The horseless vehicle seems to have had a conception with the dawn of steam power, for Roger Bacon predicted the coming power of steam in road and marine propulsion. The dream lay dormant for a few centuries, with an occasional spasmodic repetition and day dreams of reading, sailing and flying, until the dawn of the patent period, when, in i6i8, Ramsey foreshadowed road traction in a steam engine patent. Spring power had already been tried in Germany, and wind power for driving vehicles was being used to considerable extent on the flat plains of the Netherlands. Still slumbering, steam-road propulsion took a suggestion from Sir Isaac Newton about i680 of a road wagon with a steam boiler with a rearward jet of steam blowing against the air, and which was claimed to have been accomplished before this time by Father Verbiest, a missionary at Pekin, China, by placing an aeolipile with jets playing upon a revolving winged wheel geared to the wheels of a car.
Nearly a century later but little progress had been made further than conjectural projects for road locomotion. Following the slow progress of the steam engine by Papin, i698, Savery and others. Dr. Robinson in i759 suggested to Watt the application of the steam engine for road carriages , but Watt was too busy to give it attention, and the idea slumbered with him for twenty-five years. The pro ject was revived in successive years by Dr. Darwin and Boulton, Watt's partner, ending only in suggestions. Moore and Small kept the subject in agitation, and together, with Edgeworth, brought the period of the ideal horseless carriage down to i770 in England. Meanwhile automobile propulsion was making ideal progress on the continent, and in i769 Cugnot had constructed a running steam wagon. It was in reality a tricycle, the front single wheel being driven by a pair of cylinders acting upon a crank shaft and geared by ratchets to the wheel shaft.
The boiler and engine overhung the forward wheel, which was also the steering wheel. This, the first actual horseless vehicle, made a speed of 2 1/4 miles per hour, and was appreciated in military circles as a wonderful machine until it displayed erratic conditions b) running into fences and walls.
Not daunted by these accidents, Cugnot, under patronage ol the minister ol war, built an improved and more powerful road wagon which was finished in 1770. It is still preserved in the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers in Paris, France.
The improved road locomotive, as it was then called, consisted of a rear frame supported on two wheels, pivoted to the forked frame and bearing frame with steering sector of the 50-inch driving wheel, upon which the boiler and engine rested. The copper boiler had an internal furnace with two small copper chimneys passing up through the top of the boiler.
It had two single-acting cylinders with pistons connected to occillating arms with pawls acting on ratchet wheels fixed to the driving wheel axle. Thus each stroke of a piston made a quarter revolution of the driving wheel. This roadster showed overloading on the single driving wheel and came to grief by overturning in rounding a corner. In England, the fire of practical work in road locomotion slumbered with an occasional fanning by Murdock, Watt and Symington, which culminated only in working models. About i786, Sadler of Oxford, England, was experimenting in the application of steam to road vehicles, when he was cautioned that Watt's patent covered the principles of the application of steam power for the propulsion of road vehicles . This seems to have stopped progress for awhile in England — although advocates and inventors were never out of the field.
In the United States, Oliver Evans seems to have been the first to advocate and obta: privileges in Pennsylvania and Maryland, to operate ste?: road wagons about 1787. His venture resulted in a combined boat and road wagon built in 1805.
Charles Dallery, in France, followed in Evans' example with a small steamboat on wheels. Nathaniel Read, Warren, Mass., patented a road steam carriage in 1790. Nothing further than a working model resulted.
Trevithick made a further advance by building and running a steam road carriage in i802. After experimental runs in and out of London, it was finally dismantled and the engine sold for mill use.
Road locomotion seems to have slumbered during the war period in Europe, with a few spasmodic efforts in the way of patents issued to Griffith, Brown, Burstall, Hill and others from i82i to i824. Some of these patents covered the push-foot idea which was probably derived from the duck-foot paddles of the early years of steamboat experiments , of which Fig. 5 is an example of Gordon's Walking Carriage, which, after several years fruitless trials, was abandoned as an impractical system.
The movement, it will be seen, was made by a push-foot connection from a three-throw crank-shaft and the lifting and dropping of the feet by a smaller three-throw crank-shaft revolving in unison with the larger one. Griffith built a steam carriage about i822, in which the
exhaust was to be condensed in thin metal tubes exposed to a circulation of air. It never had a road trial. In the Burstall & Hill carriage an attempt was made to make all the wheels drivers by a fore and aft shaft with bevel gears. It could make but a four-mile speed and after a few trials, various changes were made resulting in detaching the boiler from the main body upon a pair of drag wheels. It was not a success. The first road coach that seemed to have been run with any success in England was built by W. H. James, patronized by Sir J. Anderson, in
1829. This was a regular coach in form and attained a speed of i5 miles per hour. James built a number of steam carriages and tractor engines. Several patents in England and the United States followed this period, with a few spasmodic trials on the road in England. Summers and Ogle, in England, built steam carriages with drop-tube boilers, similar to those now used on American fire engines, advancing the construction to enable a speed of 24 miles per hour.
Sir Goldsworthy Gurney commenced building road locomotives about 1822 with improved methods derived from the experience and failure of contemporaries. Some of his coaches and carriages were run for passengers and hire on the public highways.
He met with severe opposition from the authorities by high tolls and obstructions, and finally abandoned the business.
In Fig. 8 is shown one of Gurney's steam carriages in elevation with an independent steering wheel, which was soon abandoned as impracticable.
In Fig. 9 is an elevation of the modified carriage, and in Fig. 10 a plan of the running gear. Contemporaneous and following Gurney's trials. Hancock seems to have made considerable advance in the construction of boilers and engines suitable for vehicles, a number of which were built extending over the time from i83 to i840, carriages, omnibuses and tractors being seen on the roads
about London. One of his styles of omnibus is shown in Fig. 11. In this type of vehicle the vertical tubular boiler with magazine fuel feed and a blower was brought into use to control the steam. The chain and sprocket gear with inverted engine, all indicating an advance towards more modern economies.
Hancock's vehicles seem to have taken the lead in England during this period, forming lines of steam omnibuses from London to Islington, Haddington, Stratford and much within the city. Speeds of i0 to i2 miles per hour was the practice and about 20 miles as a spurt on the best roads. The decade, 1830-1840, was an era of flotation of companies for road locomstion in England, the schemes being mostly promoted by speculators who had, perhaps, nothing better than worthless patents on which to base their claims for public favor.
Colonel Maceroni, an Italian resident in England, with Mr. Squire, patented a vertical tubular boiler which was a rapid generator and capable of a working pressure of i50 pounds. A steam carriage was soon built, described to be
a simple and efficient machine with an average speed of 16 miles per hour. This carriage plied daily between Paddington and Edgeware for several weeks, and during a run aggregating 1,700 miles required no repairs.
Fig. 12 shows the general appearance of Maceroni's vehicle with the chain and sprocket connection from the engine shaft to the driving wheels. It was a nine-passenger vehicle and driven from cylinders 7 by 15! inch.
One of Maceroni's steam carriages was run in Paris, and one in Belgium, in 1834-5. Maceroni was starved out by frauds, and a general steam carriage company undertook to construct carriages involving his patents, by other parties. We notice but one carriage, a steam drag, running in Paris previous to i840, made by Deitz.
J. Scott Russell, in England, built a half dozen steam coaches in the latter part of this decade and operated them in Scotland and in London. Opposition by the turnpike companies was still rampant and culminated in the destruction of one of his coaches. Fig. 13 represents one of J.
Scott Russell's coaches which continued on the roads until about 1857. The compensating gear appeared about 1834, invented by Roberts, of Manchester, which appears to have involved the principles of many following devices for relieving the strain on the driving wheels when rounding curves. A common name in England for this device was "Jack in the Box," so named probably from its hidden mechanism. It superseded the claw clutches that had been previously used; illustrations of which are shown in the details in other chapters.
The principle forms of compensating gear in use at this time, apart from the wheel ratchets are represented in Figs. 14, 15 and 16. A central through shaft had the cranks keyed on at right angles. The differential bevel wheels on a cross arm or frame were fastened on the central shaft. The wheels and counter bevel gears were fixed on sleeve shafts running freely on the central shaft and abutting against the shoulders of the cranks and gear cross arm.
In Fig. 15 is represented another form in which the arm carrying the differential bevel pinions was made a gear or sprocket wheel, in which E D, is the revolving axle divided at the center.
A is the driving gear or sprocket, attached to a frame or "Jack-box," which is fitted to and moves freely on the axle and carrying with it the small bevel pinions, B, which may be one but preferably two, to more perfectly balance the mechanism. The bevel pinions, C C, are fixed one to each section of the shaft. This differential gear as used on a traction engine is shown in Fig. 16. This form is also applicable to a crank connection and reducing gear for any form of vehicle.
One wheel and one bevel gear are fixed to the axle. The other wheel with its bevel gear runs loose on the axle. The driving-spur gear, with its differential pinions , runs freely on the sleeve of the fixed bevel gear. The long pin serves to lock the loose wheel to the driving-spur gear, making the locked wheel take a positive motion, and locking the differential system for a straight run.
Hill and Anderson were still ardent promoters of the steam coach industry, and several companies were operating coach routes in England, when, from i840 to i857, anintereg
num seemed to have fallen upon this industry for several years, when a revival seems to have commenced in England, France and the United States. The steam vehicle construction previous to this time seems to have drifted almost entirely toward large coaches of capacity for from 12 to 20 passengers.
In the United States the lighter carriages for private use had their first trials in a small steam carriage built by J. K. Fisher, in New York, in i853, having two cylinders, 4 by i0 inches, and a water-tube boiler. This carriage attained a speed of i5 miles per hour on good roads. Richard Dudgeon built a small steam carriage with two cylinders, 3 by 16 inches, that made a speed of 10 miles per
hour. It was destroyed in the New York Crystal Palace fire in 1858. Progress was very slow in the United States, while in England road locomotives and traction engines seems to have taken the lead, and a large industry sprung up for foreign demand.
The use of steam on common roads in both England and on the Continent seems to have drifted away from passenger traffic and more to traction vehicles, some for drawing passenger coaches. One of the many traction engines of various types of this decade, i860 to 1870, is shown in Fig. 17. This road steamer, it may be seen, had a vertical drop tube, or what was named in England the Field boiler. The cylinders were 8 by i0 inches, with crank shaft geared to 6foot driving wheels. The boiler had ii square feet of grate and 177 square feet of heating surface. The wheels had India rubber sectional tires, with linked shoes. Speed, 7 to i0 miles per hour.
In 1873, Loftus Perkins exhibited at the International Exposition, South Kensington, England, a novel steam road wagon with three wheels. A single broad rubber-tired wheel in front and two trailing wheels. The engine, boiler, and all the machinery was placed on a frame encircling the single driving-wheel, and turned with it in steering the vehicle. This construction seems to have gone back a hundred years, for it was much after Cugnot's ideas in Fig. i. The advance was in a compound engine, if by 3J by 4^inch cylinders, working with 450 pounds steam pressure, with an engine speed up to 1,000 revolutions per minute. The vehicle drew a small truck or tender on which was an atmospheric condenser made of very small thin tubes which not only condensed the steam but rendered its operation practically noiseless. It was in use for two or three years, and had sufficient power to draw a loaded coach 2i miles in three hours, including stops. The boiler was one of Perkins' high pressure tubular type.
Mackensie, in England, built and operated a steam brougham in i874, driven by two cylinders, 3f by 4$ inches, with sprocket chain gear and change gear for two speeds. He used a drop tube or Field boiler 2 feet in diameter, 4 feet high, working at i35 pounds pressure. Steam road enterprise for pleasure carriages seems to have taken the back seat from this on for several years until the petroleum and electric industry gave a new impulse to road locomotion.
A few spasmodic efforts still continued, however, in Europe and in the United States. Lee and Larned built a steam-propelled fire engine in New York in i863. John A. Reed built a steam wagon in i863 and operated it on the Western prairies. Frank Curtis, of Newburyport, Mass., built and ran a steam buggy in 1867.
Carrett, Yarrow, Hayball, Tangye, Todd and others built and operated steam road carriages of improved forms and machinery in England in the decade following 1860. Steam road locomotion, however, continued to improve in its application to industrial uses for haulage and steam plowing in Europe and the United States. The steam road roller became a most important element in road improvement and a source of power in the building of good roads. It has now become a necessity for road building and repairing , employing large numbers in every civilized country.