More on Steam

Ok, some of you may be asking yourselves, why are you putting steam power-related items on a site named Cartoonplanes anyway!? Well, the simple answer is, cause it’s cool and I like it….so there. But, all semi-kidding aside, there is actually some relation to steam and aircraft. All the way back in the 1840’s a gentleman named Henson, and another named Stringfellow were devising and building prototypes of a flying steam carriage, and steam in flash boilers has been used in modern RC experiments as well. My main interest in steam is just cause its cooky and fun, and I hope to at least one day get a little generator hooked up to a decent homebuilt steam engine of my design and make a little electricity. As far as aircraft design is concerned, a steam system with its fuel, and its water which works great for land based machines, is overly-heavy for aircraft. That being said….it’s hard to stop human ingenuity when it really wants to do something. Enter the Besler Steam Plane. The Besler’s actually gave flying steam power a decent go, and although it ended up being a dead-end and more of a curiosity than anything else, (mainly due to the fact that the plane flew and flew well, just not for any great duration due to the weight limitations of a steam system as I already mentioned) it did prove that steam could fly!  Enjoy the video..

You may have noticed if you watched closely that a neat aspect of the Steam powered plane is the ability to reverse the valve and quickly reverse the engine direction, giving a type of braking effect only found in modern jets.


The start of a new Steam project.

Well, we can’t really post any updates or videos about the aircraft we have waiting in line for maiden flight trials since we are waiting for the never ending rain to stop here. So….in the meantime…..

After building a few smaller scale Steam Engines, one oscillating, and another with an external arm powered valve system, I’ve finally started assembling the parts for a larger version. This time it will be a much more simplified design (using pre-exisitng elements) to make the build more practical and simple. There’s something to building with specificity from scratch components, but there’s also something appealing from creating with readily available components, that can also have a very practical ( if not Fallout-3 ish) appeal.

I was originally going to build an oscillating type from scratch, with all custom made shining brass and copper components, a custom made to order machine of approximately 1″ bore. Then, not too long after beginning the search for components, I saw an article about building steam engines from old 2-cycle weed whacker engines.  Fascinated with this concept, I decided to couple this idea with the fact that my sons’ old fort, (a semi-underground “A” frame design) needed to be turned into a sod roofed root cellar. The ultimate idea congealed…Semi-underground root cellar-slash-steam shed!! I mean isn’t it obvious!?

Of course, this could take a bit of doing, so as progress posts are created, they will be archived in the “Steam”, category. This will likely be somewhat of a long term project.

But first things first…..the engine itself:


Scavanged from an old discarded string trimmer…not sure what cc., but I guess I can measure the bore and figure it out. The inside looks to be in quite good shape and will make a fine steamer. The steam line enters the engine through the spark plug port on the top, and exhausts through the normal exhaust port. This will be a “bash or push valve” type, with a uniflow ball valve as the main steam valve.

This is being posted in the hopes folks find it interesting, or even that they may learn how to build similar items for themselves, but here, clearly, as well as elsewhere in my blog, I strongly urge a great deal of learning and research be done first as quite simply this can kill you or harm you severely if done wrong. So, the same disclaimer is added here and is applied to my entire site...”if you blow yourself up using anything you’ve read here, it’s your fault not mine….if I blow myself up…it’s my fault….not yours. I’m not responsible for anything anyone does with information gleaned here….you’ve been warned. So lets forget unpleasant legalities, and return to the good stuff.

The fort….was built from old discarded decking, and utilized wattle and daub walling in some places. You may recognize this style from old buildings in colonial America, and it is quite effective. As you see, it has stood for over a decade…but now will be replaced with planking. Wattle and daub is a technique where thin wispy forest saplings are woven into a frame, and simple mud, as is the case here, but sometimes mud and grass, straw or even dung, are mixed and basically smeared into, and splotched onto the framework.


We never completed the wall all the way up, as my son wanted to be able to “shoot” out of the top, so we stopped walling there. The next shot shows the sod roofing being started, with underlayment of thick plastic.


The sod roofed design is one I have been wanting to experiment with for some time and was often used in Nordic regions for storage or even living shelters, and the semi undergound with sod overhead design has some unique attributes, in that, due to the quasi-underground element, it tends to stay very even temperatured….holding heat more in the winter, and staying cooler in the summers. Once grass starts growing on the roof (which I hope I can ultimately accomplish even though this is a somewhat wooded/shaded location), it ends up being not only a very interesting looking structure….but a very efficient one as well.

more to come…….