Steamboat Billy!


A couple of years ago, I was wandering through a market on a small pacific island. A stall was selling little tin boats. “Really works by jet engine!” the man claimed. Yeah! Yeah! I bought one for about $5 and thought little more about it. I found it in a cupboard the other day and decided to test it. Wow! Steamboat Billy, dear friends, is a fine tribute to the creativity of the human mind. The designer’s ingenuity together with the boat’s overriding tininess and appealing putt-putting noise raise it to “beautiful stuff” status! I just love it! And there is not a single moving part!

This wonderful little toy is a bit of an orphan. Who designed it? Why? Who made it? Where? When? But most importantly, can anyone out there explain how Steamboat Billy works?

3 thoughts on “Steamboat Billy!

  1. My 5 pennies are that the density of the heated air must play a role, the same way a hot-hair balloon is propelled + the tin must also go under some sort of elasticity process at a molecular level… Better ask an engineer 😉

  2. They are listed as being sold at the Nelson Saturday Market but put put boats or pop pop boats are found throughout India and Asia as well. The steam boat Billy brand is NZ made as stated above.
    My mum got my son one a couple years ago at the nelson market but my dad said they hadn’t seen them again at the market after then.
    The way they work is you fill the pipes with water filling the boiler, the flame heats the water creating steam that only has one way to go out which is through the pipes propelling the boat that then creates a vacuum in the boiler which sucks in more water and you have a self perpetuating system.

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