1:12 model of the paddle wheel engines of the 'Great Eastern' steamship, 1858.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
When the 'Great Eastern' was launched in 1858 she was the largest ship in the world. It was also the final and most ambitious project of Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who died shortly after the launching. The 'Great Eastern' (known, during building, as the 'Leviathan') was designed to make the trip from England to Australia round the Cape, without having to stop to take on coal. The ship was plagued with problems and did not fulfil the expectations held for her. However, in 1866 she was used to lay the first successful transatlantic telegraph cable linking Britain and America. The paddle engines on the ship were built by John Scott Russell, a leading naval architect and Brunel's collaborator on the project. The engines were the largest of their time and, in total, produced 3150 indicated horsepower - double the power of any previous marine engine.