German Toy Steam Engine

Description (Brief)
This toy steam engine was made by an unknown German manufacturer during the early 20th century. The horizontal steam boiler powers a flywheel which is connected to a dynamo that can power the attached bulb. The boiler, flywheel, dynamo, and light bulb are all attached to the wooden base.
Live steam toys enjoyed a period of popularity from the 1880s until the 1930s. The miniature steam engines were marketed as both toys and instructive devices that mimicked full-scale steam-powered machines and allowed every boy and girl to be their own engineer. In toy steam engines, a heating source is introduced into the firebox below the boiler (early toys used lit wicks fueled by denatured alcohol, later toys used electricity) which heated the water to produce the steam pressure that ran the engine. A variety of accessories could be powered by the engine; attachments included windmills, pumps, grinders, and electric lights.
Currently not on view
date made
early 20th century
place made
Physical Description
wood (part material)
boiler - from catalog card: 6 in x 2 1/4 in; x 15.24 cm x 5.715 cm
flywheel - from catalog card: 3 1/8 in; x 7.9375 cm
base - from catalog card: 11 1/4 in x 9 1/2 in; x 28.575 cm x 24.13 cm
overall: 14 1/8 in x 11 1/4 in x 9 1/2 in; 35.8775 cm x 28.575 cm x 24.13 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Bequest of the Estate of Greville I. Bathe
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Engineering Steam Toys and Models
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Family & Social Life
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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