Pop Pop Boats

We are now selling a wonderful selection of very beautiful little Indian tinplate POP POP boats which are particularly popular with the boys…both young and old. We have lots of varieties from tug boats to Broads cruisers, some painted, some hand decorated and some good old silver – all are exquisitely made. They come in some wonderfully kitsch floral print boxes from India. To get a POP POP boat going, you simply fill the pipes with water, place a tiny lit candle on the spoon provided inside the boat, place the boat on water and in a matter of seconds you’ll be pop popping along. Around the globe POP POP’s are also known as Can-Can-boot, Knatterboot, toc-toc, Puf-Puf boat, Poof Poof craft, Phut-Phut, or Pouet-Pouet , we just can’t decide which we like best.

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A pop-pop boat is a toy with a very simple heat engine without  moving parts powered by a candle or oil burner. The name comes from the noise the boats make. Other names are putt-putt boat, crazy boat, flash-steamer, hot-air-boat, pulsating water engine boat. Around the world they may be called Can-Can-boot, Knatterboot, toc-toc, Puf-Puf boat, Poof Poof craft, Phut-Phut, or Pouet-Pouet.

A pop pop boat is powered by a very simple heat engine. This engine consists of a small boiler, which is connected to an exhaust tube. When heat is applied to the boiler, water in the boiler flashes into steam. The expanding steam pushes some of the water in the exhaust tube, propelling the boat forward. The steam bubble then condenses, creating a vacuum which draws water back in through the exhaust tube. The cooled water that is brought back into the boiler is then heated and flashed into steam, and the cycle repeats. This constant flashing and cooling cycle of the engine creates the distinctive “pop pop” noise for which the boat is named.

Credit for the first pop pop boat is usually given to a Frenchman named Thomas Piot. In 1891, Piot filed a patent application in the UK for a simple pop pop boat using a small boiler and two exhaust tubes. A 1975 article by Basil Harley mentions a similar boat seen in a French journal from 1880, indicating that this type of toy may have existed for many years prior to Piot’s patent.

Pop pop boats were popular for many years, especially in the 1940s and 1950s. Pop pop boats declined in popularity along with other tin toys in the latter half of the 20th century as plastic toys took over much of the market. While they are no longer produced in as large of numbers, pop pop boats continue to be produced.

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