Thursday, September 26, 2013

Horseless Carriages of the 1820s

Thursday, September 26, 2013
Mr. Gurney's New Steam Carriage (1827)
Loretta reports:

While researching something else altogether, I stumbled on this description of an "Improved Steam Carriage" in a magazine published on this date in 1829. 

Not being good with matters mechanical, I’m not at all clear on the two-vehicle approach or what makes the 1829 version an improvement over the 1827 model. I post both for you to compare and contrast, as well as links to the descriptions.  If like me you find the prose less than enlightening, you might simply enjoy looking at the pictures of early horseless carriages.

From The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, & Instruction, Saturday, September 26, 1829.
Descriptions of Mr. Gurney's carriage have been so often before the public, that extended detail is unnecessary. Besides, all our liege subscribers will turn to the account in our No. 287.

The recent improvements have been perspicuously stated by Mr. Herapath, of Cranford, in a letter in the Times newspaper, and we cannot do better than adopt and abridge a portion of his communication.
Mr. Gurney's Improved Steam Carriage (1829)

"The present differs from the earlier carriage, in several improvements in the machinery, suggested by experiment; also in having no propellers; and in having only four wheels instead of six; the apparatus for guiding being applied immediately to the two fore-wheels, bearing a part of the weight, instead of two extra leading wheels bearing little or none. No person can conceive the absolute control this apparatus gives to the director of the carriage, unless he has had the same opportunities of observing it which I had in a ride with Mr. Gurney. Whilst the wheels obey the slightest motions of the hand, a trifling pressure of the foot keeps them inflexibly steady, however rough the ground... (Read the full description here.)


Unknown said...

At a guess it was a very dirty ride in the 1827 version and from the description it probably was nearly uncontrollable due to there not being enough weight on the steerable wheels. Kind of like trying to steer a car doing a wheelie.

Sarah said...

The improvement is that it's less likely to tip over

ista said...

I love reading about these early attempts to replace horse drawn conveyances. My fave is still Trevithick's 1803 steam carriage.

Doreen Knight said...

I'd say that one big improvement is that the passengers no longer seem to be sitting over a steam boiler. Bearing in mind the propensity in those days for boilers to explode.

Anonymous said...

Doreen has it. The two-part version removes the boiler from the passengers, and separates them from the possibility of sitting on top of an explosion. Think of the front boiler vehicle as the team of horses and the rear as the carriage. Probably any carriage could be adapted to work with the "steam horse".

Steam-punk enthusiasts should have great fun with these real inventions!

GSGreatEscaper said...

Front wheel drive! The way of the future...How we used to get stuck in the snow in our big American cars back in the 60s and 70s.

Anonymous said...

I think the improvement is it has a front wheel drive steering wheel. Or at least thats what I think he'd describing. Don't you just love these early engineers? I think they are brilliant. My all time favourite is Mr. Isambard Kingdom Brunell. I'm also into Victorian sewers and water towers, odd really but I can't help it.
Lovely blog post.
Daisy Banks

Charles Bazalgette said...

Yes - improved steering capability, plus better passenger comfort and safety by being separated from the engine itself. Maybe you could add another passenger car and you'd then have a train!

Isobel Carr said...

I've read about a steam-driven one from 1816, too. Just utterly fascinating.

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