Thursday, May 29, 2014

1904 National Electrobile Special

1904 National  Electrobile Special
From the 1904 National Electric Vehicles catalog by the
National Motor Vehicle Company of Indianapolis, Indiana.
Click picture to enlarge.

Today over at Shorpy they posted a photo from 1906 of the Tennessee Club in Memphis. There was some speculation about the little runabout in the picture, which reader Bruce Lancaster correctly identified it as a National Electric. There is a bit more to it than that however—when this particular model was first introduced, it was the hottest electric runabout of its day.

Pictured above is a 1904 Model 105 National Electrobile Special that cost $1,250 new. Without the leather top it would have been a $1,200 Model 100. The January 23, 1904 issue of Automobile Review called it "the most powerful electric two-passenger runabout on the market."

National's "new pattern 'C' springs" in front (conventional elliptics in the rear) make it instantly recognizable. It had a track of 54 inches and 32 x 3 and-a-half inch Continental tires were standard. The Piano Box style black body was six and-a-quarter feet long, and two and-a-half feet wide with the two-passenger carmine (deep red) leather seat hanging over four inches on each side. The running gear (axles, wheels, etc.) and the supports for the top (called boot risers) were also finished in carmine. If you wanted any other colors rather than the standard black/carmine combination, delivery would take two weeks longer. The hubs, controller lever, steering lever, and the like had a nickel finish.

The six-pole 3 hp (overload capacity 9 hp) electric motor mounted on the rear axle was an improved model made by National, and drove direct through herringbone (spiral) gears that ran in oil, inside a dust-proof case. The motor drew its power from a 36 cell Western brand battery that came with a rheostat to charge from any 110 to 125-volt circuit. The car was also equipped with an odometer and a combination volt/ammeter. An Edison or Exide brand battery could be had on some other models, but the Edison brand cost between $300 and $500 extra, depending on the size and style of the battery.

It had a compression band style brake along with an electric auxiliary hub brake—both claimed to be "very powerful" in the National Electric literature. First gear would top out at 5 mph, while fourth gear was good for 17 mph. Reverse gear was activated by a button in the end of the controller lever. The controller lever itself (B) is pointed out in the detail below. There was another push-button in the handle of the steering lever that operated an electric gong—their version of a horn.

National Electric levers
A) Steering lever with "gong" button in the handle.
B) Controller lever with push-button at the top for Reverse.

More later.

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Thursday, May 08, 2014

A. M. Chase and the Chase Track System

Chase Track Newton
"Tank; Key Bridge in background, Washington, D.C."
Incorrect original title to Harris & Ewing photo from the Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog (PPOC). Click on pictures for larger images.

On April 27, 2014 The Old Motor, posted an article provided by reader Tin Indian from the May 5, 1921 issue of Automobile Industries that identified for the general internet audience the tread system above as being the "Chase Track" invented by A. M. Chase. This has been not-so-common knowledge for some time, as some subscription sites have been discussing the tracks and the pictures for a few years now. As we will see, there is much more to the story. Interest in the picture above became wide-spread for the first time when Shorpy posted it on April 21, 2014.

The Library of Congress photos of the 1921 test of the Chase Track System have been making the internet rounds for a few years now, along with other photos taken from military journals. In a causal search, the earliest mention I can find is from July 2002 on the Cargo Carriers/Personal Carriers page of William A. Kirk Jr.'s TANKS! Armoured Warfare Prior to 1946 website, which had the most photos of vehicles with the Chase Track System outside of Fred W. Crismon's 1992 book U. S. Military Tracked Vehicles.

After a lull, some pictures showed up again around 2008, and then again with regularity starting in 2010, when many of the Ford oriented sites found them on the pages of my favorites such as Just a car guy, Jalopy Journal, Hemmings, and now Shorpy and The Old Motor (although I thought that The Old Motor had posted something earlier, but if so I can't find it now). The latter's post had more than anyone to that time—but in the interest of full disclosure, after my preliminary research I had uploaded most of what you see below to Shorpy a few days before The Old Motor post, but for some reason Shorpy didn't post it. It doesn't bother me, but those grapes were a bit off anyway.

As for the the picture in the Shorpy post that has caused the recent surge of renewed interest, the 1917 Model-T Roadster in that particular photo has just emerged from the muddy banks of Rock Creek under the [William Howard] Taft Bridge at a location that is right about at today's junction of Rock Creek Parkway NW and Beach Drive NW (below). The Taft Bridge is often referred to as the Connecticut Avenue Bridge because it carries Connecticut Avenue traffic over Rock Creek, while the officially named Connecticut Avenue Bridge—an Art Deco steel-arch bridge located near the National Zoo—is more commonly known as the Kingle Valley Bridge because it carries Connecticut Avenue across that feature. Due to the information on the picture in the Library of Congress, the bridge had been identified as the [Francis Scott] Key Bridge, and that error was repeated over the years until Hemmings reader Tim identified it in October 2013, and then Shorpy reader, Washington D.C. radio personality, and D.C. history buff John Dowling was next to correctly identify the Taft Bridge on April 21, 2014.


When the original picture was taken the military nomenclature for the tracks was "Endless-Tread Attachment for Light Autos." Later it became known as the Chase Track, and today as the Chase Track System. Based on subsequent publicity, the photo was probably taken around early-January 1921. Seated behind the wheel is Secretary of War Newton Baker, who was decidedly not the test driver. The fellow standing on the ground (who "doesn't look convinced" in the Shorpy comments) is actually Aurin M. Chase—the inventor—positively identified through correspondence with his grandson, Doug Tomb. Mr Tomb is a car collector and the current President of the George Washington Chapter of the Model A Ford Club of America. In his collection he has four Chase vehicles, including the very one that was special built for A. M. Chase in 1911. Mr. Tomb tracked it down and brought it back into the family in 1994.

Chase graduated from M.I.T. in 1900 (it was still known as Boston Tech then) as a mechanical engineer and joined the family firm, the Syracuse Chilled Plow Company.



A few years later he was at the Franklin Automobile Company, where he designed the flywheel suction fan for their air-cooled engines. In 1907 he started the Chase Motor Truck Company to build commercial grade motor trucks that were powered by three-cylinder two-cycle, air-cooled engines of his own design (and incorporating the same fan as the Franklin—he had kept the rights to it):

Chase 3 Cylinder

And light duty trucks with a two-cylinder engine:

Chase 2 Cylinder

Later they switched to Continental engines and by 1917 one out of twelve trucks in New York was a Chase.

Chase Motor Truck Co 1912 Model D

In 1909 the company added cars to the lineup, and from September of that year until 1912 they teamed with Brockway Carriage Works to help build the first Brockway trucks. In 1911 Chase added tractors.

Chase Tractor Brochure

In late 1919 the company was sold to a Canadian concern and moved to Toronto where tractor production continued for a few more years.

Chase Tractor ad

A. M. Chase himself, however, had moved on. In early 1916 he was the Chief of the Truck and Trailer Unit of the Ordnance Department in Washington, D. C. In January 1918 he was mustered into the Ordnance Reserve Corps of the U.S. Army as a Major. While in Washington he designed and supervised the production of field-artillery tractors, scout cars, mobile machine shops, and trucks with special bodies for carrying munitions, guns, and range-finding instruments.

In June 1918 he was stationed in Tours, France with the A. E.F. serving as Chief of the Motor Equipment Section with a staff of eighty-five officers designing emergency equipment in the field and supervising production of equipment in France. He also organized schools in the use of the new equipment.

In March 1919 he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel. He returned to the states at the end of May and mustered out a month later. It was said that, in large part, it was due to Chase that at the end of war the American Army was more mechanized than any other. He didn't really leave the service however, as his next job was to serve as the District Designing Engineer of the Ordnance Department back in Syracuse (hence the 1920 New York license plate on the Model-T when you invert and flip the photo).


While there, and in response to requests for various new vehicles, he began the designs that would lead to the Chase Track system of fabric belts connected by metal links, for light vehicles.

One of the first requests was for a Tractor Hand Cart that reconnaissance scouts could use to pull equipment and supplies over difficult terrain. The Syracuse Tractor Hand Cart—the first vehicle to utilize the Chase Track—was the result.

Syracuse Tractor Hand Cart Afield

Syracuse Tractor Hand Cart Afloat

That's Aurin M. Chase pulling the Hand Cart in the upper picture, and standing in it while it's afloat in the lower picture.

Then, in order to carry both the equipment and the reconnaissance scouts themselves, the Syracuse Reconnaissance Tractor came along.

Syracuse Reconnaissance Tractor

Next the idea was applied to a regular vehicle, albeit one with a special axle, extra wheels, and extra large rear brakes for steering.

Chase Track ORD

Chase Track Artillery

In the Spring of 1921 the Rock Creek trial was featured in a number of popular journals including the above-mentioned May 5, 1921 issue of Automobile Industries, the April issue of Popular Mechanics, the May issue of Illustrated World, and more—not to mention being written up in newspapers across the country.

Chase received two patents for the system.

Endless Belt Patent 1

Endless Belt Patent 2

The steering wheel was retained because the tracks could be removed, reverting the vehicle back into an ordinary one. And, on a Model-T, the throttle and spark lever are mounted on the steering wheel.

Ford Control

Below A. M. Chase is running more trials on May 17, 1921, and has the turtle-deck removed from the back.

AM Chase in Ford with Chase Track

Chase Track Hill

Below - The system was later applied to the Dodge Light Repair Truck (Chase to the left wearing the 1898 Field Hat) :

Dodge Light Repair Truck

And even the 3-ton Militor, seen here at Aberdeen Proving Ground in 1922. It could hit a whopping 13 mph.

Militor with Chase Track

Testing continued for years and despite improvements, technology eventually surpassed the Chase Track, and while it never was approved for production for the U. S. Army, it did see some civilian applications. Other countries did adopt versions of the system, and at the start of WWII at least two foreign armies were still using the Chase Track System.

More will be posted about Chase, his academic and professional careers, family, and the Syracuse Chilled Plow Company. Check back for updates.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Message to Jim

To the fellow who offered to send the article from the July 31, 1960 issue of the Baltimore Sun Magazine - you did not include your email address and I could not answer you direct. I am very interested in getting a copy of that article. Please send it to cbl9 -at- and thanks.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Maryland, My Maryland

Ruth Maycliffe in her 1908 Maryland Roadster
Back on April 7, 2013 Dave of posted a nicely massaged version of the original Library of Congress photo (above) featuring Ruth Maycliffe sitting in an intriguing 3-seat roadster. Some raw, unaltered versions of this picture have appeared on a few websites in the past couple of years. The few guesses that were ventured on Shorpy and its companion Facebook page ranged from an Oakland (based on the visible radiator scrip) to a Studebaker Model H, to a Ford Model T, to a Ford Model K. However, the correct identity revealed a very obscure car indeed.

Miss Maycliffe's car was a rarity even when this picture was taken. It is a 1908 Maryland Roadster as manufactured by the Sinclair-Scott Company of Baltimore, a company far better known for their apple peelers and food canning machines. The Maryland started out in 1905 as the Ariel, made by the Ariel Motor Car Company of Boston (not connected with the Ariel Motor Company in England or its New York partner The Ariel Company).
1905 Ariel logo
Early Ariel back pages ad from the November 1, 1905 issue of Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal.

Ariel's first offerings were shown at the March 1905 Boston Auto Show and consisted of a 15hp three-cylinder air-cooled runabout with a standard grille, and a 25hp four-cylinder water-cooled, 5-passenger, wood bodied (available in blue or green) light touring with an oval radiator made by Whitlock.
1905 Ariel Runabout and Touring
Above left: 1905 3-cylinder Ariel Runabout. From Early American Automobiles website. Above right: 1905 4-cylinder Ariel Touring. From the January 11, 1906 issue of The Automobile.

Both were designed by Ralph C. Lewis and both sets of cylinders were interchangeable on a common crankcase. The original idea behind the interchangeability was that in winter the air-cooled upper would be used, and in summer the water-cooled equipment would be swapped onto the common crankcase—an idea quickly dropped.
Ariel 3 cylinder
The 3-cylinder air-cooled engine for the 1905 Ariel Runabout, with rear-mounted fan. The hood had side scoops. From the March 18, 1905 issue of The Automobile.

Ariel 4 cylinder intake side
The 4-cylinder water-cooled engine for the 1905 Ariel Tourer—intake side. From the April 1, 1906 issue of Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal.
Ariel 4 cylinder exhaust side
The 4-cylinder water-cooled engine for the 1905 Ariel Tourer—exhaust side. From the April 1, 1906 issue of Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal.

They used as their mottoes "The Synonym of Light Weight, Speed and Power" and "Is As Fast On Hills As Most Cars Are On The Level." Later they changed it to "The Car With The Oval Front" then finally to "Look For The Oval Front."
1905 Ariel logo
In March 1906 Ariel moved to Bridgeport, CT. In the year since the Boston Auto Show they had dropped the air-cooled runabout, and redesigned the light touring into a double-side entrance tonneau powered by an 30hp overhead cam four-cylinder engine. This vehicle became known for its two distinctive features - a unique cast aluminum dash, and a redesigned oval radiator (now made by Briscoe Mfg. Co. of Detroit—an original equipment vendor.
1905 Briscoe ad
Briscoe Mfg. Co. ad from the June 22, 1905 issue of Automobile Review.

1906 Ariel radiator
Ariel Type Radiator (above). From the article "Cooling Systems in Water-Cooled Cars" in the February 8, 1906 issue of The Automobile. Original text reads "A novelty is the oval radiator of the Ariel car which looks well and certainly gives a touch of individuality to this machine."

1906 Ariel Touring
1906 Ariel 30hp Touring car with oval Whitlock radiator. From the April 1, 1906 issue of Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal.

Also early in 1906 Ariel redesigned the cast aluminum dash for the Roadster, giving it a scallop shape.
1906 Ariel chassis
1906 Ariel 30hp Roadster chassis. From the April 1, 1906 issue of Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal.
1906 Ariel chassis front
From the February 7, 1906 issue of The Horseless Age.

Sinclair-Scott had ventured into the manufacture of car parts a few years earlier and Ariel became one of their customers—in fact Sinclair-Scott was soon not only producing most of the car, but assembling it as well. There were few sales of the $2,500 tonneau however, and Ariel was unable to make good on their debts. Sinclair-Scott acquired the rights to the vehicle in 1907 (Ariel Motor Car Company was officially dissolved that same year), gave it a bit of a face lift—the oval radiator was given a sleeker redesign—and renamed it the Maryland Car.
1908 Maryland dash
1908 Maryland 26hp chassis. From the March 1, 1908 issue of Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal.

They next added a 6-passenger limousine and a 2, 3, or 4-passenger roadster (later just available as a 3-seater) to the lineup while retaining the dash and Briscoe oval radiator on all three models. The Briscoe Mfg. Co. badge can be seen at the top of Miss Maycliffe's radiator.
Briscoe Mfg badge
Briscoe Mfg. Co. radiator badge.

Sinclair-Scott also carried on the Ariel tradition of equipping each vehicle with a tool box, a Nonpareil brand horn (used by 2/3 of American automobile manufacturers) and a full set of Atwood lamps (2 oil side lamps and 2 acetylene head lamps).
1908 Maryland Roadster
1908 Maryland front
1908 Maryland Roadster with oval Briscoe radiator. Both pictures above from the March 1, 1908 issue of Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal.

The new models were a vast sales improvement over the Ariels—albeit still fairly low volume when compared to the best-sellers of the day—and for 1908 the only changes made were some body refinements and to the finish. Given the low production, it is possible that the roadster Miss Maycliffe purchased was the very one used for the promotional photographs appearing in national magazines (above).
1908 Maryland specs
Specs for the 1908 Maryland Touring from the January 8, 1908 issue of MoToR.

Maryland 4 cylinder intake side
The intake side of the much cleaner Maryland version of the old Ariel 4-cylinder. From the March 1, 1908 issue of Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal.

Maryland 4 cylinder exhaust side
The exhaust side of the improved Ariel 4-cylinder, as built by Sinclair-Scott for the Maryland Car. From the March 1, 1908 issue of Cycle and Automobile Trade Journal.

Even with the increased volume, the vehicles were never profitable enough for Sinclair-Scott and in 1910 they discontinued the Maryland Car line. In the August 1912 issue of Automobile Dealer and Repairer, a reader requesting advice complained of cylinder misfiring in his 1908 Maryland Touring. The decidedly unhelpful reply began with "A Maryland car of 1908 is today practically obsolete and forgotten." So rare and forgotten is the Maryland, that I am unaware of any Ariels or Marylands in existence today—which would make them both extinct cars. In fact, the Library of Congress picture seems to be the only one in existence outside of period magazines. There is an index notation that Bulb Horn magazine published a photograph of a 1910 Maryland in Volume XXVIII (1967), Issue Number 2, but I cannot find a copy. If you have one please let me know. Note: This entry will be updated to show picture attributes and a link will be provided to an article on the life of Ruth Maycliffe.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Paige Montrose Coupe

My latest post over on Shorpy's—this time on a 1914 Paige Model Montrose Coupe advertised as a doctor's car—can be found here.

Friday, May 18, 2012

KisselKars and Wagenhals

My latest post over on Shorpy's—this on a KisselKar truck and a bit on the Wagenhals three-wheeler—can be found here.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Where have all the books gone?

Regular readers (and I thank both of you) will notice that some 76 book posts have disappeared.  I have moved them to my book site which will still be known as On The Nightstand.  That is where I will keep the running list of what I have read, plus I'll be adding reviews and links to purchase.

So instead of cluttering up this site, I'm just listing what I am currently reading—and that can be found in the sidebar to the right--->

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Even though the General Motors bailout loans have supposedly been paid back (not by the company itself, but rather through proceeds from the November, 2010 IPO), the U.S. Treasury (we the taxpayers) still owns about 25% of that corporation. Last year PSA Peugeot Citroën's auto making division lost $123 million, so naturally GM just bought 7% of their stock for $400 million (the Peugeot family is still the largest stockholder) because - hey, we just don't have enough Peugeot mopeds here. GM thinks that everyone can save a bundle through platform sharing—think of the new Chrysler based Lancia Thema and Lancia Voyager.

While I'm on the subject of Chrysler—that now non-American company of which Fiat owns a majority interest—all those European Themas and Chrysler 300C sedans are built in Graz, Austria by Magna Steyr. And they are available there and in Australia with a Mercedes-Benz designed 3.0 L V6 diesel engine, which is not available here. The Chrysler 300s that we can get here—you know, "Imported from Detroit"—are made in their Brampton factory in Ontario, Canada, and even then some of the engines come from Mexico. The European Lancia and Chrysler Voyagers are also built in Ontario, Canada, and have a VM Motori of Italy double overhead cam common rail design diesel engine as standard. Tell me again how much of the Chrysler bailout is helping American workers.

No matter what you think of the bailout, in the final analysis it allowed those companies to dump billions of dollars of legally owed debt, renege on contracted labor obligations, cancelled pending lawsuits by car-accident victims and even removed legal responsibility in cases where the victims had actually won damages (Wall Street Journal report). Given all that, one of the most egregious affronts was the stripping of the property of legal bondholders (much of it held in retirement portfolios), which was then given to union-controlled trust funds without rhyme or reason—or perhaps it was their payoff for not fighting the contract cancellations. Another outrage was the illegal contract terminations and subsequent dropping of targeted dealerships, with GM and Chrysler claiming the right to confiscate the dealership customer lists and service records. Illegal? Some of those ex-dealers who had the temerity to sue individually or in small groups, have been winning in arbitration or court. A massive class-action suit is still winding its way through the system.

There are those in the know who believe that both companies—as well as the country as a whole—would have been better off if a reorganization bankruptcy had taken place through the normal channels. Chrysler would still be an American company (again) and much the same result could have been negotiated with either settlements or structured payments going to the thousands upon thousands of ordinary Americans who now have been left with nothing to show for their investments, years of hard work, or pain and suffering.

And the takeaway is that we the taxpayers (U.S. Treasury) still lost around $14 billion in the whole mess.

Oh well, maybe they'll rebadge the Chevy Volt and there'll be a nice Citroën Électricité coming soon to a showroom near you...or not so near you, if you live in one of those areas that lost the only dealership for miles around. Because—like everything else that's going on—the Volt is working out so well.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2012

The Last Trap

Updated 4/9/12

Neptunus Lex
Retired Naval Aviator Captain Carroll LeFon. From

Neptunus Lex, one of my favorite bloggers, has died doing what he loved best. A retired Naval Aviator, Captain Carroll "Lex" LeFon had commanded an F/A-18 squadron and had served as XO at TOPGUN. As a civilian he qualified on an Israeli F-21 Kfir and was flying opposing force missions at TOPGUN in Fallon, Nevada yesterday, when he crashed. The Best being trained by the Best-of-the-Best. I never met him, but it was my plan to buy him a Guinness the next time he traveled through Las Vegas. Nothing I say could ever say about him could be as eloquent as the heartfelt words of his fellow milbloggers. Just suffice it to say that he was greatly admired and greatly loved.

Go to his blog here and hit the tip jar (or glass in this case) to help out his family. And if you live in San Diego or plan to be there sometime, drop by the Shakespeare Pub and hoist a pint of Guinness in his memory.

Memorial Updates for Captain LeFon:

The bulk of memorial services—be they planned or impromptu, formal or informal—are over. Gatherings of two or more from San Diego (with his family) to Boston, from D.C. to Idaho, from the SF Bay area to Flordia, took place Friday and Saturday nights. Hundreds more of us stayed at home either alone with our thoughts or taking part in an unprecedented online wake/memorial service. It was two nights filled with love, praise, and tears. Plans for permanent remembrances were made, and a few surprises popped up. A small group remembering Neptunus Lex at a restaurant was surprised when another group stood to toast Capt. LeFon. During the online cyberspace memorial service a Las Vegas blogger discovered another blogger living just a few blocks away. At the appointed time hundreds of them all across the country lifted their glasses and toasted the Good Captain. For Strength.

The funeral services for Neptunus Lex were held at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, on March 27 at 1 p.m. The military service ended with a section flyover by a F/A-18 Hornet and a F-21 Kfir.

The Neptunus Lex Honor Roll
(If I've missed any, please let me know.)
170 Notices and Tributes that have been made by:

The Lexicans
Steeljaw Scribe
CDR Salamander
The Woodshed
Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid
Outside the Beltway
Navy DyberSpace Blog
Jonah Goldberg at The Corner
The Tailhook Association
Chicago Boyz
Susan Katz Keating
War News Updates
Lawyers, Gun$ and Money
PJ Tatler
Bookworm Room
blonde sagacity
The Kitchen Dispatch
Bob Owens
24 Hour Campfire
XHouse of Eratosthenes
Stanislaus GOP
Thoughts and Rantings
NorthEast – Tea Party Patriots!
Theo Spark
Castra Praetoria
Thunder Pig
The Thunder Run
Liberal Whoppers
Brain Shavings
365 Veterans
Aviation Forum
Morning in Arizona
Naval Open Source INTelligence
Op For
Among The Joshua Trees
From My Position...On The Way!
Da Goddess
Brown Hound
The Sniper
Carmichael's Position
Grim's Hall
Soldiers' Angels Germany
Aliens in This World
Aviation Week
Navy Times
Bouhammer's Military Blog
Homefront Six
The Sandgram
This Ain't Hell
Villainous Company
Eagle Speak
Not Exactly Rocket Science
Fuzzilicious Thinking
U.S. Navy Aircraft History
Little Drops...
Boudicca's Voice
Doc In The Box
Miserable Donuts
Ace of Spades
Information Dissemination
The Political Conundrum!
Truth, Lies and in Between
Cold Fury
On the North River
The Mellow Jihadi
Parrothead Jeff & Friends
No Runny Eggs
US Navy Jeep
The World According to Me
U.S. Fleet Forces Command Blog
Exile in Portales
Hog Day Afternoon
Noodling On It
Brain Shavings
Silicon Valley Redneck
Lignes de défense
Jeopardy in MD
The Free Republic
Old Retired Petty Officer
Home on the Range
Navy Cyberspace Blog
BaseOps Forums
Backcountry Pilot
The Best Defense
Bull USA
Just an Earth-Bound Misfit, I
little green footballs
Akron Forum
Horseman Zero
Adonai is Semper Fi
Network 54
India Times
My Blog
Ramblings from a Blue Dot
Bayou Renaissance Man
Assoluta Tranquillita
Liberty Republican Forum
Mudville Gazette
The Conservatory
Overseas Civilian Contractors
Air Pouge
Windows IT Pro
ARC Forums
Questions and Confirmations
Pilot Online
Sowards for Senate
Skippy Maximus
A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics
Pirate's Cove
The Hokey Pokey IS What It's All About
The Minuteman
A Girl and Her Gun
The View From Under The Desk
The Flight Deck
Free Falling
Maggie's Farm
Google Groups
USS Bennington - (PG4)
Smith & Wesson Forum
Random Acts of Patriotism
One step at a time
Tomcat Sunset Forum
Military Times
Bryan Strawser
Bloomberg Businessweek
America in Uniform
The Online Temple of Chris Parkes
Bad Ju Ju
Foreign Policy
Mongo Talk Blog!
Shots From The Hip
Danger Room (Wired)
Lahontan Valley News
Chant du Départ

The U.S. Naval Institute blog

From the SecNav

From the CEO, U.S. Naval Institute

From Airborne Tactical Advantage Company

A website for Neptunus Lex's friends and fans has been created:
   The Lexicans

The Neptunus Lex Group on Facebook now has 396 members.

Whisper's Open Thread on the Neptunus Lex website itself has, at this writing, collected 1,655 tributes, comments and condolences.

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Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Beginning of the End

The De Dion-Bouton Steam Bogie, Part 3
Part 1 here
Part 2 here

De Dion 99jpg
From Tramways et Automobiles (Tramways and Automobiles), Eugène Aucamus and Louis Galine, 1900.

1896 appears to have been the pinnacle year in terms of development of the De Dion-Bouton Steam Bogie.  Most subsequent engineering efforts would be geared towards stand-alone steam omnibuses and trucks, and especially towards gasoline automobiles. But for now the popularity of the Steam Bogie was at an all time high.  The Steam Wagon and Steam Brake that were entered in the September, 1896 Paris-Marseilles-Paris race noted in the last post, were essentially converted Steam Bogies.  The smaller Steam Wagon that the Count de Dion drove was based on the De Dion-Bouton Steam Bogie Pattern No. 1, which weighed in at 4,400 lbs., and could haul a 2,640 lb. load at 12.5 mph.  The heavier Steam Brake driven by the Marquise de Chasseloup-Laubat was based on the De Dion-Bouton Steam Bogie Pattern No. 2, which weighed 8,800 lbs. and could haul a 22,000 lb. load at 8 mph.  Converted to stand-alone vehicles, both were considerably faster without trailers as evidenced by the Count de Chasseloup Laubat’s win with the larger Steam Brake in the late January, 1897 Marseilles-Nice-Monte Carlo race (which, as noted in last post, is today referred to as the Marseille-Nice-La Turbie race), and with De Dion-Bouton’s factory entry in the 106 mile Paris-Dieppe race on July 24, 1897, where the smaller Steam Wagon came in First-in-Class and Second-Overall.

The De Dion-Bouton boiler was smaller than most of its contemporaries, but it was extremely capable.  It had a heating surface of 22.76 sq.ft., and a grate area of 1.86 sq.ft.  This was sufficient to steam around 6 pounds of water per pound of coke, which was more than enough to power an 18 hp steam engine — a remarkable feat considering that the boiler weighed in at only 528 pounds empty, making it one of the most efficient of its day.  The steam fed a compound steam engine (Figs. 35 and 36 below) with a large cylinder that had a diameter of 7.08 inches and a stroke of 5.11 inches.  The small cylinder was 4.72 inches.  The volume of each individual cylinder was worked out so that each was putting out the same amount of work, which was standard for compound steam engines.  Super-heated steam entering the high-pressure small cylinder would power the piston for eight-tenths of its stroke, pushing the engine to a normal working speed of 330 rpm.  This translated to the 12.5 mph at 18 hp mentioned above for the Steam Bogie Pattern No. 1.  For starting from a dead stop and for help running up grades, a twist of a petcock routed the now-cooler and lower pressure steam from the small cylinder exhaust into the large low pressure cylinder, thereby giving a boost of power.  A pinion on the main shaft acted as a differential, allow the wheels to turn at different speeds.  They avoided chain drive by employing universal joints which connected the driveshaft to the shafts on the driving wheels.

De Dion 101a
From Auto-Cars: Cars, Tramcars, and Small Cars (Les Automobiles: Voitures, Tramways et Petits Véhicules) by Dick Farman (translated from the French by Lucien Serraillier), 1896.

The December, 1896 issue of The Horseless Age reported on the annual Salon du Cycle (Cycle Show) held in the Palace of Industry.  In an article titled "Motor Vehicles at the Salon du Cycle," they commented that the show was "more than ever distinguished by its exhibit of motor vehicles of all kinds, a fact which has caused some little feeling of jealousy on the part of the cycle manufacturers, and will doubtless necessitate a separate motor exhibition in the future."  In two years the Count de Dion would create the first stand-alone Auto Show, the Salon de l'Automobile.  In 1988 the name was changed to Mondial de l'Automobile, which familiarly translates as the Paris Motor Show.  At that 1896 Cycle Show, De Dion-Bouton & Co. had the largest display, "showing eighteen petroleum bicycles as well a number of their original steam tricycles."  Although they apparently did not show any other steam vehicles, the Steam Bogie was represented as The Horseless Age reported: "The Compagnie Suisse des Voitures Automobiles, 33 Rue du Rone, Geneva Switzerland, show an omnibus drawn by a De Dion steam tractor.  The omnibus carries twenty passengers, and is said to give good satisfaction."

Not everyone was completely enamored with the Steam Bogies, however.  In Auto-Cars: Cars, Tramcars, and Small Cars, the same-year translation (translated by Lucien Serraillier) of Dick Farman's 1896 Les Automobiles: Voitures, Tramways et Petits Véhicules, Farman comments:
     Messrs. de Dion & Bouton have applied their boiler not to auto-cars properly so called, but to tractors or cars for hauling another vehicle.  Their apparatus is really a horse—an iron and steel horse—strong, never tiring, but very ugly to look at when coupled to a light and handsome car.  It is a hippopotamus drawing a canoe behind it, and in our opinion nothing is so ugly as to see this steam monster puffing and blowing and hauling a coupé or a landau.
     We are not criticising the tractor itself, because it is an extremely useful one, but we are criticising its application to pleasure locomotion.  It is excellent for the purposes of transport between two places, for the carriage of heavy goods, and for hauling heavy vans, although it cannot, like Mr. Le Blant's tractor, give sudden pulls for the purpose of starting again in difficult places on the road.
     These powerful tractors may render good service in hauling heavy leads, such as ammunition waggons, vans, &c., which at present require a large number of horses difficult to manage.  How much simpler it would be to use a tractor similar to the above!  Not only would it be more simple, but also much more economical, and there would be advantages in adopting it in all respects, but unfortunately routine and force of habit prevent our adopting this new method in one day.
     We cannot, however, recommend this tractor for pleasure auto-cars, for reasons already given.
DD 94a
What Farman objected to was the use of the Steam Bogie with light personal carriages such as a landau (similar to the original converted cabriolet style carriage seen above), or a coupé style such as the one shown in the September 26, 1896 issue of Scientific American Supplement (below):

De Dion 3
Instead of light personal vehicles, Farman believed that the future of the De Dion-Bouton Steam Bogie was in its application to heavier, revenue generating vehicles.  This was an issue that De Dion-Bouton was addressing in multiple ways.

Under the heading "Contest for Heavy Vehicles at Paris," the aforementioned December, 1896 copy of The Horseless Age had the following article positioned immediately after the Salon du Cycle story:
     The Race Committee of the Automobile Club has issued the general regulations under which the international contest for heavy vehicles will be held on July 1, 1897.
     The contest will take place somewhere in the neighborhood of Paris, and the competing vehicles will be divided into two general classes—omnibuses and delivery wagons.
     Decision will be rendered mainly on the economy shown by the vehicles—that is, the cost of operation as compared with the weight transported.
     In the first class competing vehicles must have a capacity of at least 10 passengers, with baggage estimated at about 70 pounds for each passenger.
     Vehicles of the second class must have a capacity of at least a ton.
     Vehicles intended for the transportation of both passengers and merchandise are required to have a minimum capacity of at least 2,250 pounds.
     While any manufacturer will be allowed to enter more than one vehicle, the number of vehicles of the same type which he may enter will be limited.
     An entrance fee of 200 francs will be charged for each vehicle, to be paid before June 1.
     The lists will close positively on the 25th of June.
     Photographs of all vehicles entered, together with prices of same, must be furnished the committee before June 25.
     Arrangements for supplies needed during the contest can be made at places designated by the committee, but every vehicle must be capable of making nine miles without renewing supplies.
     Six days will be required to complete the test, which will necessitate a total run of 180 miles, divided into six daily stages, or three different routes out and back.  The vehicles will be so grouped that each day some will be passing both ways on each route, making frequent stops and carrying different kinds of merchandise.
     Representatives of the Automobile Club will accompany the vehicles and make note of various items of cost, time, etc., and report upon them.
     Speed will be subordinate, a maximum being set by the committee, which all contestants will be required to obey.
     Parks or stopping places will be provided as in the Paris-Marseilles race.  Here all competing vehicles will be required to put up for the night, and all repairs must be made in the presence of the representatives of the club.
     Medals will be awarded to vehicles which possess the requirements for either class of service, and a complete illustrated report of the test will be published by the club and given the widest circulation.
This would be the Concours des Poids Lourds (Heavyweight Truck Contest)—usually referred to as Les Poids Lourds—the competition for large vehicles that was held at Versailles.  The categories and finishing entries (with purchase price) were:

I. Public Passenger Transport

1. Motor Vehicles
 First category: Steam powered
  No. 2—Scotte Omnibus; 22,000 ₣
  No. 14—De Dion-Bouton Omnibus; 22,000 ₣
 Second category: Petrol powered
  No. 19—Panhard-Levassor Omnibus; 18,000 ₣

2. Bogie Motor Vehicles
  No. 13—De Dion-Bouton Pauline; 26,500 ₣

3. Motor Vehicles towing trailers
  No. 3—Scotte Passenger Train (steam); 26,000 ₣

II. Transport of Goods

1. Motor Vehicles
  No. 8—Dietrich truck (petrol); 6,000 ₣

2. Motor vehicles towing trailers
  No. 2—Scotte Goods Train (steam); 24,000 ₣

  As stated in the rules, the contest was based on economy and not speed.  Factoring in the weight carried, the vehicle with the most favorable cost of operation would be the victor.  Given the track record (no pun intended) of the previous races, it came as no surprise that things did not work out according to the rules, and that no winner among the seven finishers was declared.

De Dion-Bouton entered two vehicles.  The first (No. 13)—a Steam Bogie pulling a heavy pauline (below, with incorrect date on the original commemorative postcard)—was naturally entered in the Public Passenger Transport/Bogie motor vehicles category:

DD 95s
Some modern websites call this vehicle "Pauline" or even "La Pauline" as if it was given a name (just as the first De Dion, Bouton et Trépardoux Dos-A-Dos Steam Runabout had been given the name La Marquise).  This is not the case, since in France in the 1890s, a pauline was simply a type of large omnibus, just as in America in the 1860s, a clarence was an extra-large coupé.

The competition was designed to judge in the areas of reliability, serviceability, maneuverability, degree of comfort, and economy of operation (including the factoring in of the purchase price).  According to the August, 1897 issue of The Automotor and Horseless Vehicle Journal:
The principal points to which the Commissioners were to direct their attention and to which they were to give due appreciation were:
  Smell and noise of exhaust;
  Visibility of exhaust vapour, particularly in the case of steam;
  Ease of suspension;
  Noise made by the machine in motion;
  Degree of comfort of the vehicle;
  Dust and dirt made by working the motor;
  Power of the motor, facility of steering;
  Change of speeds, whether easily accomplished or not;
  Ability to stop and start on inclines;
  Necessity or otherwise of going backwards in order to obtain
    momentum in mounting an obstacle;
  Necessity or otherwise of lightening the vehicle when starting;
  Efficiency of brakes for stopping on and descending gradients;
  Proper capacity of [fuel] bunkers and [water] feed tanks;
  Seizing of the machinery;
  Breakage of any part;
  Leakage of steam, feed water, or fuel;
  Condition of feed pump;
  Pressure gauge, and in oil-motors condition of ignition
  Regularity of explosions and feed;
  Proper circulation of cooling water;
  Supply of oil, how carried.
Still, despite the carefully worded announcement and the detailed list of the things that the Automobile Club or the French Race Committee would be looking at to judge, most entrants misunderstood the intent of the contest, which was to judge each vehicle on the factors mentioned above.  Believing that Les Poids Lourds was essentially another speed contest, some manufacturers carried only the minimum allowed weight of cargo or passengers in order to obtain faster times over each course of the trials.  Of course, the real objective should have been to reliably carry the most weight or passengers per trip, thereby gaining a higher degree of economy of operation.  The misunderstanding of the rules turned the least expensive vehicle to buy into the most expensive one to operate.  And, as it turned out, the most expensive vehicle to buy was the least expensive to operate.

De Dion-Bouton itself misunderstood the concept of economy of operation when it came to factoring in the purchase price.  The 1897 journal Memoirs and Proceedings of the Society of Civil Engineers of France reported that, while De Dion-Bouton’s No. 13 entry cost 26,500 ₣ delivered (17,500 ₣ for the tractor and 9,000 ₣ for the pauline), consideration should be given to the fact that the pauline in the competition was a custom-built luxury vehicle.  A pauline built for general revenue service would be at least 4,000 ₣ cheaper, lowering the original purchase price to 22,500 ₣ and making it 3,500 ₣ less expensive than its closest competitor.

Because of the numerous misunderstandings, the Race Committee decided not to declare an overall winner.  Rather, they decided to just publish the results of each competitor’s scoring (below) and let the public sort out which vehicle would suit which industry better.

De Dion 105
The judging results of the Concours des Poids Lourds, from Mémoires et Compte Rendu des Travaux de la Société des Ingénieurs Civils de France, Deuxième volume, Année 1897 (Memoirs and Proceedings of the Society of Civil Engineers of France, Second Volume, Year 1897).

In the Public Passenger Transport category, De Dion-Bouton’s No. 13 Steam Bogie and pauline swept their six trials with the lowest Cost Per Kilometer with one-third load, two-thirds load, and full load for both the “Travellers with 400 kg. of luggage” and “Travellers without luggage” categories.  Purchase price notwithstanding, in terms of cost of operation alone the Steam Bogie/Pauline combination edged out the steam powered Scotte Passenger Train (below) to be the least expensive overall to operate.

Scotte 001
The steam driven Scotte Passenger Train.  From Concours des Poids Lourd, Versailles, 1897, Rapport de la Commission, Automobile-Club de France, (Heavyweight Truck Contest, Versailles, 1897, Report of the Commission, Automobile Club of France).

The article in Memoirs and Proceedings of the Society of Civil Engineers of France noted that, using the same tractor, the pauline could be swapped out for another vehicle that was of a different shape or size, or for another purpose, and the performance would stay the same as long as the weight remained the same—hinting that the Steam Bogie/trailer combination could have competed and won in all categories.

Ironically, the second vehicle (No. 14) that De Dion-Bouton entered in the Public Passenger Transport category of the Concours des Poids Lourds turned out to be one of two De Dion-Bouton vehicles that would signal the beginning of the end of the Steam Bogie.  The new De Dion-Bouton Omnibus was somewhat of a departure for the company, being a stand-alone vehicle (below), rather than a tractor-trailer combination, and it had a more common (and much more efficient) vertical exhaust stack rather than the down-turned stack for which they were noted:

De Dion 103
From Concours des Poids Lourd, Versailles, 1897, Rapport de la Commission, Automobile-Club de France, (Heavyweight Truck Contest, Versailles, 1897, Report of the Commission, Automobile Club of France).

The De Dion-Bouton steam omnibus came in third overall, behind the aforementioned Scotte Passenger Train, and had the distinction of having the highest service speed at 14 to 14.5 km/h, and being able to run the longest daily route of some 145 kilometers.  All-in-all, the two De Dion-Bouton vehicles made an impressive showing that was followed up later in the month by the De Dion-Bouton factory win-in-class and second place overall finish—with the Count de Dion himself driving—at the Paris-Dieppe race mentioned at the beginning of this entry.  Although it wasn’t possible to know at the time, the Paris-Dieppe race would be the last noteworthy racing victory for the De Dion-Bouton Steam Bogie or its derivatives.  It seems only appropriate that the Count, who won that first contest in 1894, was driving for the last triumph in 1897.  In the meantime, the second—and far more significant—vehicle to help bring about the demise of the Steam Bogie was being developed by the De Dion-Bouton factory.

De Dion 104
From Concours des Poids Lourd, Versailles, 1897, Rapport de la Commission, Automobile-Club de France, (Heavyweight Truck Contest, Versailles, 1897, Report of the Commission, Automobile Club of France).

Next installment: The End of the De Dion-Bouton Steam Bogie - Going out in Style.

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