Single cylinder Horizontal Steam Engine

Single cylinder engine front

This was the first model I built when I re-discovered Meccano building in 1980. This was shortly after I had purchased The Hornby Companion Series book "The Meccano Super Models " Geoff Wright, 1978. At the time my Meccano collection was mainly what I had as a child with a few additional parts purchased on second hand stalls. To build the model I had to purchase some new sprocket chain, 4 of P/N 133 corner brackets and two P/N 50 slide pieces. I remember I had to wait several weeks for the corner pieces as Geoff Wright of M.W. Models in Henley-on-Thames was awaiting a delivery from the Calais Meccano factory. Power for the engine was supplied by my childhood E20R Meccano motor, well geared down.

Drive belt single cylinder engineIn May 2009 I decided to build the model again but this time using 1978 dark blue and yellow parts. It is much the same as the earlier model but since I first built it I guess I have honed my building skills and somewhat increased the parts I have available. Red and green are probably the colours for this model but I think it looks very smart in mainly, shiny, new condition 1978/79 parts. The model is driven by a small modern black 6 volt French motor to a tensioned belt drive to the six inch pulley/flywheel. I replaced the chain drive to the governor, partly because it kept coming off at high speed, using instead a Mamod steel cord belt. As you can see I also filled in the cylinders with flexible plates.

I decided in 2011 to make it hand operated to show at exhibitions. Kids and adults alike love turning a handle and watching something work and that is what Meccano is all about. The model can be seen working on.

original manual

By modern standards it is hardly in the "Super Model" class but it has always been a favourite of mine. The instructions for "The Single Cylinder Horizontal Steam Engine" originally appeared in 1928 as Super Model leaflet No.11 shown above and could be built with the contemporary No. 6 set later the "K set". It was obviously popular as it was updated and reprinted several times. The last time in 1936 showing the then new strip plates, this is the version I originally built and is shown below. Many other versions of this type of engine appeared in Meccano manuals right up to 1978. A few drops of light oil and the engine hums along nicely. Its a lovely little model I think and lends itself to easy modification. Click here or on the image to link to the original instructions.

In 1928 Meccano also made this model available to dealers, ready built as a "demonstration Model " this could be supplied with or without a 6 volt electric motor. The price was at the retail cost of the parts with no charge for labour.


Horizontal steam engines of this type were the work horse of many manufacturing industries through out the 19th century and much of the 20th. The engine would drive many pieces of machinery through a system of belts and pulleys. There is a nice example of this type of engine in the Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke-on-Trent painted red and green.

May 18 2009, Last revised February 02 2018

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