Steam roller and oil press restored

14 December 2015
The roller is a Ruston steam-powered model, and will be put on display in the museum courtyard

The CRBMC (Catalan Movable Property Restoration Centre) and the Conservation Department of the Museum of Science and Technology of Catalonia (mNACTEC), managed by the Catalan Cultural Heritage Agency of the Department of Culture, have completed the restoration of two items from the mNACTEC's early 20th century collection: the Ruston steam roller and the oil press.

These exhibits had for some years been in a state of inadequate conservation. Their location, in the outdoor courtyard of the building, had accelerated their process of degradation, as both the iron of the steam roller and the wood of the press are materials that are particularly sensitive to weather conditions. Mention should also be made in both cases of the dirt that had clearly built up all over the surface as the years passed.

The roller, a Ruston steam-powered machine originating in England in 1924 and weighing 20 t, was used to pave the first highways in Catalonia during the first half of the 20th century. A number of the most important projects undertaken using the machine were: in 1926, the Can Tunis highway (Escullera); in 1929, the Barcelona International Exposition; in 1930, the highway from Santa Coloma de Queralt to Vallfogona; on Avinguda Diagonal in Barcelona, from Carrer Urgell to Esplugues de Llobregat; in 1950, on Avinguda Meridiana (first phase); in 1951, at the Torrejón de Ardoz Airfield (Madrid), and in 1965, the Tarragona Workers' University.

The second of the objects restored is a press for producing olive oil, of the "beam" type, also known as an Arab press or Roman press. It was built in 1920 and is 12 meters long. In Catalonia it is also referred to as a “seixantè” or “giny” and replaced mills of mediaeval origin. This is an updated version of the ancient lever press used by the Romans. This type of press was installed at oil mills together with the millstones and the decantation troughs or tanks. The olives crushed by the millstones would gradually be deposited between each of the baskets. The screw would lower the beam down onto the pile of baskets, with the weight pressing the juice out to the sides, to be collected in the lower basin. This type of beam press was used from the 17th century up to the early decades of the 20th century, when it was replaced by hydraulic presses.