Steam Meet Update

I suggest that if someone wants to build a steam engine, the first thing that they should do is visit a Steam Automobile Club of America (SACA) meeting. The steam club meeting is filled with amazing talent – from former NASA engineers, present Detroit workers, builders of steam powered cars and tractors. These people have experience, they are hilarious, and all together contrarian and irreverent. I’m having a great time. I just want to share some of the things that people here have done – as I expect to follow up with many of these people on several topics relevant to the Global Village Construction Set. I mention these because if you would like to pursue one of these topics, you know where to find assistance.

  • Tom Kimmel, SACA president – has an amazing workshop/museum where he builds and restores steam power devices. Combined with his extensive library and comprehensive understanding of the state of art – this is a total immersion learning experience – not to mention practical build opportunity.
  • High power solid fuel burners and biomass pelletizers for steam power. This emerges to me as a serious competitor for pyrolysis oil as a renewable transportation fuel – in the framework of the Global Village Construction Set. Tom Kimmel’s nursery can supply you with many varieties of switchgrass, with yields of up to 11 tons of biomass per acre.
  • One fellow here made his own plasma cutter, large torch/router/multipurpose CNC table.
  • Electronis steam injection bicycle. Yes, someone here did an 800 rpm steam engine with electronic valves – a completely computerized control system.
  • Wood-fuel steam tractor.
  • Solar concentrator steam egine, and solar concentrator Stirling engine.

There are many others. High tech stuff. This is a goldmine.


  1. Nick

    Wow sounds like a fun event!

    Regarding pelletizing biomass do you have any rough numbers on how much this increases the energy density by volume?

    Also any details on the high speed digital bike steam engine?

  2. Marcin

    Nick, 800 rpm, about 30 ms off switching time, faster for on-time. Limit of 1200 RPM. $35 hydraulic solenoid valves, modified slightly. Will get modification drawing detail up when I find out more. Overheating problems exist. Total run time so far 16 hours.

  3. Jeb

    Excellent news, and sure makes sense to look at solid fuel (pellets) for steam engines. Ash can be dealt with in external combustion, unlike internal which needs ash-free fuel to avoid wear. Small non-electric bicycle (maybe trailer) booster engines make sense too. I wonder if a small compressed air cylinder (carbon fiber) could provide the stored energy “steam” pressure for such a setup, so you don’t need to light a fire for small trips. I heard a big advance in the air-car concept was using external combustion to boost the temperature/pressure of the compressed air and therefore range and efficiency greatly. Electronic valving makes perfect sense for that kind of setup.

  4. Steam Meet Report | Open Source Ecology

    […] is a number of videos from the steam meet, plus other conslusions on our involvement with steam power. We will build a hydronic heating stove […]


    I would like to share a followup email to the people I met:

    Hello Steam People,

    Please view some videos and discussion on the steam meet:

    Please comment on the CHP stove and steam-hydraulic hybrid mentioned. I am interested in your feedback on the simple stove – how to design it for hydronic heating, such that a retrofit for steam would be easy. We will probably not have the time to build a steam engine by winter. Tiny Tech India offers one – but I’m not sure that it would work well for CHP. Comments?

    Please pass on to others, especially those who have spam filters, and post on the Forum, or other email list for steam.

    My goal, like Marcus, is to produce a ‘mass producible’ CHP electrical power system. I will approach this from the open source perspective, where one option is to provide kits or information/service around the product – which is consistent with products turning into services in the computer age.

    After being filled with pure passion after the meet, I am considering a cross-country trip to gather information and to build components on the way – for a more ambitious second goal. I plan on taking my Ford Ranger, and returning on the steam power of a pusher-trailer with hydraulic wheel drive. So I may be asking you for help. I am particularly interested in firing this freak car with biomass pellets, like I discussed with George Knight.

    In fact, I propose that we all gather around this project and make it work. I think that this is quite doable, and has the potential of being highly replicable. I think this is an opportunity to develop a product, beyond the one-off productions typical of most members’ work. I agree with Tom and others on the ‘many missed opportunities’ surrounding steam power. It is clear to me that there can be practical and replicable applications.

    In any case, this meeting was a goldmine, and all the skills necessary for delivering the above are readily found in the membership of SACA.

    You can view our blog at, so you can read the 3 entries I made on the steam meet. You can see the video that I showed at the meet at:

    Also, if you have spare change, consider donating to our project, as we work 100% from donations. We’re funding the open source CNC torch table right now:

    Special thanks to Tom for keeping the fire alive.

    Please forward some more info to me on John Wetz’s work on simple solid fuel systems.



  5. Simon

    Marcin, et al. Are there any OSE associates planning to attend the SACA meeting this coming weekend, Jan 13-15, 2012 in Sacramento, CA? I’ve only discovered OSE/SACA recently, so this is last minute to me. I’m assessing the personal feasibility and group need for attendance. Cheers!

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