German Toy Steam Engine

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Description (Brief)
This toy steam engine was made by an unknown German company during the early 20th century. The toy consists of a horizontal boiler with chimney on a simulated brickwork firebox. The horizontal slide valve engine powers a flywheel with a centrifugal flyball governor. The boiler and engine are mounted on a cast iron plate.
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
tinplate (overall material)
iron (castings material)
nickel plated (fittings material)
overall: 9 1/2 in x 15 in x 13 in; 24.13 cm x 38.1 cm x 33.02 cm
smokestack: 11 1/2 in x 1 1/8 in; 29.21 cm x 2.8575 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Mr. August Mencken
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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