Ever since I discovered that there’s a company called Wilesco that makes working miniature steam engines and steam vehicles, I have wanted one. But, of course, they are very expensive. Steam engines ain’t cheap...
So I decided that if I can’t afford a Wilesco steam tractor, then I’ll build my own out of my most abundant resource: Lego. Except that instead of using a boiler, I’m powering mine with a vacuum cleaner. Because 1) Lego, boiling water, and fire don’t really mix, and 2) poorly made boilers can explode and that scares me. Vacuum cleaners generally have a low risk of explosion, so I find that option much more appealing. After lots of self-destructive prototypes, I’ve ended up with this:
Aside from the lack of a boiler, my Lego vacuum engine works pretty much the same way a regular steam engine works. It’s got one big rectangular cylinder with a slide valve off to the side, which is set up in such a way that it can switch what side of the piston it’s sucking on, so every stroke is a power stroke. For a hose between the vacuum cleaner and the tractor, I’m using a pool noodle, because that’s the best thing I had on hand. It’s not the most elegant solution, but it works. It also has working steering, with the steering wheel connected to the front wheels via universal joints, and a little yellow lever in the back that moves a couple of gears, allowing me to engage and disengage the drive wheels from the engine depending on whether I want it to move or not.
So without further ado, here’s video of it running:
It’s even powerful enough that it could probably do a bit of work! Even though it has a tendency to self-destruct if the piston’s not connected perfectly, it’s proving to be a really fun thing to mess around with while cooped up indoors. So for that reason, I’m calling it a success :)