Kinetic Steam Works is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational arts organization working to preserve and promote steam powered heritage, artifacts, and technologies through the restoration of vintage steam engines. We teach the skills and knowledge needed for both steam engine restoration and operation, and we produce artistic performances that utilize steam engines and steam technologies. Steam power is all out in the open. Wood and water, the scrape of shovel, the thump of pistons. Steam power is beautiful, rhythmic, and evocative. It has an accessible organic look and feel, with a calming rhythm similar to a heartbeat. Earthy like an elephant, it can’t be missed.
Kinetic Steam Works is a group of fabricators, engineers, artists and steam enthusiasts curious about what came before the advent of petroleum power, electronics, and the automobile culture. We found machines, simple and intricate, that blurred the line between art and industry, kinetic masterpieces created during an era of diabolical innovation and gleeful invention. The steam engine embodied the ideologies, desires and dreams of its era, of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, a bright and shining future where technology was built by hand. They were the aspirational finned cars and rockets of their day. Most recently, steam has been represented by the romantic industrial arts and the literary movements of retro sci-fi, steampunk, and gothic neo-Victorianism. The arch modernity of the steam-driven Industrial Revolution is a powerful metaphor that explores our present and future through the nostalgic past.
KSW has performed at numerous events including Coachella, The Maker Faire, Burning Man, The Crucible’s Fire Arts Festival, The Edwardian Ball and many others. KSW has been featured by the New York Times, WIRED, the Discovery Channel’s Modern Marvels, KQED’s QUEST, Popular Mechanics, Current TV and others.
Q: Why Steam?
A: Steam power is magical. It’s calming and rhythmic. Steam engines themselves are beautiful, evocative kinetic art structures with the added benefit of being able to do work– kinetic art powering work.
Q: Is steam safe?
A: Anywhere there is heavy machinery, moving parts, fire, heat and pressurized steam, all in combination, there are very real dangers. Safety is paramount to KSW and we work tirelessly to mitigate the risks through proper training and well-serviced machinery. We adhere to strict standards for our personnel and equipment. Our principal engine is subjected to constant scrutiny for safety. Every time we run the engine, we do a full pre-flight inspection of its condition and performance. We take safety so seriously at KSW that we have our boiler inspected annually. In March 2006, the engine received a passing inspection certificate from the State of NV. In March 2007, the engine received a passing inspection certificate from the State of CA. In both years, the State inspectors put our engine through several different types of boiler tests and checked the tolerances of our safety devices. Our steam engineers attend steam engineering classes and gain experience through hands on training. They are not allowed anywhere near the controls until they have demonstrated competency in the basic and advanced protocols off steam boiler and steam engine operation. In short, we know our engines. The boiler certificate remains current (April 2009).
We hope that everyone can enjoy steam power and we will always operate in a safe and responsible manner.
Q: Is steam environmentally friendly?
A: Steam occurs naturally all over the earth in the form of moist thermal heat. We harmoniously gather this steam for use in our engines using special “green bags” made from biodegradable cornstarch, wild harvesting only sustainable amounts of the vapor, leaving enough steam-shoots to harvest next… OK, maybe that’s not quite right. We generate steam the old fashioned way, by heating water. We don’t use nuclear fuel rods or coal. We use hardwood. Ideally, this hardwood is obtained through our sweat when some kind person has a felled tree in their backyard. Virgin firewood or factory-farmed firewood is not our first choice, but we do use it. Currently, in our Case traction engine we burn only clean, seasoned hardwoods.
One of our recent projects was the conversion of a solid fuel burning paddle-wheel steamboat to burn bio-diesel. The conversion was a success, powering the Wilhelmina all the way down the Hudson and beyond.
Q: Is KSW a Burning Man project?
A: We love BM, but we are our own thing with a year round existence & growing community apart from the good folks out on the Black Rock Desert.
Q: Is KSW available for booking?
A: Absolutely! We are more then happy to work with different events and organizations!
Q: Who built your website?
A: We have been very happy with the work done by Jascha Ephraim