Ernst Plank Toy Steam Engine

Description (Brief)
This toy steam engine was built by the Ernst Plank Company of Nuremburg, Germany, during the late 19th or early 20th century. The toy consists of a black firebox below a horizontal boiler that powers a horizontal slide valve engine that is connected to two flywheels.
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
ca 1900
place made
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
flywheels: 2 3/4 in; x 6.985 cm
boiler: 3 in; x 7.62 cm
overall: 10 in; 25.4 cm
overall: 10 in x 9 in x 4 5/8 in; 25.4 cm x 22.86 cm x 11.7475 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession 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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