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By David Rooney on

A Triumph of engineering

Keeper of Technology and Engineering David Rooney takes a closer look at the Triumphs in the Science Museum collection.

A couple of Sundays ago, I was waiting to cross the road when a pack of bikers rode past on Triumph motorcycles. I assumed they were off to a rally until I saw on the news later that Edward Turner, Triumph designer, was being honoured at a blue plaque unveiling in Peckham, London. That explained it.

Turner designed the Ariel ‘Square Four’ motorbike in the late 1920s, released at the 1930 Motorcycle Show. It was a very popular bike and stayed in production until 1959 – a remarkable achievement. In our reserve collection at Wroughton we’ve got a Square Four and a sectioned engine:

Ariel Square Four motorcycle (Science Museum / Science & Society)
Ariel ‘Square Four’ motorcycle (Science Museum / Science & Society)
Ariel Square Four motorcycle engine (Science Museum / Science & Society)
Ariel ‘Square Four’ motorcycle engine (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Fresh from this success, Turner moved to Triumph in 1936 as their Chief Designer and General Manager, staying until retirement in 1964. Here, he designed a variety of motorcycles, including the ‘Speed Twin’, one of the most successful British motorbikes of all time. We’ve got a sectioned engine in store:

Triumph Speed Twin engine (Science Museum / Science & Society)
Triumph ‘Speed Twin’ engine (Science Museum / Science & Society)

Now, I think things like sectioned motorbike engines are wonderful. It kind of goes with the territory. You’ve already seen how excited I get about spark plugs. But I must concede that they aren’t to everyone’s taste. No matter. We’ve got something for everyone, and now you can search our catalogue online.

If engine cylinders don’t bore you, we’ve got quite a lot of other Triumph stuff tucked away in the collections. Or maybe motorbikes don’t float your boat, but you love toasters – we have plenty. If toasters leave you cold, you may like our tattoos, thimbles or maybe even our tide predictors. Now they really do float my boat…

One comment on “A Triumph of engineering

  1. I hope that you can pay the Blue Plaque a visit some day and indeed if the Science Museum can direct anyone interested in Britain’s greatest motorcycle designer to the spot, too !
    Perhaps the Science Museum can link in with Southwark’s local schools to use Edward Turner as an inspiration for budding automotive engineers and designers ? His first shop was opposite the site of what is now the Peckham Academy.

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