German Steam Toy Traction Engine

Description (Brief)
This toy steam traction engine was manufactured by an unknown German maker during the early 20th century. The traction engine consists of a black firebox below a boiler painted orange. The steam powers a horizontal slide valve engine attached to a flywheel that is chained to the tractor’s rear wheel.
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. This traction engine achieves motion by the same method.
Currently not on view
Object Name
toy, steam engine and boiler
date made
early 20th century
overall - from catalog card: 11 1/2 in x 8 1/4 in; 29.21 cm x 20.955 cm
overall: 11 3/4 in x 4 3/8 in x 8 1/8 in; 29.845 cm x 11.1125 cm x 20.6375 cm
place made
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Engineering Steam Toys and Models
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Family & Social Life
See more items in
Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Engineering Steam Toys and Models
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Bequest of the Estate of Greville I. Bathe
maker referenced
Maass, Eleanor A.. Greville Bathe's "Theatre of Machines": The Evolution of a Scholar and His Collection

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