The Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences acknowledges Australia’s First Nations Peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land and gives respect to the Elders – past and present – and through them to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are advised that the MAAS website contains a range of Indigenous Cultural Material. This includes artworks, artifacts, images and recordings of people who may have passed away, and other objects which may be culturally sensitive.
B1286 Gas engine, Bisschop vertical, cast iron/steel, made by J E H Andrew & Co, Stockport, England, 1878-1894. Click to enlarge.

Bisschop gas engine by J.E.H. Andrew, Stockport, England

  • 1878-1894
From the mid 19th century, gas engines were developed as feasible alternatives to steam engines, particularly for small power requirements. Their development was spurred by the establishment of gasworks and pipelines to deliver coal gas throughout many cities. The first successful gas engine was patented by Otto and Langen in 1866.

The Bisschop engine was developed in the 1870s as a very low power engine which did not suffer the noise and recoil of Otto and Langen's free piston engine. It is described as a non-compression engine since there is no compression of the air/gas mixture before its admission to the cylinder. The thermodynamic cycle is very similar to that of the Otto-Langen engine where the air/gas mixture is admitted early in the expansion stroke followed by ignition of the mixture, with exhaust occurring during the return of the piston. It was the adoption of a slider-crank mechanism that significantly reduced noise and vibration. The small power output of the engine required its rating to be in manpower rather than horsepower units, where one manpower is approximately 125 watts.

The engine was patented by Alexis de Bisschop of Paris in 1871, and the British patent rights were acquired by J E H Andrew & Co of Stockport, England in 1878. The engine proved modestly successful in spite of its relatively high gas consumption. It was more popular in England than in France, probably because gas was cheaper in England. Some 2000 engines were built in England before production ceased in 1894.

Buss, Sombart and Co of Magdeburg, Germany, also produced these engines from 1878 to 1886, and Mignon and Rouart of Paris was the principal French manufacturer. As Buss, Sombart was based in Otto's home market, it could not obtain a licence to make the more popular four-stroke engine during the term of Otto's 1876 four-stroke patent, and making the Bisschop was a viable alternative. Very few Bisschop engines, by any manufacturer, are still extant.

The engines were renowned for their simplicity and ease of repair and were considered the most successful of all so-called non-compression engines built. They were used to power a wide range of small machines and were particularly useful for intermittent operation. Although their gas consumption was relatively high, they were cheap to run when savings in wages were taken into account.

Debbie Rudder, Curator, and Noel Svensson, Powerhouse Volunteer, 2007


Lyle Cummins, 'Internal fire', Society of Automotive Engineers, Warrendale, USA, 1989, pp 116-121

Bryan Donkin, 'A text-book on gas oil and air engines', Charles Griffin, London, 1894, pp 113-117

Patrick Knight, 'The Bisschop engine', The Old Machinery Magazine, June-July 2001, pp22-24


Object No.


Object Statement

Gas engine, Bisschop vertical, cast iron/steel, made by J E H Andrew & Co, Stockport, England, 1878-1894

Physical Description

The piston moves in a ribbed cylinder surmounted by a hollow column that serves as a guide for a crosshead attached to the piston rod. A connecting rod joins the crosshead to the crank attached to the drive shaft, which is offset from the axis of the cylinder. As a consequence of the asymmetry of the mechanism, the expansion of gases in the cylinder is more rapid than the exhaust. Driven from an eccentric attached to the drive shaft is a second lever that operates a piston valve for controlling the admission and exhaust of the gases. A flywheel is attached to the drive shaft. The engine is painted green and red, and the base is black.

Operation. When the piston is in its lowest position the pressure in the cylinder is below atmospheric. As the piston ascends during the first 40% of the stroke, gas and air are drawn into the cylinder through metering ports and past flat rubber check valves. A little before halfway, the piston valve exposes a gas pilot flame and the charge in the cylinder is ignited. The pressure of combustion closes the flap valves, but no fire reaches back to the rubber valves because they are upstream of where a combustible mixture is formed. After the piston has passed its top position, the piston valve moves slowly upward and exposes the exhaust port. The inertia of the flywheel carries the piston downward, and the exhaust gases are pushed out through the common cylinder intake and exhaust port.

The ribs around the cylinder allow the engine to cool by radiating heat. The engine has no speed governor, the regulation of speed being achieved through the use of two rubber bags: the larger bag acts as a reservoir, and the passage of gas into the smaller bag can be restricted to control the speed.

The engine's output was two manpower, which is about 250 W or 1/3 horsepower.


2 MAN 961B/ The Bisschop Patent/ J E H ANDREW/ Sole Maker/ Stockport



1460 mm


750 mm


880 mm


340 kg



  • 1878-1894


The engine was patented by Alexis de Bisschop of Paris in 1871 and designed and manufactured under licence by J E H Andrew & Co Ltd, of Stockport, England. Mr Andrew had been impressed with the Bisschop engine exhibited at the 1878 Paris Exhibition.

J E H Andrew & Co Ltd was established in Reddish, Stockport and made over 2000 Bisschop engines between 1878 and 1894. It also made the successful Stockport gas engine. It was taken over by Richard Hornsby & Sons in 1905.



The engine was acquired by Professor Henry Barraclough for use in teaching mechanical engineering students at the University of Sydney.

A number of trials have been conducted on Bisschop engines to test gas consumption. Tests made at the Stockton Exhibition showed gas consumption of 139 cu ft/hp hr (5276 L/kW hr). Other tests on a ½hp engine showed gas consumption of 74 cu ft/hp hr (2808 L/kW hr).


Credit Line

Gift of University of Sydney, 1955

Acquisition Date

15 April 1955

Cite this Object


Bisschop gas engine by J.E.H. Andrew, Stockport, England 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 19 October 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=Bisschop gas engine by J.E.H. Andrew, Stockport, England |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=19 October 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}