The Walking Steam Man


| November/December 1999

  • Walking steam-man

  • Walking steam-man

Androids of various forms have long been in existence, with the earliest ones dating back to the Middle Ages. In the 13th century, Alburtus Magnus invented one of the first known automated iron men. In the Renaissance, androids became very popular; one of the best preserved examples is a mandolin-playing lady attributed to Giannello Torriano of Cremona (c. 1500-1585).

The walking steam-man in the engraving dated 1893, was developed by the Canadian inventor George Moore. Constructed of tin, the body contained a steam boiler supplied with a gasoline engine.

As seen in the cross section, an exhaust pipe led from the engine to the nose of the figure, from whence steam escaped when the machine was in motion. Through the head a smoke flue was carried, allowing the products of combustion to escape from the top of the helmet.

Also contained within the 6 foot tall body was a 3,000 R.P.M. motor and a gear train for motion. The spurs of the figure would catch on the surface on which it was walking and thus give it appropriate traction. The steam-man was connected to the end of a horizontal bar about waist high, which in turn was fastened to a vertical standard in the center of a track.

Thereby supported, the android could walk around in a circle at quite a rapid rate of progress about 5 M.P.H.

The action of the steam-man was said to have been quite a natural phenomenon, with the hip, knee, and ankle motion of the legs faithfully imitating that of human movement. It was also remarked that in full operation it could not be held back by just two men pulling against it.


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