First steam engine in the Colony

The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser

17 June 1815

The steam engine erected by Mr Dickson below the burial ground in Cockle Bay is the same which that Gentleman worked at his manufactory in Maidlane, Southwark, [England] shortly previous to his embarking on the ship Earl Spencer, which conveyed him to these shores last October twelvemonth.

A Mr. Griffiths, who had accompanied him, and in whose professional abilities Mr. Dixon had placed the highest confidence from a long knowledge of his Capacity, unfortunately died here two months after his arrival, and left his principal not only to lament his death from the softer feelings of sensibility, but to bewail a loss that was utterly irreparable, except by a personal application that equally called into action the energies of science and of corporal toil.

Receiving every necessary assistance in his views from His Excellency the Governor, Mr. Dickson made choice of perhaps the only site in the Colony that could have promised a successful issue to his undertaking, and here his judgment has eminently distinguished itself.

The range he occupies is at the back of the Brickfield Hill, and adjoins the grounds of Ultimo, the seat of John Harris, Esq. up to the road near the Sydney turnpike, that was formerly washed by the tides, but which are now excluded by a dam extending across the inlet.

The election of a spot commanding a water conveyance of grain, timber, and fire-wood, was in all respects essential to the ends of cheapness and utility, and a reservoir of fresh water was less to be dispensed with, because that salt water would by no means answer the purpose of a steam engine, as the granulation of salt itself in the boiler would be inevitable, and thence destroy the operation of the engine.

By a simple embankment, therefore, is the end obtained; & by channels introduced thro' the neighbouring swamps the race is supplied upon the one side and with this simple partition is the tide kept out; so that at flood it is pleasant to contemplate the effect of human skill, in dividing the two adverse species of the same element by so slender a barrier.

From this reservoir, which may be termed a sheet of fresh water, the engine supplies itself by means of a pump which forms part of the machinery, in such exact proportion as flies off in steam; and the whole business of setting the engine in motion, and keeping it at work, will be managed by a youth, when sufficiently accustomed to its mechanical operation, which is at present confined to the process of wheat and corn grinding, but is intended to embrace in its various utilities the pulverisation of tanners bark, sawyers work, and other advantageous branches.