Camping steam engine

Help Support HMEM:

Shopgeezer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 14, 2018
Messages
186
Reaction score
22
Location
Canada
There was a thread awhile back that mentioned a WW ll miniature portable steam engine that was used to charge rafio batteries in remote locations. The engine fit into the boiler and packed into the backpack of a paratroooper. It was a great idea since a steam engine only needs water and something to burn to produce power.

This idea returned to me as I looked sadly at my dead cell phone on a recent family camping trip. Solar chargers were useless in the rain (of course, I am a rain magnet when we camp), the little lithium power tanks were long drained (7 phones and tablets to charge), our car cigarette lighter doesn't put out enough power for some reason to do anything with a USB adapter and the local coffee shop had two power plugs available that were attended by lineups of campers trying to get a bit of charge on their phones.

A little steam powered charging station would be a great idea. Everyone guarded their dry wood jealously for campfires. No limit on water supply. Great opportunity to introduce people to model engineering. So, I need some input on boiler design and suggestions for the engine. If the engine was going to pack into the boiler we would need something like a home pressure cooker with a lid that removed. Maybe adapt a small pressure cooker? It could just be put at the side of a campfire instead of using a firebox on the boiler itself.

Does anyone have any info on the original WW II design? The dynamo could be built right into the flywheel to save space The idea of charging the newest fancy electronic gadgets with 300 year old technology is just too cool to resist.
 

chucketn

Senior Citizen
Joined
Dec 17, 2009
Messages
1,311
Reaction score
161
Location
Near Jonesborough, TN
Following with interest. My Google-foo is weak. I couldn't find anything. I would appreciate a link to the post Shopgeezer referred to if anyone has it.
 
Last edited:

Brian Rupnow

Design Engineer
Project of the Month Winner
Joined
May 23, 2008
Messages
12,254
Reaction score
4,798
Location
Barrie, Ontario, Canada
Shopgeezer--Think this one thru a bit more. Do you know why you can't buy the sort of thing you are looking for?--It's because no company will risk the liability lawsuits from burned and scalded campers. It would be like selling bombs with your companies name on them. I have lived thru one steam explosion from an unopened can of condensed milk that someone buried in the fire-pit as a joke. The fire was totally exploded, the tent was set on fire, and three 14 year old boys (I was one of them) were blown over backwards and burned.
 

CFLBob

Well-Known Member
HMEM Supporter
Joined
Feb 10, 2018
Messages
477
Reaction score
73
Location
Central Florida
It's an interesting idea, but why bother to use a steam engine? Yeah, if you can burn twigs and logs that's easier than carrying something like Coleman lantern fuel, but it's not like you need a big internal combustion engine to do what you want.

I think the biggest of those linked chargers was the one fcheslop posted:
Is this the plant you are thinking about
https://www.royalsignals.org.uk/photos/steam.htm
That's 6V at 8 Amps, which is 48 Watts. That's .06 horsepower - 1 HP is 750 Watts. Say you have 5 USB chargeable devices, those are 2A each, so 10W. Make it 20 or 40 so you can charge more and it's still not a big engine.

Could you build a 1/15 HP IC engine? That's about what we're talking here. You could build a small IC engine, and use a belt to drive an alternator.

Where it gets a bit more unusual is to build a Stirling engine that could drive an alternator and run it by burning twigs. I've never built a Stirling and don't have experience with them, so I don't know how feasible a 1/15 HP Stirling is.

The rain argues for the Coleman fuel and IC engine.
 

minh-thanh

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 29, 2016
Messages
646
Reaction score
316
Location
Viet Nam
Interest !
But , I think an small IC or stirling engine (alpha, beta) would be better and safer .
 

Shopgeezer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 14, 2018
Messages
186
Reaction score
22
Location
Canada
Amazing that these sets are still available. The Preston web page lists many steam based generator sets. I had something much smaller in mind. The Stirling engine is interesting but I know nothing about them. A small IC engine? I fly model engines and I wouldn't want to listen to one screaming for an hour. Well muffled 4 stroke maybe, but why carry additional fuel when wood is all around you?

Safety? Certainly. But I am amazed at the casual attitude we seem to have about gas camp stoves. They are bombs waiting to go off. I am sure the steamers on this site would agree that a well designed boiler is at least as safe as a leaking pressurized gas stove. Most of us had toy steam engines as kids that used sterno tablets and ran sparking grinders and other accesories. I am thinking of nothing more than that. 10 pounds pressure would charge a cell phone
 

kiwi2

Well-Known Member
Joined
Mar 13, 2012
Messages
253
Reaction score
86
Hi,
What about taking the spare battery for your drill along. I imagine it would contain enough energy to recharge a few phones. Mind you, I suppose you'd need some electronics to bring the voltage down from 18V to whatever the phones use.
Alan C.
 

fcheslop

Well-Known Member
Joined
Apr 7, 2010
Messages
839
Reaction score
208
Location
The land of the Prince Bishops

CFLBob

Well-Known Member
HMEM Supporter
Joined
Feb 10, 2018
Messages
477
Reaction score
73
Location
Central Florida
I'm trying to learn how to build useful internal combustion engines, but there are ways to do this that don't involve a running engine, although I think an engine can be quiet enough.

Look at this thermoelectric generator (TEG) that generates 9 whole watts (that was sarcasm), enough to charge two phones.
https://thermoelectric-generator.com/

There's a company called Biolite that makes camp stoves that have TEG on the side.
 

Jennifer Edwards

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 9, 2018
Messages
206
Reaction score
77
Location
Bridlington, East Riding of Yorkshire, UK
When I go camping I take along the battery from my golf trolly. I’m not sure of its specifications other than being 12V.

It is strong enough to pull my golf bag around 36 holes with power to spare.

I just run a small DC to AC voltage inverter from it and power whatever chargers I require.

I can see some of you cringing at running an inverter off a battery to power a charger to charge a battery as not very efficient, and I agree. It is just that there’s plenty available power in that big lithium battery.

The reason I used the battery/inverter combination in the first place was for inflating my air bed. The charging was an afterthought.

Using a steam engine or small turbine to power a charger is a fun idea. But a large enough boiler/motor/generator combination would be rather bulky.
 

nodaker

Member
Joined
Mar 3, 2008
Messages
13
Reaction score
1
might I suggest the 900 watt gas generator that Harbor Freight sells. Has a 63 cc 2 stroke engine and sells for abt 109 dollars US.

John
 

plipoma

Member
Joined
Apr 6, 2013
Messages
20
Reaction score
5
They also used a gasoline or propane fired set of thermal couples to power radios, I think lead telluride thermal junctions. Might be easier to implement and use.
 

Shopgeezer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 14, 2018
Messages
186
Reaction score
22
Location
Canada
The thermoelectric generator reminds me of the fan that you put on a wood stove. It will turn and blow air when the base of the fan gets hot. Must be a dielectric. Could work with a campfire. There are upcoming developments in wearable electronics that power themselves from body motion and heat. You could plug your phone into your pajamas.

I equate gas generators with giant motorhomes that park and run the noisy generator 24/7 while they are “camping”. The mini steam set is just for fun. It would be interesting to come up with a small charging set and keep the cell phone working on used popsicle sticks and coffee stirrers. A true steam powered cell phone.

This is an example of a steam dynamo with the genset built into the flywheel. A miniature version would be fairly compact.

7876EDE7-53C1-4C46-8394-3C426B67B78D.jpeg
 

bobden72

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 18, 2012
Messages
143
Reaction score
45
Location
Plymouth UK
You could always go off grid and talk to your fellow campers or dare I say play a game with them. You do not NEED to be on line 24 hrs a day.
 

Shopgeezer

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 14, 2018
Messages
186
Reaction score
22
Location
Canada
You could always go off grid and talk to your fellow campers or dare I say play a game with them. You do not NEED to be on line 24 hrs a day.
True, and we do all of that. But with 7 family members the convenience of keeping in touch with everybody for planning each day is critical. Ditto booking the kayak and surfboard rentals, and the Air B&B for the final night. Not to mention using Google Maps to find everything. And the camera for all the photos. Even more important, my sci-fi novel is on my phone. Works better in the tent. Don’t need a book light. Its a digital world and for the most part I enjoy it.
 
Last edited:

goldstar31

Well-Known Member
Joined
Feb 20, 2010
Messages
2,584
Reaction score
645
Location
Twixt Tyne and Tees
I was trained to do rather more careful analysis that what is published here and earlier.
It looks like it all was the production of a single batch of steam generators totalling 400 and it seems that 200 eventually were sold as 'Government Surplus'
Again, the weight of the beasts is rather too heavy to be dropped by parachute and the containers have contain have no attachments for the purpose. It would have been sensible to weld some attachments. Again , this Norway business raises all sorts of doubts. Arguably, they could be brought over on the Shetland Bus from Shetland but how something a hundred weight leavers more that a hundred doubts.Norway has both a Quisling dictatorship and a German garrison. Did someone with a bloody big generator get messages eventually to my sister squadron about Tirpitz? I don't know whether anyone has actually carried a transmitter. let alone a an even heavier genny. I've carried a stretcher in midwinter in Arctic Norway.

I had a rather bright thought that Orde Wingate's mob might have used the natural beast of burden- the mule but that was Burma. And there were two mobs, his and the forgotten 14th Army. The sad part is that anyone who did the drops by RAF 31 Squadron- my squadron are either dead or simply cannot be arsed because 'we' are nudging 90 and were never anywhere near. And there is only two of us left.

So where next? Tito had a signals officer- a British one. He was a character with a Hare lip.
He eventually went to Yalta with Churchill. He appears in the Army List but- oddly was a Wing Commander in the Education Branch- or so the Airforce List claims!
He doesn't appear in any book that I have read. A steam whatsit COULD have been brought in by boat onto the Yugoslav Littoral. I've been and in the course of my studies found a Roman Galley which conceivably been shipwrecked attempting to bring Saint Paul to trial in Rome.

Until someone does rather more constructive that me, I am left with a big doubt that these things never saw operational service.
Correct me with FACTs- if you do have them.

Norman
 
2

Latest posts

Top