East German (DDR) Steam Toys

EPD Engine

Probably one of my most intriguing engines, and virtually unknown outside Germany. I saw this one in pieces on an eBay auction, and as it is an unknown, and no-one in their right mind can call this engine pretty, I got it for a song. It is a very heavy engine, the base is some sort of cast alloy, the boiler is thick plated steel, the burner is enormous - the thing is literally built like a tank. Note the details like the small handwheel valves that operate the steam flow and the whistle.

I bought this engine because something about it looked Jensen-ish, so I started to a little research, and fairly quickly established that this was probably an engine made in the former DDR - Socialist East Germany, for those of you who weren't around in the before the wall came down. The only DDR engines I know of were made by a company called "VEB Merbelsrod", so I started casting about for information about this firm. This led me to the "wanted" section of the German eBay, where there was a chap looking for anything made by this firm - an email was swiftly dispatched.

Within hours I had a reply from a gentleman by the name of Thomas Hesse, who, quite helpfully, turned out to be an English teacher - not only is his English a lot better than my school German, it's also better than my English! He turned out to be a very nice guy indeed, and an absolute fount of knowledge on engines from both East and West Germany. His first reaction was, paraphrasing: "are you seriously telling me you found this engine in London??"

Turns out that this engine was made in Dresden, by a firm called EPD, which stands for "Eberhard Pässler, Dresden"....they made some toys, household appliances, and two steam engines. This one, probably called the "D01" is the smaller one....Thomas showed me a picture of the bigger one, and it's a beast!. EPD ceased production of steam engines in 1963, not sure when they started, so this engine is hard to date - early sixties would be an educated guess. EPD continued on to 1990 making domestic appliances.

As I said earlier, this is not a "pretty" engine - it is grey and drab, and hugely over-engineered, which is precisely what I find so appealing about it.


In 2022 I gave the engine a cosmetic overhaul, got rid of the random blobs of solder and made a little tray for the condensate:

It's a smooth, quiet runner. Not very powerful, but very satisfying.