Steam Ball Turbine Group #1
Germany - Manufacture date: 2002
Rotor diameters = 40mm
Boiler Diameters: 1 1/2"
Style: Impulse Rotor and Heron's Aeolipile

Steam Ball Turbines

My next email, much like yours, is very likely to be spam. But once in a while, just when you think unwanted junk mail is all you are ever going to see, a nugget of pure gold appears. Such was the case when I opened an email asking if I was interested in seeing a few miniature turbines. Anyone who has tried to find these elusive little machines knows the odds of such an email bearing fruit are similar to those of winning the Irish Sweepstakes. I replied to the gentleman and he sent me photos. I took one look and my jaw dropped onto the keyboard. Needless to say I had to attempt to negotiate with him to buy these beautiful handmade pieces.

Machina Obscura Turbine

Dimensions: 4" length x 4" width x 6" height
(includes base)

Karsten, the man who is responsible for creating these marvelous little turbines, admitted to having a penchant for old science fiction flicks. The Machina Obscura Turbine is something of a tribute to the old Mad Max and Road Warrior movies. The base plate is mounted in a manner that suspends it above the nicely finished wood base. The low friction ball bearing mounted steam ball boiler / turbine has an extremely low friction feel and rotates as smooth as silk. Add a few HO scale workmen on the catwalks and this engine makes for one very interesting display and my preferred desk toy. I'm quite impressed with the craftsmanship of these engines.

Machina Obscura Turbine

"Simple" Turbine

Dimensions: 4" length x 4" width x 5" height
(includes base)

The "Simple" Turbine, as its name implies, is a simplified version of the impulse rotor style, created with a more limited budget in mind. The turbine was intended to allow even smaller schools to have access to a quality teaching aid. The same attention was given to building this small machine as was spent on the larger more detailed models.

This one was an excellent machine for those of us who find our shelf space getting a wee bit limited. The machine may be small but the visual effect is quite nice when its running.

"Simple" Turbine

The HO scale Turbine Plant

Dimensions: 7" length x 5" width x 5" height
(includes base)

The HO scale Turbine plant is a fascinating example of Karsten's artistic touch with metals. The simple components have been nicely machined to give the impression of some type of steam turbine power generator. This one is the perfect thing to drive your HO railroading buddies wild when they see it as part of a diorama. I chose to get the HO version but Karsten also had an N scale version.

This is a fully functional live steam turbine, but I was warned against trying to run it as part of any railroad setting since the open flame design could be a little tricky around flammables.

The "HO Scale" Impulse Turbine

The HO scale Turbine Plant Heron's Tower

Dimensions: 4" length x 4" width x 6" height

The Heron's tower is a simplified version of the Heron's ring turbine shown elsewhere on this site. It offered another less expensive way to enjoy this historical design. The combination of the open flame and the exhausting steam from the rapidly spinning ball turbine is fun to see.

Karsten seems to have had a flair for taking a simple design and making it exciting to the eye. While the aluminum base is quite simple, this machine uses the same dual ball bearing mounted system as his other machines, but modified to operate in a "freestanding" configuration. Sometimes the simpler a machine is, the more enjoyable the effect of seeing it run. This one qualifies in spades.

Heron's Tower

Many have contacted me in an attempt to purchase turbines from Karsten. After having lost contact with Karsten for an extended period of time, we've been reunited. He's doing very well and has even worked with me to design and launch a new product for the Jensen Steam Engine company. He's becoming better known in the miniature steam community and is being very well received.


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