IndianaRog and the Temple of Steam

Miniature steam engines by Jensen, Karsten, Stuart & Empire. Lionel & MTH trains. Wind up clocks & watches plus black powder cannons and mortars.


Karsten Steam Turbines

A little about Karsten's Turbines

Unlike the other engines makes in my collection, this maker doesn't have a piece more than 10 years old and some are less than 2 years old as of this writing (Sept 2009).

These pieces are generally NOT available on eBay, in antique stores, flea markets or the other usual sources.  Each example I have was either a private sale, purchased directly from the gent who made them or in a few cases from an online retailer representing the maker's commercialized offerings.

How does something become a "collectible" when it's newer than the car many folks drive including myself?  I guess it happens when word of mouth demand is larger than the supply available.  You see, these engines are all made by a young model steam engineer named Karsten Gintschel of Gintschel-Modellbau, in
Cottbus
, Germany, a part of former East Germany. 

I would never have heard of Karsten's work had it not been for noticing several of his turbine designs in the Steam Gallery website.   Steve, owner of the gallery was not interested in selling his finds and I can understand why.

I don't have examples of all of Karsten's pieces, in part because I simply can't find a few of them I would like, given the low numbers made.  A few of his other pieces just didn't strike a chord with me but I always have an eye out for one that does.

Karsten's offerings have appeared in five distinctive styles...

  1. Early oscillator prototype with ball shaped boiler
  2. Later commercial oscilator with cylindrical boiler and center flue
  3. Rotating SteamBall with opposing jets inspired by Heron of Alexandria's first steam engine
  4. Fixed position SteamBall powering turbine blades in both vertical and horizontal arrays
  5. Joint turbine effort with Jensen Steam Engine Co. 

I have previously had examples of all five types of Karsten turbines and engines, but have since reduced my collection to the ones I really enjoy the most...those in category 3 & 4 above.

If other Karsten collectors are reading this, I'd love to share information and see what you have. 

Heron's Steamball (Aeolipile)

This piece is Karsten's modern interpretation of Heron of Alexandria's Steamball concept.  History books tell us that in retrospect, Heron invented the first steam engine via this concept, but at the time it was a novelty, a toy, and it's potential to move toward an engine of sorts was not realized.

When you look at Karsten's modern version to the right, it strikes me as more of a jet engine or the jet/venturi that spins a turbine.  In this model, Karsten uses his familiar "ball boiler", but instead of a fixed configuration, the ball itself is mounted on bearings that allow it to rotate around an axis.

Two "jets" exit from the top of the ball and in the simplest of physics examples ...the "action" of the steam spewing from the jets causes an equal and opposite "reaction" of the ball rotating away from the direction the jets are spewing. 

The Steamball is a favorite with visitors to my workshop, as it is so simple to understand and visually it's pretty neat to see this thing going like a whirlwind in a cloud of steam !

If there was one Karsten engine or turbine that I think has hit the highest volumes, it would be this one...though "high" is a relative thing, possibly hundreds of them are out there, but doubtful over 1,000.

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Karsten's Ring Turbine (serial # 040)

The next progression for Karsten was to take the Heron's Steamball concept and modify it in such a way that it became his first true turbine offering.   He named it Karsten's Ring and the example I have is #040, one of less than 100 made.  This one I obtained from a private collector.

While it looks much like the Heron's Steamball above, the ball on this one is stationary and the steam jet is directed to a vertically oriented turbine fan.   The burner lies beneath the ball boiler and a shaped copper drip pan lies beneath the turbine.

I really like the looks of this piece and it is my favorite Karsten given it makes a nice visual display, especially under steam as it demonstrates the principals of a steam turbine. 

When time permits, I run Heron's Steamball and Karsten's Ring simultaneously for visitors, taking the learning process from a toy thousands of years ago to a representative tool of today.


In Karsten's early days of making engines, he shipped each one in a custom made wooden box for protection.  These have been replaced with corrogated for his later engines, but the example here shows how he built a bombproof box to hold his jewels !

The circular turbine blade "logo" burned into wood at the start of this section was photographed off the lid of this wooden box. 


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Turbine Saxonia (serial # 024)

Select Karsten models have previously been available from time to time via the U.S. online website: The Great Toy Steam Co. , that is where I got this one.

The Turbine Saxonia represents a noticeable increase in "finish" to a higher standard.  The turbine external parts and burner base are powder coated CNC machined aluminum.  A machined brass ID plate lists the name and serial number in a very professional looking way.

The size of the flame is for the first time controllable by a unique "snuffing" lever to the right, which works quite well.

On the rear of the turbine is a unique to Karsten worm gear for transferring power to a pulley that can then power light weight accessories. 

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Heron's Turbine Ser. No. 001

In 2007 Karsten introduced several completely new designs inspired by the rotating SteamBall concept, but suspended in some unique architectural framework that looks like it was plucked from the Victorian era or borrowed off the Eiffel Tower!

I was fortunate to find one of these 2007 models on eBay and delighted to see it was #001 of the series.  I have several other numbered Karstens, but never the first one. Pictured below is the piece Karsten refers to as: 

Heron's Turbine.


In principal, this operates like the earlier rotating SteamBall /Heron inspired type I already have, but with the unique latticework suspending the rotating boiler.

The overall finish is more professional than in earlier models and bears both a Gintschel Modellbau ID tag and a serial number tag.


The boiler seen closeup below, has also taken on more of a sci fi/flying saucer look with a distinctive lip and riveted, silver soldered seams.  It holds about 15 cc's of water injected into the top.

As in Karsten's prior rotating boiler examples, everything rides on a post suspended on ball bearings.  The fit is so precise that it will rotate for 30 seconds with just a hand spin.




For alcohol burners, Karsten's other pieces have used simple fuel bowls, vertical sets of wicks fed from hidden alcohol reservoirs and now this quite unique and attractive design shown below right. 

The burner has a proper reservoir beneath, with a large single wick in the center.  10-12 cc's of alcohol is injected in the opening seen in the front.

To my surprise, when running, this open "hatch" does not ignite...I don't quite understand why, but maybe air is drawn in there as the fuel is saturating the wick and feeding the flame. 

Given this open "hatch" on the alcohol reservoir, the first time I fired it I had a wet towel handy just in case, but now with 5 or 6 firings, it performs perfectly...a very well executed design.

The following link shows this very same engine featured on Karsten's HomePage...he takes better pics than me for sure !! 

Once lit, the burner produces a very robust flame that will bring the boiler up to operating steam pressure in less than 90 seconds.  Burn time is 5-7 minutes whirling at incredibly high speeds...perhaps 25,000 rpms or more.  Nice one Karsten !!!!

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Karsten Radial Steam Turbine

Another of Karsten's new designs introduced in 2007, but this one joined the Temple in March 2008 via another purchase from Mooseman's collection. 

This one bears a strong resemblance to the Heron's turbine just preceding this one, but differs in that it uses a half arch suspending the boiler over the burner, boiler is fixed in place vs. spinning and turbine itself sits on one end fed by a fine steam line.

I love how this one rapidly gets up to speed...about 70 seconds from lighting the burner the turbine starts to spin.  I have heard that it reaches 20,000 rpms, though I can't confirm that.  It does however go faster than any other Karsten in my collection and does the "jet turbine windup" sound beautifully.

A closeup of the turbine blade...

I'm not quite sure why Moose sold this one off, but I'm delighted with it.

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