Model of an overshot waterwheel

 © Technisches Museum Wien, Photo: Peter Sedlaczek
Collection Area
Energy & Mining
Mechanical Engineering
1850 - 1899
From teaching room to museum: overshot waterwheels have been known in Europe since the Middle Ages. Mill building was for many years determined by the experience and traditions of craftsmen.

Until the triumph of the steam engine, waterwheels were the powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution and were of corresponding importance. Towards the end of the 18th century, the empirical ‘art of water’ was superseded by scientific ‘hydraulic engineering’ at universities and polytechnics.

Water machines were examined according to the rules of science and calculated using mathematical formulae. The aim was to optimize power output. The results of this work were demonstrated to students using teaching models. This finely detailed model of an overshot waterwheel is one of these models, held in the collection of the Technisches Museum Wien (Vienna Technical Museum).

The water flows from above onto the blade ring of the wheel and collects in the enclosed cells. In this way, both the force of gravity and the kinetic energy of the water help to drive the wheel. For this reason, overshot waterwheels have a higher degree of efficiency (approx. 75 %) than undershot wheels, where the water is driven against the wheel from below. Their degree of efficiency is approx. 40 %.

Inv.Nr. 716

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