e-Zee (Little) Steam Engines~~~Free Building Plans

A curriculum support site providing free lab-project plans for technical students, their teachers and others interested in applied mechanical engineering.


SPECIAL NOTE: Tripod generously provides this web space free: unfortunately, they do not provide unlimited bandwidth. This site has been fairly popular and as a result, it has occasionally overused the free bandwidth provided. If you have trouble re-reaching this site, wait a few hours and try again! If you have continous problems reaching this site, e-mail me (nmccabe@ccm.edu)and I will try to provide you with info via an alternate route. You may also wish to record "www.npmccabe.org" which is a URL I own (and I can set up as a "redirect" if needed).   

Brought to you by County College of Morris Engineering Tech Department, Randolph, N.J.(scroll down for info and plans on steam engines) 

    super member site


My country: Land of the free.....Home of the brave.....

These pages are designed to provide plans, ideas and inspiration to would-be steam engine enthusiasts. Our goal is to draw folks into the area of mechanical engineering by showcasing projects that won’t scare off the neophyte (and nothing would please us more than attracting new enthusiasts that eventually outgrow these simple ideas, and move onto the fancier engines and other projects).

Who might use some of these ideas and plans? We think hobbyists, inventors, tinkers, engineers, crafters, group leaders (like Scout leaders or after school clubs), junior/senior high school teachers (especially in the science, vocational or technology areas) and community college instructors (again, in the science and tech areas). The designs shown (mostly) emphasis simple construction……you won’t need a full-scale machine shop to build most of them……several can be built using basic hand tools and an electric hand drill. Many use easy-to-get materials (one engine uses a wood base, a wood main bearing and a coat-hanger wire crankshaft). We know there are many more sophisticated and clever engine designs available…….our designs are supposed to be simple, easy-to-fabricate, and easy-to-understand. Remember……our goal is to draw people into this area……not scare them off.   

Why would anyone be interested in the steam engine? (after all, it is 400 year old technology). As far as age is concerned, modern computers were developed using 2000 year old mathematics. Also......observation of steam engines allowed early engineers to develop numerous scientific principles in such areas as statics, kinematics, thermodynamics and material science......these principles are still part of engineering education.  Simply stated, the steam engine is a great tool for explaining many complex engineering principles and theories. The term “steam engine”, as used here, means engines that operate on the general principles of conventional (traditional) piston-type steam engines. The internet has many good sources of information on small IC (internal combustion) engines, Stirling engines, small turbines, and other alternative  power plants; we haven’t addressed any of those here. 

Note that some of the pages provide pictures, construction notes and actual plans while other pages provide only pictures and construction notes. Even without precise plans, we know some of you can build things "by eyeing up" the photos and reading the text. We’ve also included a few non-engine projects that may have some appeal.  

All engines here are designed to be run on compressed air (typically 5 to 20 psi) but of course, they could be run on steam (a page discussing a simple boiler is included). Generally, for safety reasons, I would not recommend the use of steam for these engines; from an educator’s viewpoint, the operating principles  are just as well illustrated using compressed air. For those with no ready source of compressed air, an automobile tire can be used as a compressed air “storage tank”. Fill the tire with no more than 40 psi. When ready for use, loosen the valve core until air just leaks out. Place a length of rubber tubing (such as fuel line hose or surgical tubing) over the valve stem. Use a small hose clamp to hold the hose onto the stem. Air can be “regulated” by pinching the hose with a small “C” clamp or vise-grips. As an alternative to the above, you can also “hook up” to a “spare-tire storage tank” using the hose and connector from a discarded “Fix-A-Flat” can or the hose and connector from an old bicycle pump.  

Many of you will be interested in printing out some of the plans available. The easiest method is to simply click the “printer icon” at the top of this page (but this may result in printing a bunch of other stuff you don’t wish to print). A nice and simple alternate method is to save just the plans……then you’ll be able to print them by themselves. I’d suggest you save them to a 3 ½” floppy disk (then it’s easier to share them with others, or print them on a different computer). To do this, place the mouse pointer over the plans (approximately in the middle is best)……then right click. A dialog box will appear with various choices. Pick “save image as”. This will result in another dialog box that will let you choose where to save it (again at this point, I’d suggest saving it to a 3 ½ “ floppy disk……you can also rename it at this point). Once it’s saved to a floppy, you can view or print it by double clicking on “My Computer” on the desktop. From “My Computer”, double click on “3 ½ “ floppy”……then double click on the file you’ve saved. Once it’s in view, click on “File” and then “print”. Sometimes it’s a good idea to go to “print preview” to see how it will look (“esc” gets you out of “preview”). You may also want to print some of these plans in “landscape” instead of “portrait”. Incidentally, most image files on this site are in the popular “jpg” format.  

The plans and prints available were mostly drawn by community college CAD students……not surprisingly, some are better than others but (in our opinion) most are sufficiently good enough to be used for construction purposes……there may be minor errors here and there……I think we’ve caught most of the inconsistencies but, just in case, look them over before you start cutting metal. If you spot any glaring errors (or have any clever suggestions to improve a design) send us a note. If you're looking for really top-notch, complex steam engine plans (and are willing to pay for them), we'd suggest the various books available through "The Village Press". 

Most of these images were originally done on AutoCAD (14 or 2000). This site is not set up to download the original AutoCAD “dwg” files……for a variety of reasons, we’ve decided not to make the original CAD “dwg” files available.  

You may freely copy and distribute these plans for non-commercial use……we have no interest in copyrighting them (most “copyrights” on the internet are fake anyway). You will notice that many of the prints have a “watermark” crediting our college department (CCM Engineering)……if you do make copies, we ask you to leave the “watermark” on.


Why have we created this site? There are several reasons:


1.      To promote our own CCM Engineering Tech program (hence the “watermark”)

2.    To promote community college Engineering Technology programs in general. Engineering Technology has always been about "hands on" learning, "project based" assignments, "team approach" classrooms, and "outcome oriented" studies. Other areas in education are finally catching on to these ideas.......but in Engineering Technology", these "new ideas" are "old hat".

3.    To introduce people (especially young people) to the area of mechanical engineering. Most of us who are (ahem!) a bit older, will remember when cars, appliances, lawn mowers, etc. were repairable. We watched our fathers (and sometimes Mothers, Uncles, Aunts, etc) actually fix these things. Kids in today’s world have much less exposure to things mechanical……their world seems to be a “cyber-virtual-video” cacophony of computer / internet activity. Funny thing is……much of this computer simulation is a poor attempt to replicate the real thing (I’m a pilot……MS Flight Simulator is a snooze compared to real flying). Anyway, mechanisms represented by computerized animation are often antiseptic and lifeless. A real steam engine, clattering and wheezing away at 500 RPM, is far more alive and interesting……and kids brought up on “computer-reality”  often view “real-reality” as new and different (perhaps “reality” is the ultimate tool for downloading informational data……but somehow, I think a lot of us knew that already). Please do not assume that we are modern day Luddites, pining for “the good old days”……we love modern technology such as CAD, CNC, the internet, etc…….computer related technology is a wonderful support tool for training: but it’s worthless if students skip “the basics” in order to get to “the computers”. Ultimately I suppose, this is our attempt to return a more pragmatic approach for teaching students about mechanical engineering……a nice mix of “back to basics” and “new technology”.


Finally, we'd like to thank all our CCM Mechanical Engineering Technology students for contributing so much work to this site. We really appreciate their efforts.

Prof. Nial McCabe 

Links to Engines


A simple, oscillating engine with a cylinder slanted at 45 degrees    text, pictures and plans.


A nice, oscillating engine with a cylinder slanted at 30 degrees    text and plans.


A V4 engine    text and pictures.


A neat 3 cylinder motor    text, pictures, plans.


A sharp little vise for your mini-mill    text and pictures.


CNC Pliers    text, pictures, plans and CNC code (a non-engine)

An Arrow Straighter    text and picture (a non-engine)

A Coat Hanger Engine     text and picture

A re-make of the famous (old) Husky    text, picture and plans

An Oscillating Engine (pg.1)  text and plans for small oscillating engine

An Oscillating Engine (pg.2)    more text and plans for small oscillating engine

The Jingle Bell Motor    text, plans and picture

The McCabe Runner    text, picture and plans (our most popular engine)

The strange McGoose Engine    text and picture

The Mysterious McPopper Engine    text and pictures

Another Oscillating Engine   text and pictures

The Pinvise (a non-engine)    text, pictures and plans

Simple Pliers (another non-engine)    text, picture and plans

An Upside-down Oscillator    text, pictures and plans (recently edited)

The Classic V-Block (non-engine)    text, picture and plans

The V-Twin (our little Harley)    text and picture

The Goofy Wood Wheeler   text and pictures

The Bett-Zee Engine   text, pictures and plans

The Court-Zee Engine  text, pictures and very basic plans

The Mer-Zee Engine   text, pictures and primitive plans

A Quick and Dirty Flywheel   text, picture and basic plans

The e-Zee Engine   text, line drawing and plans

A Simple Boiler   text and basic plans 

Our Butterfly ( a non-engine)     text, picture and link

Our Engine Display     text and picture

The Mark-Zee Engine     text and picture

The Paul-Zee Engine     text, picture and some plans

A Very Old Design     text and plans

A Alternate "McCabe's Runner"     text and plans

The Tom-Zee Engine    text and plans

The Twin Runner     text and pictures

Where Do I Get "Steam" Without a Boiler?...some ideas     text and pictures

Non-steam student projects from my previous (non-college) career.     text and pictures

Other Steam Links

Engineering Technology at an NJ community college    Find out what CCM "Engineering Technology" is all about

N. McCabe's Home Page    Return to my main homepage

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