Birk built this model of Robert Stirling’s first hot air engine. It has a brick façade on the metal housing. The Stirling heat cycle engine was invented by Robert Stirling, a Scottish minister. It was originally conceived in 1816 as an industrial prime mover to rival the steam engine. However, its practical use was largely confined to low power domestic applications for over a century. Stirling engines have a high efficiency compared to steam engines, being able to reach 50% efficiency. They are also remarkably quiet, and can use almost any heat source. The heat energy source is generated external to the Stirling engine, rather than internal combustion. Though Stirling engines have been built in many configurations over the centuries, this model duplicates Stirling’s first design.

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 24, 2024

Presented by The Joe Martin Foundation for Exceptional Craftsmanship