Motorcycle Driven by Steam Operates Almost Noiselessly (May, 1936)

Motorcycle Driven by Steam Operates Almost Noiselessly

Silent except for a faint chug-chug at the start, a steam-driven motorcycle is in operation in Miami, Fla. It runs smoothly at one mile or fifty per hour, makes fifty miles per gallon of gasoline, kerosene or distillate and has no gears. A two-cylinder, double-action steam engine powers the cycle. It has a water tank, fuel tank, burner tank and pilot light tank. The six-gallon boiler is built to withstand a steam pressure of 500 pounds, but normal operation requires only 250 pounds. It takes only twenty minutes to get up steam when the engine is cold. A foot pedal operates the engine, stopping it automatically when the foot is removed, and a foot brake operates on the back wheel. The vehicle is built from secondhand parts.

7 comments
  1. Hirudinea says: January 30, 201312:53 pm

    Twenty minutes to start and a pressurized boiler under my ass? Tempting, but I don’t think so.

  2. docespresso says: January 30, 20134:01 pm

    @Hirudinea judging by the picture it’s not you ass you need to worry about if the boiler develops a steam leak. A bigger concern would be hard boiled eggs. :)

  3. experiment 626 says: January 30, 20137:01 pm

    I would take the risks in a heartbeat!! It Sounds freaking awesome for the steampunk side of me!

  4. cr0sh says: January 30, 20137:05 pm

    @Hirudinea: Actually, the boiler looks to be position ahead of some -ahem- slightly more sensitive bits…

    What I don’t get about this article is the number of “tanks” – surely there are just two: The boiler, and the fuel; the fuel would supply the burner -and- the pilot light.

    I wonder if the parts came from an old Stanley Steamer?

  5. DrewE says: January 31, 20139:48 am

    @crosh – I think in many of the steam automobiles, the main burner burned kerosene, while something more volatile (like gasoline) was used at least initially to get the main fuel vaporized. The feed-water tank is also essential if you want much range, especially if this is not a condensing engine. (Many steam cars and such had flash boilers with practically no water storage, sufficiently little that the engine could be throttled by the boiler’s fuel supply, but a “six gallon” boiler is clearly not of that design.)

    If there is a boiler failure, due to an accident or whatever, it isn’t going to matter too much whether the six gallons of pressurized, superheated water are under the seat or in front of your groin: it’s going to be a very bad day–though, on the brighter (?) side, it would probably be the last bad day of your life.

  6. experiment 626 says: February 1, 20138:35 am

    @ Hirudinea I have a book on steam vehicles and they show a Stanley boiler and it looks just like this one so I’d say at least for the boiler yes.

    @ everyone my book does not say names but it says ” It is claimed by a well-known builder of automobile boilers that it is impossible to explode a bolier as constructed for an automobile, since according to their tests, the tubes will flatten at a pressure of ten hundred pounds and then leak gradually untill the pressure falls, without doing any other damage” The way it’s written makes it sound like it’s a part supplier but I’m going to assume they mean Stanley since they never had an explosion and I thought they made thier parts in house but I don’t know a thing. we could ask Jay Leno since He has a Stanley too.

  7. Stephen says: February 2, 20136:11 am

    A splendid book I have called “Steam on the Road” describes the adventures of a Scotsman who tried to build his own steam bike and tested it one memorable day on the beach. I can’t remember his name, but I do remember the description of how ‘three pairs of Mr So-and-so’s trousers caught fire, he suffered burns “all over”, and members of the public who stood too near the flues had their eyebrows singed off.’

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