Maxim's flying machine, part assembled, Baldwin's Park, Kent, 1893-1894.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim (1840-1916) designed and built this flying machine in 1893-1894. He had previously found fame by inventing the machine gun. This 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 a broad gauge railway track. Maxim did numerous trials on the aeroplane at Baldwin's Park, Bexleyheath, Kent. It briefly took to the air on 31st July 1894 before crashing, after which Maxim modified it to provide 'rides on the track' for visitors to Baldwin's Park.