A Horseless Carriage of
Scientific AmericanOctober 5, 1895
Reprinted from the London ObserverDecember
In the London Observer of December 9, 1827, appeared a description
of a steam carriage invented by Mr. Gurney, and which is said
to have been successfully tried in Regent's Park. As shown in
the accompanying views, for which we are indebted to the Engineer,
it will be seen that the vehicle was designed to serve the purposes
of the horseless carriages on which so many inventors are now
at work. The description of this steam carriage, written nearly
seventy years ago, embraced the following interesting details
It has a tubular boiler, constructed upon philosophical principles,
and upon a plan totally distinct from anything previously in use.
Instead of being, as in ordinary cases, a large vessel closed
on all sides with the exception of the valves and steam conductors,
which a high pressure or accidental defect may burst, and involve
in destruction those in its neighborhood, it is composed of a
succession of welded iron pipes, perhaps forty in number, screwed
together in the manner of the common gas pipes, at given distances,
extending in a direct line and in a row, at equal distances from
a small reservoir of water, to the distance of about a yard and
a half, and then curving over in a semicircle of about half a
yard in diameter, returning in parallel lines to the pipes beneath,
to a reservoir above, thus forming a sort of inverted horseshoe.
This horseshoe of pipes, in fact, forms the boiler, and the
space between is the furnace, the whole being inclosed with sheet
iron. The advantage of this arrangement is obvious, for, while
more than a sufficient quantity of steam is generated for the
purposes required, the only possible accident that could happen
would be the bursting of one of these barrels and a temporary
diminution of the steam power to one-fortieth part. The effects
of the accident could, of course, only be (felt within its own
inclosure, and the engineer could, in ten minutes, repair the
injury by extracting the wounded barrel and plugging up the holes
at each end, for which purpose he would be provided with the proper
materials; but the fact is, that such are the proofs to which
these barrels are subjected before they are used, by the application
of a steam pressure 500 times more than can ever be required,
that the accident, trifling as it is, is scarcely possible; and
the boiler now in use in Mr. Gurney's premises, on a similar construction,
has remained as sound as ever after being at work every day for
two years. Having thus described the boiler, we hope intelligibly,
and having, we trust, removed all prejudice on that head, we shall
now endeavor to render the other details equally clear. The boiler,
we need hardly tell our readers, is the seat of the vital principle
in the steam engine, for without that steam could not be engendered,
and of course the works must stand stillour scientific friends
will excuse us for being thus diffuseand it will appear
not a little singular that Mr. Gurney, who was educated a medical
man, has actually made the construction of the human body and
of animals in general the model of his invention. His reservoirs
of steam and water, or rather "separators," as they
are called, and which are seen at the end of our plate, are, as
it were, the heart of his steam apparatus, the lower pipes of
the boiler are the arteries and the upper pipes the veins.
The water, which is the substitute for blood, is first sent
from the reservoirs into the pipes, the operation of fire soon
produces steam, which ascends through the pipes to the upper part
of the reservoir, carrying with it a portion of water into the
separators, which, of course, descends to the lower part, and
returns to fill the pipes which have been exhausted by the evaporation
of the steamthe steam above pressing it down with elastic
force, so as to keep the arteries or pipes constantly full, and
preserve a regular circulation. In the center of the separators
are perforated steam pipes, which ascend nearly to the tops, these
tops being, of course, hermetically closed, so as to prevent the
escape of steam. Through these pipes the steam descends with its
customary force, and is conducted by one main pipe all along under
the carriage to the end of the platform, which is, in point of
fact, the water tank, where it turns under till it reaches two
large branch pipes which communicate with the cylinders, from
which the pistons move and give motion to the machinery. The cranks
of the axle are thus set in action, and the rotary movement is
given to the wheels. By the power thus engendered also a pump
is workedwhich is more clearly explained in our referencesand
which, by means of a flexible hose, pumps the water into the boiler,
keeping the supply complete. The tank is to be replenished at
the end of certain stages by a very simple process; but it is
calculated that it will hold sufficientsixty gallonsfor
one boiler is also calculated to contain a sufficient supply of
coke or charcoal for a similar period, and may be fed with equal
So much for the boiler and its adjuncts, and now to the coach
itself. In point of form, this vehicle is similar to the ordinary
stage coaches, but rather larger and stands higher, the roof being
nine feet from the ground.
The seats for the outside passengers areas usual; and here
it may be asked, whether those who ride in the back seats are
not liable to be annoyed by the smoke from the chimneys of the
furnace? To which we say no; for in the first instance, there
is no smoke, coke or charcoal only being used; in the second,
the chimneys are above the level of the seated passenger; and
lastly, the motion of the carriage will always disperse the heated
rarefied air coming from the flues.
The present carriage would carry conveniently six inside and
fifteen outside passengers, independent of the guide, who is also
the engineer. In front of the coach is a very capacious boot,
while behind, that which assumes the appearance of a boot is the
case for the boiler and the furnace, from which, we may add, no
inconvenience whatever is experienced by the outside passenger,
although in cold weather a certain degree of heat may be obtained
if required. The length of the vehicle from end to end is 15 feet,
and with the pole and pilot wheels 20 feet. The diameter of the
hind wheels is 5 feet, of the front wheels 3 feet 9 inches, and
of the pilot wheels 3 feet. There is a treble perch by which the
machinery is supported, and beneath which two propellers in going
up a hill may be set in motion, somewhat similar to the action
of a horse's legs under similar circumstances, which assist the
power of the engine in forcing the carriage to the summit, in
case of snow, etc.
The total weight of the carriage and all its apparatus is estimated
at one and a half tons, and its wear and tear of the road, as
compared with a carriage drawn by four horses, is as 1 is to 6;
the mischief done by the four horses, the feet of which act as
picks, being five times greater. When the carriage is in progress
the machinery is not heard, nor, is there so much vibration as
in an ordinary vehicle, from the superior solidity of the structure.
The engine has a 12 horse power, but may be increased to 16; while
the actual power in use, except in ascending a hill, is 8 horse.
Explanation of Fig. 1.1. The guide and engineer.
2. Handle which guides the pole and pilot wheels. 3. Pilot wheels.
4. Pole. 5. Fore boot for luggage. 6. "Throttle valve"
of the main steam pipe. 7. Tank for water, running from end to
end, and the full breadth of the carriage; it will contain sixty
gallons of water. 8. Carriage, capable of holding six inside passengers.
9. Outside passengers, of which the present carriage will carry
fifteen. 10. Hind boot, containing the boiler and furnace. The
pipes extend from the cylindrical reservoir of water at the bottom
to the cylindrical chamber for steam at the top, forming a succession
of lines something like a horseshoe turned edgeways. The steam
enters the "separators" through large pipes, which are
observable on the plan, and is thence conducted to its proper
destination. 11. " Separators." 12. Pump. 13. Main steam
pipe. 14. Flues of the furnace, four in number. 15. Perches, of
which there are three, conjoined, to support the machinery. 16.
Cylinders; there is one between each perch. 17. Valve motion,
admitting steam alternately to each side of the pistons. 18. Cranks,
operating on the axle. 19. Propellers, which, as the carriage
ascends a hill, are set in motion, and move like the hind legs
of a horse, catching the ground and then forcing the machine forward,
increasing the rapidity of its motion and assisting the steam
power. 20. The drag. 21. The clutch, by which the wheel is sent
round. 20. Safety valve. 23. Orifice for filling the tank.
Explanation of Fig. 2.1.
The furnace door. 2. Gage cocks. 3. Steam pipes. 4. Blow cock.
5. Cock for emptying the water tank. 6. Flues of the furnace.
7. Pipes through which the water is propelled from the separators
into the boiler. 8. Steam separators.
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