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  ICBTT2004 Technology & Society Division, JSME

A Technology Transfer using the Models - Mechanical Models that Kyoto University purchased in Meiji Era -


The machine models that were purchased shortly after the university foundation in 1897 are preserved in Kyoto University. The models include (1) a wooden steam locomotive which mimics very faithfully the original metal locomotive, and (2) mechanism models where various portions move according to handle movement manipulated by students, thus demonstrating the fundamentals of a machine mechanism. These two models were useful approaches to technology transfers in the Meiji Era. An alternative approach based on Internet is demonstrated for the machine mechanism models.

Key Words: Wooden Steam Locomotive, Educational Models of Machine Mechanisms, Meiji Era, GUSTAV VOIGT Factory, Peter Koch Modellwerk G.m.b.H., German Industry of Machine tools

1. Introduction
Two kinds of educational models, which are thought to have contributed to the technology transfer from Europe and North America to Japan in Meiji era, are preserved at the Department of Mechanical Engineering of Kyoto University.
One was a steam locomotive model made of wooden parts. It was a perfectly accurate scale model of a real locomotive imported from England. The wooden parts were used because of insufficient metal working technique at that time. People tried to study advanced technologies in the process of reproducing a real locomotive.
Others were finished mechanical educational models imported from Germany. Students were able to understand the fundamental machine mechanisms such as the crank, by turning a handle. The motions of these models demonstrated the advanced mechanical technology in Europe, and facilitated the technology transfer in Kyoto University. Internet-based animations are demonstrated as a global alternative to the local technology transfer based on real mechanical models.

2. A wooden model of steam locomotive
The photograph of the steam locomotive model is shown in Fig. 1. All portions meticulously replicate an original locomotive. The each hex corner of bolts and nuts of the model is rounded like metallic corner; washers and double nuts closely mimic metallic ones (Fig. 2).

Fig. 1 Wooden model of a steam locomotive. (2.2m long, 0.6m wide, 1.9m high)

Fig. 2 View near left front driving wheel.

This is an elaborate wooden model based on an advanced woodcraft technique. Unfortunately, written records about the model have disappeared and it is difficult to find the people knowing the roots. The model is believed to exist as early as 1897 when University was founded.
At that time, Japanese locomotive industry was still in its infancy. For example, a steam locomotive was assembled for the first time in Japan in 1892, with help from a British adviser, R.F. Trevithick and using imported principal parts. This suggests that the wooden model was a very accurate copy of a real, original steam locomotive.
2.1 Original locomotive identification
There are two types of locomotives: a Tank Locomotive, and a Tender locomotive. As the wooden model has no side tanks, it is clearly a Tender type Locomotive. However, the model lacks a Tender.
So many types of steam locomotives were imported from Europe and North America that a classifying scheme became required. A classification of steam locomotives by number of wheels was adopted in 1909 in Japan.
The numbers of leading and driven wheels appeared in a locomotive code, but the number of driving wheels was expressed in terms of alphabetical letters. For example, one driving wheel corresponded to "A" and two wheels to "B", and so on. The wooden model has two leading, two driving and no driven wheels, hence it is coded as "2B".
Locomotives existing around the year of National Railways' formation are summarized in reference(1). Via outward shape comparison of the locomotives in the literature, the original locomotive was identified as a 5300 Type that was made by Beyer Peacock Ltd. in England.
Beyer Peacock Ltd produced the first 5300 Type locomotive in 1882. Twenty-four locomotives of this type were imported to Japan and used as passenger locomotives for the Railway Works Bureau, as well as for the Sanyo Railway Ltd and the Japan Railway. The reduced scale of the wooden model is calculated as 1/4 from the size comparison between the drawing and the model.
2.2 Identification of model wood species
There is a possibility that the model was imported into Japan together with the actual locomotives manufactured in the UK, since it is extremely faithful to the details of the real locomotive.
A result of an appraisal shows that two kinds of trees were used for the model(2). One wood species is a kind of Chamaecypraris, a classification group that is found only in the eastern and western part of North America and Far Eastern Asia (Japan, Taiwan and the Himalayas of China), while neither exists in Europe nor the UK. Consequently, it is conjectured that this species is Chamecyparis obtusa Endlicher, grown in Japan. Another is a kind of the genus Magnolia. There is none of the genus Magnolia in Europe, including the UK. Thus, the species is most likely one of Magnolia growing in Japan. This evidence shows that the locomotive model was manufactured in Japan.
To acquire the technology of steam locomotive construction or to get various kinds of know-how, the technical experts made this steam locomotive model faithfully to the real locomotive with the help of traditional skill.

3. Educational models of machine mechanisms
A total of 21 educational models of machine mechanisms imported from Germany about 100 years ago are preserved at Kyoto University. The labels of the models show two German model makers (Fig. 3): (1) GUSTAV VOIGT Werkstatt, (2) PETER KOCH Modellwerk G..m.b.H. The number of models made by the first maker is 19, and the one by the second is 2.
Since each part of the model moves according to the turn of the handle, it is easy for students to understand the fundamental machine mechanisms.

Fig. 3 Labels on the models.

4. PETER KOCH Modellwerk G.m.b.H.
Figure 4(3) shows an example model made by PETER KOCH Modellwerk G.m.b.H. The cogwheel rotates to by the upper double acting nails.
The company shown in Fig. 5 was founded in Kalk in 1875. The company manufactured originally the miniature models for museums, exhibitions and architectures, as well as the models for learning. Two hundreds employees worked in the factory. The agent offices were established in all metropolises. Government offices, the domestic and foreign technological centers and the museums were good customers(4).

Fig. 4 Examples of mechanical models.

Fig. 5 View of the factory.

5. GUSTAV VOIGT Werkstatt
Figure 6(5) shows the example of the model made by GUSTAV VOIGT Werkstatt. The word "Werkstatt", i.e. "atelier" suggests that the factory was relatively small. The company address of 'Voigt mechanische Werkstatt fur wissenscaftliehe Modelle und Maschine, Gustav, Verlin SW., Neuenburugerstr. 12.' was found in a book 'Harrwitz, F., German precision apparatus and an optical apparatus factory address book (Berlin 1906)(6), suggesting that the atelier was famous as a mechanical model maker.

Fig. 6 Example of mechanical models.

The present scenery photograph around 'SW Neuenburgerstr 12' is shown in Fig.7. It is a vacan t space used now as a parking lot of the Deutsche Bund courthouse. The original company building was supposed to be destroyed by the air strikes during World War II. The adjacent building (Right-hand side of Fig.7) was built as late as 1870. Some people still live in the building.

Fig. 7 The place where the GUSTAV VOIGT factory was.
(Photo.: Andreas Kueppers)

Table 1(7) shows the landowner list of No.12 address from 1870 to 1933. This table and the No.11 building suggest that the No.12 building was used for both business matters and private use, the GUSTAV VOIGT atelier was on the first floor, and small-scale businesses like a tailor shop opened on the upper floors. We can also find a series of people named 'Voigt' from 1879 in the table, and notice there are some words in common having the same meaning, i.e. the factory, like 'Fabrk, Mech. Werkst, Werkzeugmaschinen Fabrik'. They suggest that all the factories were the same, but taken over the management by the Voigt family with different generation at least between 1879 and 1933.

Table 1 Explanations relating to "Voigt" in the address book.(By Andreas Kueppers)

6. A purchase ledger preserved at Kyoto University
Kyoto University preserves a purchase ledger of the machine mechanical models written in Japanese (Fig. 8). The date is December 26th, Meiji 36 (1903). Some model names are described in Japanese, others are in English and German. It does not seem that English- spelled models were German made.

Fig. 8 Partial copy of a ledger for purchases.

7. Reuleaux Collection at Cornell University
Cornell University (USA) preserves 220 machine mechanical models, and all of them were made by GUSTAV VOIGT atelier around 1882 (Fig. 9). They are called 'Reuleaux Collection'(8). The state of preservation is excellent without any rust. The zest to the preservation and the dry natural environment may be the cause.

Fig. 9 Reuleaux Collection preserved at Cornell University.

7.1 Catalog of the models
The catalog of the GUSTAV VOIGTH machine mechanism models, which was published in 1907, is also preserved in Cornell University. The first half of the catalog includes 248 model figures, class codes, names, and prices. The second half includes only 123 model figures and the codes. Example of model figures is shown in Fig. 10.

Fig. 10 Example picture of the models.

7.2 Kyoto ledger and Cornell catalogue The purchase ledger preserved at Kyoto University clarifies that the models were bought in 1903. But there is a lack of information about model manufacturer. Figure 11 shows an extract from the ledger of Fig. 8. The extracted Japanese letters refer to a model, "Stirnraeder, Cykloidenverzahnung (Reuleaux) 2 ungleiche Raeder, schematisches Modell" cited in the Cornell university catalog. In a similar way, one of authors found that the models referred in the Kyoto ledger had correspondences in the Cornell catalog(9). Exceptional models indicate that these have been purchased from the companies other than GUSTAV VOIGT.

Fig. 11 Example of items.

While the price of the Fig. 11 model is 138.75 Yen in the ledger, it is 240 Mark in the Cornell catalog. Therefore, the value of (Mark/Yen) is 1.73. Figure 12 shows the distribution of the value of (Mark/Yen) checked over the all models. 1 yen was 2.0925 marks about 100 years ago(10), which shows that the value of 1.73 is reasonable. The value of 1.88 is most frequent, and the smaller values are distributed toward 1.50.

Fig. 12 Distribution of the value of (Mark/Yen).

The number of GUSTAV VOIGT preserved at Kyoto University is 19. The purchase ledger refers to 47 models, far more than the 19. The total purchase price was 2753.11 yen, a considerably large amount of money in those days, indicating enthusiasm of the Meiji government to introduce European and American advanced machine technology.

8. Internet demonstration of 3D model animation
3D animations of the machine mechanism models are constructed and demonstrated at the web site of the Kyoto University Museum(11). Figures 13 and 14 show the examples of 3D animations. The technology transfer in Meiji era based on real models was local, while the internet demonstration can be regarded as a global technology transfer.

Fig. 13 Example 1 of 3D animations.
(Animation: DI JING)

Fig. 14 Example 2 of 3D animations.
(Animation: DI JING)

9. Concluding remarks
This paper describes the educational machine models preserved at Kyoto University. These models contributed to technology transfer in two ways: (1) Technology was transferred by engineers making the model of the locomotive based on advanced technology. (The wooden model of steam locomotive). (2) The knowledge of advanced machine mechanisms was transferred by experiencing the motions of the educational models. (The machine mechanism models). The global technology transfer in various fields via the Internet is playing important roles.


  1. Nippon Railway, The Century History of Japan Railway, Vol.2 (1970), p.272.
  2. A Wooden Model of a British Steam Locomotive Fabricated in the Dawn of the Japanese Railway Era, Sohei Shiroshita, Takao Ito, and Hiromitsu Kumamoto, Journal of Industrial History, Vol.4, No.1, pp.113-122 (2001).
  3. Photo: By Yoriko Fukami.
  4. Pamphlet that Deutsches Museum possesses.
  5. Photo: By Yoriko Fukami.
  6. Harrwitz, F., Adressbuch der Deutschen Prazisionsmechnik und Optik, III vorstandig neu bearbeiteteAuflage (Berlin 1906).
  7. Meiji Era Educational Machine Mechanism Models Imported from Germany, Sohei Shiroshita, 2001 JSME Annual Meeting, pp.407 -408(2001). (In Japanese)
  8. http://www.englib.cornell.edu/reuleaux/moon61899.html.
  9. Investigation by German embassy (2002).
  10. Constructing A Virtual Museum Of Machine Mechanism Models Imported From Germany During Japanese Westernization For Higher Education: 3D Animations Based On Kinematics And Dynamics, Sohei Shiroshita, Hiromitsu Kumamoto, Osamu Nishihara, Di Jing, Museums and the Web 2001 Proceedings (CD-ROM), (2001).