BoingBoing apparently thinks this little line-shaft workshop is bizarre and incredible. Maybe. But I had one of these as a kid in the 1980s; it went with a Mamod steam engine, and had various tiny machine tools - a press, a pillar drill, a buffing wheel, and eventually we rigged a little dynamo to have it generate electricity, thus making the hop from the first industrial revolution and mill buildings to the second and electric motors. (Have I mentioned I once worked in a printing plant in Shipley - this was in the summer of 2000 - where the machinery came from Germany in 1963...East Germany?)
And it rocked, especially because it filled the house with the unique smell of live steam and hot oil. Oh, and that time I fired it up without my dad being around, with the result that the safety valve wasn't quite correctly seated, and extremely hot steam under pressure launched it into the fucking ceiling? Sorry, mum. But technology ought to scare you occasionally, right?
Surely they can't have been that rare. Here's a quote from the comments at BB:
Inspired by my Grandfather I built my own peripheral for it. BTW, it had a standard, open interface for everyone to hook up their own shit to the engine... it was a drive wheel, hooked up to the flywheel where you could place a rubber band and drive anything you could imagine. I chose to drive a tiny Electric Motor, that was hooked up to a flashlight bulb. It just might have started my ongoing involvement with science.Yes, I did that too; I think the aim was trying to build up enough steam pressure to overload and burn out the bulb. If I had really been militant about it, I suppose I should have thought of some way to link it with the ZX Spectrum, but I don't think it put out enough wallop even to drive one of those.
And I never finished the rocket-propelled boat, even though I did get as far as cutting and soldering tin plate sections (more than the joint forces of the Government, BAE, Thales, Vosper Thorneycroft and Babcocks Rosyth can say for CVF).