royal Easter Show (1920-39) and at Millers Point in 1932 as part of the entertainment for the opening celebrations for the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It was a more permanent feature at Manly Fun Pier (1945-c.1970) and in The Rocks through the 1970s. The carousel is thought to be the second-oldest surviving carousel in Australia (after that in Melbourne Zoo, built in 1886) and is one of only a handful surviving from the 19th century.

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