World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Steam bus

Article Id: WHEBN0008438905
Reproduction Date:

Title: Steam bus  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Motor bus, Bus transport in the United Kingdom, Southern National, West Yorkshire Road Car Company, Eastern National Omnibus Company
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Steam bus

French steam bus

A steam bus is a bus powered by a steam engine. Early steam-powered vehicles designed for carrying passengers were more usually known as steam carriages, although this term was sometimes used to describe other early experimental vehicles too.


Amédée Bollée's L'Obéissante (1875)


Regular intercity bus services by steam-powered buses were pioneered in England in the 1830s by Walter Hancock and by associates of Sir Goldsworthy Gurney among others, running reliable services over road conditions which were too hazardous for horse-drawn transportation. Steam carriages were much less likely to overturn, and did not "run away with" the customer as horses sometimes did. They travelled faster than horse-drawn carriages (24 mph over four miles and an average of 12 mph over longer distances). They could run at a half to a third of the cost of horse-drawn carriages. Their brakes did not lock and drag like horse-drawn transport (a phenomenon that increased damage to roads). According to engineers, steam carriages caused one-third the damage to the road surface as that caused by the action of horses' feet. Indeed, the wide tires of the steam carriages (designed for better traction) caused virtually no damage to the streets, whereas the narrow wheels of the horse-drawn carriages (designed to reduce the effort required of horses) tended to cause rutting.[1]

However, the heavy road tolls imposed by the Turnpike Acts discouraged steam road vehicles and left the way clear for the horse bus companies, and from 1861 onwards, harsh legislation virtually eliminated mechanically-propelled vehicles altogether from the roads of Great Britain for 30 years, the Locomotive Act of that year imposing restrictive speed limits on "road locomotives" of 5 mph in towns and cities, and 10 mph in the country.[2]

In 1865 the Locomotives Act of that year (the famous Red Flag Act) further reduced the speed limits to 4 mph in the country and just 2 mph in towns and cities, additionally requiring a man bearing a red flag to precede every vehicle. At the same time, the act gave local authorities the power to specify the hours during which any such vehicle might use the roads. The sole exceptions were street trams which from 1879 onwards were authorised under licence from the Board of Trade.

In 1881, the engineer John Inshaw built a steam carriage for use in Aston, Birmingham, UK. Capable of carrying ten people at speeds of up to 12 mph, Inshaw discontinued his experiments due to the legislation then in force.[3]


The Red Flag Act was repealed in 1896, and experimental steam buses were again operated in various places in England. In 1909 the engineer Thomas Clarkson (1864 - 1933) started the National Steam Car Company to run steam buses in London. Four chassis were imported by the New South Wales Railways.[4] The bodies were constructed in Sydney and the vehicles placed in service on the streets of that city. By 1914 the company had 184 steam buses in London, but they had all been withdrawn by 1919.[5]


Steam power for road transportation saw a modest revival in the 1920s. It was economical to use, with prices of fuel oil (such as kerosene) being about one-third that of gasoline, with comparable fuel consumption to contemporary gasoline-engined vehicles. Additionally, startup times vis-a-vis gasoline-powered vehicles and safety issues from vaporized fuel had been solved, with steam cars such as the Doble requiring a mere 40 seconds to start from cold. In 1931 Doble was employed as a consultant by A & G Price of Thames, New Zealand to construct a steam engine for buses. Two were known to have been made.

The Canadian company Brooks Steam Motors of Toronto, Ontario produced steam city buses.

Modern commercial operations

A steam bus, Elizabeth operates in the English seaside town of Whitby.

See also


  1. ^ Benson, Bruce L. "The Rise and Fall of Non-Government Roads in the United Kingdom". Street Smart: Competition, Entrepreneurship and the Future of Roads. pp. 263–264. 
  2. ^ E.g., Locomotives Act, 1861 Pratt's Law of Highways Edition 10, Shaw & Sons (1865) p. 388
  3. ^ Hogan, Jill. "The Inshaw Steam Carriage". Aston Brook through Aston Manor. Retrieved 17 September 2010. 
  4. ^ Australian Railway Historical Society Bulletin, March, 1960 pp41-43
  5. ^ Morris, C. (2007) Southern National Omnibus Company Ian Allan ISBN 978-0-7110-3173-9, Chapter 1

External links

  • The Steam Bus 1833-1923 by Peter Gould
  • Construction of a working replica of Hancock's "Enterprise" steam bus
  • steam bus.InfantContemporary account of a trip to Brighton aboard the
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.