What are stationary steam engines?
During the industrial era, stationary steam engines were used in factories or mills to provide power and drive production – much in the same way a steam engine in locomotive would.
Stationary steam engine models are great educational tools that can be used to illustrate how different types of engines worked. There are many different types – characterised by the layouts of the engine itself, and the power source that the individual model uses. This includes fuel, tea lights, steam turbine and some models are full workshop combos where the engine powers a variety of accessories.
I’ve put together this guide of my favourite model steam engines. I’m sure you’ll have your own opinion on some of these, but if you’re new to model steam engines and are looking for some advice on which model to buy (either for you or as a gift), then this guide is a good starting point.
Hope you enjoy!
What’s the difference between steam engine models and kits?
They end up being basically the same thing, but many steam engines come in both model form (already assembled) or in as kits (you’ll need to assemble them at home). It’s entirely up to you which you choose, but be sure to check with the seller so you know which version you are buying.
While many people collect model engines as a hobby, there are other reasons why they are so popular;
Many of the models featured here look great and make a fantastic addition to any room!
Model engines can help teach children (and some adults!) about energy and how traditional power plants worked. What’s more, many come in kit form which can be great fun for kids and adults when you build your new model together.
These are functional power sources – it makes sense that they can power something! You can buy a range of interesting accessories and power them with your steam engine!
Our Favourite Stationary Steam Engine Models & Kits
Whether you want to build your own engine or enjoy it ready made, these models are the best ones to choose from.
1. The Wilesco D2
The Wilesco D2 is a wonderful little tea candle stationary steam engine and is a great buy for anyone looking to purchase their first model engine.
As much as I love more elaborate models (the detail on locomotive models, the craftsmanship on workshop models…), I just adore this little model. It just looks great and has that wonderful 19th century feeling to it, meaning it doesn’t look out of place in any room (mine’s in my office!). It’s one of the smallest stationary steam engines in the world, so it doesn’t take up much space and it’s an absolute delight to watch.
The Wilesco D2 will run for around 15 to 30 mins when it gets going and is definitely a worthwhile purchase for both novices and expert collectors alike.
- Fuel type: Tea Candles (although a little burner could be used instead)
- Dimensions: 7cm x 7cm x 12.1cm
- Type: Model
2. The Wilesco D3
The D3 is another fantastic stationary engine from Wilesco that also works well as a show piece. It usually comes in at a similar price as the D2, so if you’re in the market then both are great options for a simple model engine. These models were introduced by Wilesco as a more price competitive option for newcomers (in comparison to bigger models that may run at several hundred pounds).
While the D2 runs on a tea candle, the D3 is a solid fuel engine so it’s a bit more complicated to use, but arguably is a better introduction to miniature steaming (remember to buy your Esbit fuel tablets!).
I would say that although this is certainly an “entry-level” model, newbies might want to read up a bit about running a model engine first. It’s not a simple “press a button and it works” situation – there is a degree of care and finesse required. Taking care of an engine, even a small one, requires some effort. But, getting past that initial learning curve you may just find your passion for model engines and eventually look back on the D3 as a wonderful starting point on your model collector’s journey.
- Fuel Type: Solid Fuel Tablets
- Dimensions: 17cm x 13cm x 18.5cm
- Type: Model
3. The Wilesco D10
OK, now we’re getting into the more serious range of stationary steam engines. While the two “younger” Wilesco models are geared at beginners, the D10 is perhaps more attractive to established enthusiasts.
That said, the D10 is a great educational tool. Many schools use this model to teach students about energy and they are a great representation of how fossil fuel power stations work. For those of us with younger children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews with an interest in science, these can be a great gift that is a bit different to the standard computer games they usually get. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time together and learn a thing or two along the way.
It’s a bit larger than the D3 but smaller than the later Wilesco models (which are mostly larger variants on this style of model).
The beauty of Wilesco models is the range of accessories that are available. While your steam engine is generating power, you can decide how it will be used! Connect up your engine to any of the accessories and watch it go!
- Fuel Type: Solid Fuel Tablets
- Dimensions: 20cm x 26cm x 24cm
- Type: Model
4. The Stirling Engine
A Stirling engine is an external combustion engine. That is, it is an engine that gets its energy from an external heat source, in contrast to the internal combustion engine where the heat input is generated within the engine itself. The Stirling engine was invented in 1816 by Robert Stirling, who wanted to create an alternative to existing steam engines, whose boilers could often explode because of the high steam pressures used and the strength limitations of the materials available to engineers at the time.
There are many different models of Stirling Engines, but they all work on the same principle. Like some of the other models we’ve looked at, they’re nice little show pieces and also great educational tools. This particular model is the cheapest of all the models we’ve looked at here so is excellent value. And it works well when placed over a mug of tea!
- Fuel: Hot Air
- Dimensions: 10cm x 10cm x 12cm
- Type: Model
5. The Wilesco D5
The Wilesco D5 is a fantastic lightweight stationary steam engine model kit, which means you’ll have to assemble it before use. That’s all part of the fun though, isn’t it? Don’t worry, all the parts have already been soldered, so there’s not heavy lifting in the assembly – simply put the parts together.
It’s an attractive model, with a faux red brick platform and chimney stack, rather like a Victorian factory might have had. The boiler has a shiny, brass effect thanks to the nickel finish, as does the oscillating cylinder and the piston. There is also the red and brass effect fly wheel. There’s an inspection glass that is the water level indicator at the front of the boiler, with a dome steam powered whistle on top.
It’s a great choice for anyone looking for a good, reliable steam engine kit.
- Fuel type: Dry Fuel
- Dimensions: 21cm x 15cm x 15cm
- Type: Kit