The steam boiler from Maxim's flying machine, 1894.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Photograph of a steam boiler which reportedly achieved a pressure of 320 pounds per square inch. Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim (1840-1916) designed and built a flying machine in 1893-1894. He had previously found fame by inventing the machine gun. It was the largest aeroplane to lift off briefly from the ground in the 19th century, having a 104-foot wingspan and weighing 8000 lbs. Powered by two 180 hp steam engines to drive propellers, the biplane was launched from this broad gauge railway track. Maxim did numerous trials on the aeroplane at Baldwin's Park, Bexleyheath, Kent, where on 31st July 1894 it briefly took to the air before crashing.