Many of the early toy steam engines that were produced in Germany from about 1867 onwards had their boilers supported on a simple tripod arrangement. This led to their German nickname of "Dreibeiner" which may be translated as "three legged". The "Dreibeiners" lasted until about 1900 by which time a more sophisticated type of vertical boiler engine had evolved.
The picture below on the left illustrates a very early German toy in the form of a steam powered fire pump. This lovely old item was made by Schoenner and company and would probably date to the years between 1875 and 1880. The engine that powers the pump is typical of the "Dreibeiners" that were being being produced during the period. What Victorian boy would not have been delighted to find this beauty in his stocking on Christmas morning!
Another example of a "Dreibeiner" is shown in the second picture. This illustration depicts a slightly more elaborate version complete with a whistle and a chimney. The badge on the boiler indicates that this engine was built by Ernst Plank and Company and is likely to have been made sometime between 1885 and 1890.
Since I first saw an illustration of one of these very early steam engines I have always liked the look of them. There is a charming simplicity in their design that appeals to me and I would love to own one. However, even if it could be found, the cost of an original would be far beyond my means.
The only way I could hope to have a "Dreibeiner" in my collection would be to buy or build a modern reproduction.
Inspired By An Early Carette Dreibeiner
This little engine was built by Alan Booth of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England. It was based on a picture of an early Carette that Alan found in a magazine.
It is typical of the "Dreibeiner" engines manufactured in the 1880s and 1890s and is quite different to the design of steam engines normally seen today. I think this model has captured the look of very early steam toys rather well, although it is probably far more solidly constructed than the genuine item was ever likely to have been.