Steam Cars

May 02, 2010

A couple Saturdays ago, @kriskowal and I found ourselves at a meeting of the Southern California chapter of the Steam Automobile Club of America of which Kris’s father is president. It’s been a long while since I’ve seen these steam cars in action. Getting to ride on these gentle and majestic contraptions was a real treat:

Kris’s father brought the Dampf ‘Bil, a wood-burning, steam powered go-kart of sorts:

Dampf 'Bil

Kris explains more about how it works:

It’s a really simple car, a model of the minimal steam powered automobile, built on the chassis of a wood trash-cart. The steam generator is a Dixon Boilerworks “fire tube” boiler; it burns wood under a five gallon reservoir with tubes that allow the heated air to exchange with the water. It operates between 40 and 75 PSI. The steam drives two 5” tall double-acting steam engines, offset by 90 degrees, attached directly to the rear-right wheel with a bike chain (no derailleur). The boiler is fed by a highly ineffective hydraulic landing gear pump from a 2 gallon antifreeze container repurposed for water. The boiler also has a garden hose attachment which we use to fill the boiler when cold, and to “blow down”: use the boiler’s remaining pressure to empty the boiler.

Look at it go! (that’s me riding.)

The only problem is that one tends to get covered in soot while driving it (that’s Kris):

Kris covered in soot

As you can see, fun was had by all. :)