Ernst Plank Hot air trolley / tram ... 65mm / 8 gauge 1900 + -

Hello Tinplaters York I could not believe my eyes when seeing an Ernst Plank hot air tram / trolley ..without a phone # for a price tag home it came part a loop of track was part of the deal ...  I've been playing with it a bit ..the motor runs ..but not for long enough periods to run around the track ...I'm using denatured alcohol as a fuel ... but using the old wick ordering a new wick ... cleaned off the heating tube ...oiled everything ...hope the new wick is the resume regular schedule trolley service . 

Any secrets to be shared by follow hot air operators ?     

Anyone out there have any catalog cuts of the Ernst Plank hot air line ?? ... these date to 1900 ? 

Thank you very much ..... once I get her rolling ..I'll post a video as proof ...

Cheers Carey 



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Original Post

Hi Carey , what an amazing find !

While not having Stirling Locomotive experience I do have a bit of a fiddle with normal Stirling stationary engines

The key to these are a few main points , most of which you have covered in your initial post , but I will restate them anyway...

Stirling engines are by their very nature very inefficient so the key to running them is to maximise heat transferrence and minimise friction loads .. so yep light oil everything and clean and reapply the minute it becomes tacky. Ensure all the rods are as straight as possible and running true, a little slop is better than being "bindy"

Next you will want to aid heat uptake as best you can using a good quality fuel and I use either fibreglass wicks , or cotton rope ones , I have heard of sisal being used as well . The key to the wick is not so much absorbancy of the wick material , but more the delivery of fresh fuel to the burn site by capilliary action .

Temperature differential is what makes this little bugger hum and finding the sweet spot can take some experimentation , but in short you are wanting the fire side piston to uptake the heat from the burner and then expand the air inside the cylinder ( driving the piston) until it completes the expansion stroke and intakes more cold air from the displacement piston assembly . Yours appears to be the normal 90 degrees between the two , so make sure when you do fire it , you are rotating it the right way , they CAN run backwards ( but poorly)

I would probably look at cleaning the heat side cylinder and espescially the finned area , you want to get rid of as much heat from outside the expansion area as much as you want that expansion area to uptake the heat as efficiently as you can ... Some people even put a small block of ice on the displacement cylinder to further increase the differential between the hot and cool air ...

Cylinder clearances are also critical in maintaining the expansion of the air on the hot side and transferring as much cool side air to the cylinder ... if just slightly worn through use you can put a smidge of fine oil inside the bore/onto walls from below to help improve the seal and efficiency .

Running Stirlings without a load isnt that hard , but it might take a bit of experimentation with them under load as that really stresses their capabilities ... Always keep in mind it is the temerature differential and ability to harness it ( good tolerances,low friction) that will determine how it runs


I am a little bit jealous ( lol ) but then again I always am when you post your amazing early stuff!


Clockwork guys have a spring in their step!

Oh and a good site for info ...

As a complete aside you also have the opposite end of the scale with a Flame Licker Engine... where it intakes hot air from a flame source and then it cooling in the cylinder causes the piston to move UP due to the CONTRACTION of the cooling air ... I have thought about making a train with one I have , but its on the "to do" list which seems to get longer as I get older

Clockwork guys have a spring in their step!

Hello all ....thank you for all your in put ...and suggestions ....


You may enjoy a video by Danny Jannssen from the Netherlands    who is  running a lovely Schoenner   live steamer ...but also on the table is a hot air  Ernst Plank tram    please see link '


I'll order some new wicks and give it a go again before   kicking in the high power BTU 's ...


Can you use pure grain in lamps ? misc burners ? ...  cheers Carey





Carey Williams posted:


Can you use pure grain in lamps ? misc burners ? ...  cheers Carey





Ahhhh I keep forgetting you Yanks dont necesarily have the good stuff ... yep the purer the better as oposed to denatured ... if you can source it you can also go the pure Isopropanol route ... which is basicaly the purest you are gonna get commonly sold @99.8 or higher % but it can burn with a sooty flame if the burner is not situated properly . Pure Methanol is also good if you can source .

Pure Grain is your best bet but Iso/methanol will give more heat .

Clockwork guys have a spring in their step!

Hello all.....I've been having fun testing various liquids ... Heet, and Ever clear appear the best so far ...but still not enough to pull the trolley on the track the motor yes ..but dies once on the track fiberglass wick  no better then old cotton one ...looks like ordering some Methanol the next step ....  here is a video of the motor running ... there is some wear in the shaft with the fly wheel the slop may not help the situation ...   unique sound ....Cheers Carey 




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Just looking at the video , thats probably about half the speed or less than I would expect it to run at unladen, it seems like there is some binding somewhere? I am wondering if perhaps there is some build up of old lubrication in the displacement or main cylinders, leading to an overtight clearance? I would run it for as long as you can with the current burner and see if it runs a bit better over time , if not then it might be time for a pull down and clean? I think your heat source is ok as it is def providing enough heat to expand the gases ...

my gut kinda tells me the power side of things is trying its best but its being foiled somewhere... is the flywheel loose/wobbly enough that it wanders sideways a teeny bit and fouls on the crankhousing , and/or the crank itself rubbing inside ? it wants to run , but it really looks like something its holding it up ? (frictionwise)

I can see in the video the flywheel assembly itself has some both horizontal and vertical slop? or is it just a bit out of true ?


Clockwork guys have a spring in their step!

I was completely wrong with my remark on the flame color I realised when trying to sleep.

A yellow color is wrong; it should be blue or with as little yellow as possible. I mixed up things and showed the wrong picture of the tests (sorry, cannot find the right picture). The test causing yellow flames was done with the stuff in the blue bottle: 85% denaturated Ethanol which generally is used for cleaning (windows, mirrors). It is available in my country (Netherlands). The other bottle is 94% Ethylalkohol I buy in Germany. This gives a flame which is much more blue .

On a hot day the stuff in the blue bottle is good enough to run my live steam 1 gauge trains, but I prefer to use the German stuff.

The burner material with the yellow flame was glass-fibre; I prefer to use the wick material supplied by Aster, which is not glass-fibre.




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PGA burns blue, and there may also be a 100% version of ethyl alcohol, but not by distillation alone, due to the azeotropic mixture issue. A dessicant would have to be used to remove the remaining 5% water. I really believe the application of some steam oil to those pistons would improve operation of his engine.

vita sine litteris mors est  (Seneca)

Hello all ..thank  you for your input ......I'll clean the cylinders ( flush them out ) ....and as some one suggested ..let it run a bit till it remembers what speed it is suppose to run at is running much better now then when I first started this game ....  the shaft with the flywheel does have a bit of movement ... hopefully not enough to cause a major rebuild ...  it has also been suggested to make a shield atop of the heating element to help retain heat around it .... I'll start with a good flush ..and fire her up again ...  Cheers Carey  

Hello all 


Yes the big engine is big is a video link to see it in motion

originally built in the 60's/ 70's  ..with patterns from a Hudson ...lacking a center driver 4-4-4.....  but big...currently needs flues ... but one it will return to flying down the rails . 


The little engine is a 1904 Cagney .. 

here is a bit of fun with steam


Unknown if there ever was a shroud ...  however the addition of one  has been suggested  to conserve the heat 


Thank you Cheers carey 



Live steam article 1988running 7




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