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Kirkaldy Testing Museum, London

4.8
#158 of 255 in Museums in London
The Kirkaldy Testing Museum is a museum in Southwark, south London, England, in David Kirkaldy's former testing works. It houses Kirkaldy's huge testing machine, and many smaller more modern machines. It is open on the first Sunday of each month.
The building at 99 Southwark Street became a listed building in 1971, and was promoted to Grade II* in June 2014.
Kirkaldy was born in Dundee in 1820, and educated at Edinburgh University. He worked at Napier shipbuilding works from 1843, where he became Chief Draughtsman and Calculator. He left in 1861 and over the next two and a half years studied existing mechanical testing methods and designed his own testing machine. William Fairbairn had pioneered tensile strength measurement as well as assessing creep and fatigue on large structures as well as small.
Entirely at his own expense, Kirkaldy commissioned his machine from the Leeds firm of Greenwood & Batley, closely supervising its production. Aggrieved over the slow rate of manufacture, after 15 months he had the machine delivered to Southwark still unfinished, in September 1865.
The testing machine is 47ft long and weighs some. It works horizontally, the load applied by a hydraulic cylinder and ram. The working fluid is water not oil. The load is measured by a weighing system consisting of a number of levers with the final one carrying a jockey weight. The operator lets water into the hydraulic cylinder and as the pressure and hence load on the test piece increases the jockey weight is wound along to balance the hydraulic load. As it is wound it moves along a graduated scale and when the object under test fails the number on this scale is noted and multiplied by the weight to give the failure load. The weight can be varied in increments of using slotted plates on a hanger. On the lower scale this reads up to, and up to can be put onto the hanger. A separate jockey weight system above this one allowed the machine to measure loads of up to 1000000lb.
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Kirkaldy Testing Museum Reviews
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Google
4.7
TripAdvisor
  • I don’t have an engineering background, but still found this place fascinating. Sited in a Grade 2 listed building, the machinery inside used for testing, stressing etc is fascinating. As Tim, our ver...  more »
  • Although I live in Ireland, I'm South London born and bred and still can't figure out how I never knew this fantastic place existed! Only found it by chance when I searched for 'engineering museums lo...  more »
Google
  • Very quirky museum to the art and science of testing materials to destruction. Run by highly knowledgeable volunteers and the highlight is the massive proving and testing machine produced by victorian James Kirkaldy. Only occasionally open. Well worth doing the tours of the building. The machine is sometimes in operation.
  • Make sure you vist. This is an awesome opportunity to see a Victorian testing machine - 160 feet long testing up to 1 million psi - in action. Check opening times. It's run by volunteers. Hats off to this stupendous preservation effort.
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