Birk Petersen built this miniature Bourbouze beam engine (magnetic coil engine). In 1845, one industrious entrepreneur by the name of Bourbouze wanted to capitalize on the electric coil solenoid effect in a grand manner. He envisioned solenoid driven crankshaft engines powered by rooms full of batteries as an alternative to steam power. Bourbouze removed the cylinder, piston and valve system from a steam engine, and replaced them with a large electric coil, a plunger, and a switch arrangement for timing. The engine worked, but there wasn’t enough sulfuric acid and zinc available for the batteries to meet power needs—at least not compared to coal. So, like many early ideas and inventions, the electromagnetic engine was short lived.

Mr. Petersen created a vast array of projects over his lifetime, ranging from miniature engines to hand-cranked animations and more. He built functional miniatures like a 1/3 scale Gatling gun or a 1/4 scale Case steam tractor, but he also built mechanical creations for the fun and enjoyment of his family. When Birk passed away in 2015, his family graciously donated over 150 items from his collection for display at the Miniature Engineering Craftsmanship Museum, where they are currently on display. We thank the Petersen family for sharing his extensive collection, which demonstrates the broad interests and many talents of Birk Petersen.

Exhibit added: May 7, 2016 - Last modified: January 19, 2024

Presented by The Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship