Milestones and curiosities from The Engineer’s archives

A newly published supplement examines The Engineer’s coverage of some of the biggest, and strangest, engineering stories of the past 160 years

As you may have noticed, we’ve been celebrating a significant milestone over the past 12 months: The Engineer’s 160th birthday.

Throughout the year, we’ve published a number of articles marking the astonishing industrial progress that’s been made since our launch in 1856.

Our Victorian forbears would surely marvel at modern day achievements like ESA’s Rosetta mission

Earlier this summer, we published a special 160th anniversary edition of the publication in which – as well as looking at some of the great developments of the past – we gazed into the crystal ball and examined the technological trends that will shape the world of engineering in the decades to come.

But now we’ve put the crystal ball away and looked firmly into the past, directing our gaze towards the dusty leather-bound tomes of our classic archive.

The stories in our newly published “From the Archive” supplement are just a taster of the engineering milestones and technical curiosities therein. But, as I’m sure you’ll agree, they provide a fascinating window on the past, and a powerful reminder of the astonishing technological progress that has taken place during The Engineer’s lifetime.

Abbey Mills interior
Abbey Mills pumping station – a centrepiece of Joseph Bazalgette’s London sewer

Alongside the publication’s take on some of the big stories (Bazalgette’s sewers, the Apollo program, etc.) we’ve also focused on a few of the more esoteric inventions that have caught The Engineer’s eye over the course of the last century and a half. And while an innovation such as the horse tank may look ridiculous to the modern eye; to The Engineer of the 1850s, it was a perfectly plausible vision of the future of warfare.

The Horse Tank
The Horse Tank: an 1850s vision of the future

One wonders whether any of today’s much-trumpeted breakthroughs will provoke a similar response from future historians? Or will yet-to-be-born generations regard our current era, with its autonomous cars, new forms of power generation and dawning artificial intelligence, as a golden period of innovation every bit as world-changing as the Victorian era?

History will be the judge. But in the meantime, we hope you enjoy this little romp through Britain’s industrial history.

Click here to read and download our From The Archive supplement

Click here for more stories, insights and classic inventions from The Engineer’s archive