LEON-SERPOLLET WINS BEXHILL SPEED TRIALS
1902. Leon Serpollet taking a trial spin at Bexhill. When Mr. J. H. G. Hamilton, to whom we are indebted for the photograph, "snapped" the car, it was going at about fifty-two miles per hour. Autocar 07.06.1902, P.600
If you look closely at the 19.05.1902 Trial Bexhill publications, it is apparent that Leon Serpollet used two different cars. Why did it happen? Having studied the reports of the day I can now share my findings.
1902. New racing car Gardner-Serpollet 120 bhp. This car was longer than the Nice race car. External differences are also another front fairing near the springs, triangles on the doors, a wider seat. This car was not an Easter Egg. The Motor-Car Journal 31.05.1902
1902. Racing car Gardner-Serpollet 12 hp (45 bhp) from Nice. This car was an Easter Egg. Photo Jules Beau
A view of the track from the summit of Galley Hill. This hill is 155 yards long. The cars started from the top and were timed from a point at the bottom where a board was exhibited bearing the word " Start. ' The point marked X is the Chalet, on the top of which was a telegraph board on which the numbers of the various winners were exhibited, and X X indicates the position of the Hotel Sackville. A broad tape was nailed down the center of the course at intervals.
The first automobile races which can be said to have taken place in this country were run at Bexhill-on-Sea under the auspices of the Automobile Club on Monday last. Although nothing approaching them has hitherto been held in this country, they were an unqualified success and were, without any question, appreciated by the public. The fact that races have been run on numerous occasions on the Continent could not be taken any indication of the probable success of such events in this country, for the majority of those whose opinions make or mar had taken but a slight interest, if any, in the Continental speed trials of the last few years. The proceedings, therefore, were naturally of a somewhat experimental nature, and their success was not a foregone conclusion, although the great interest shown of late in automobilism in this country might fairly be taken as a favorable augury. The races at Bexhill must now be considered not only a success but as the first of a large number of future brilliant functions of a similar character. Foe very fact of a trial of speed being run off in the heart of an English town and forming the chief attraction during a holiday season shows that public opinion on the subject of the speed of motor cars is decidedly more liberal than it was a few years back.
The track itself was specially built by Lord De la Warr on his estate at the request of the Automobile Club, and the Club has arranged for the sole right of holding similar events on this track. The De la Warr estate forms the eastern portion of the town and is bounded by a considerable length of foreshore. The road which forms the seafront enters the estate through large gates, and it is this road which constitutes the latter portion of the course, the finishing point being some 2co yards from the gates. The special track is continued eastward, keeping close by the seafront, and it has been carried along to the top of the Galley Hill, a distance of nearly a mile from the entrance gates. The Sackville Hotel lies back from the track and is built on a somewhat higher level, its situation being about 300 or 400 yards from the gates. From this point an additional road runs on the landward side of the track to the foot of Galley Hill, this portion of the track itself is ordinarily used as a speedway for cyclists and others.
This view shows the track between the finishing point and the Chalet X, and also the curve at this part, and the unfortunate fact that the camber of the road is in the wrong direction, so that any tendency to sideslip is increased. X X is the tower of the Hotel Sackville.
The track, which has an excellent graveled surface, is well-made and well-drained, and although it is somewhat heavy when thoroughly wet, yet the chances of side-slip are very small. From the top of Galley Hill, in the direction in which the cars ran, there is a descent of some 160 yards, which has a gradient of about 1 in 12. This hill not only enabled the competing vehicles to attain a fair speed before passing the starting line, but added considerably to the interest of the races, owing to the fact that he starting cars, with their white number cards in front, were visible to the majority of the spectators along the entire route, and that they're first down the track could be watched from a distance. The descent is not sufficiently long to enable cars to attain full speed before star the kilometer course, and some allowance must certainly be made for this when considering the results. From the bottom of the hill to the Sackville Hotel is comparatively level and straight, the one apparent curve being, in reality, more a deviation of the footpath and railings than of the road itself.
The Sackville Hotel the road curves considerably to the finishing point, and it was this portion of the track which caused a certain amount of anxiety to the officials and the competitors before the event. In reality, the curve did not appear to present any element of danger, although it is probably that many of the speeds recorded are less than they would otherwise have been if the roads had been straight at this point. Those cars which travelled over it at a high rate of speed showed no serious signs of sideslip, although several drivers slackened speed perceptibly before taking the curve. The finishing point was about 220 yards from the gates which separate the private road from the town, and this was at first thought to be somewhat too short a distance for the fastest vehicles to pull up in, although, as events showed, the distance was in most cases sufficient.
The one drawback to the Bexhill meeting was the weather, and this was a serious one. Rain and hail storms, strong winds, and cold air prevailed during the greater part of the Whitsuntide. Even during the bright intervals greatcoats and wraps were necessary for comfort. On Saturday and Sunday, a considerable amount of rain fell, and a very strong wind was blowing from Beachy Head. On Monday it veered round to a more northerly direction, growing at the same time considerably colder, and becoming less useful for drying the track. AMJ 24.05.1902. P.140.
Arrival Leon Serpollet and his wife in Bexhill 18.05.1902 in a new racing car. The headlights and condenser tubes underneath will be removed before the race to make the vehicle lighter.
Leon Serpollet and his wife arrived at Bexhill 18.05.1902 on the new racing car Gardner-Serpollet 120 break hp (bhp). This car was longer than the Nice race car. External differences are also another front fairing near the springs, triangles on the doors, a wider seat. Weight was less than 1000 kg.
The competition began on Monday 19.05.1902 with paired races of cars from the Tourist section. In the steam car category, A.J.Dew won with a Gardner-Serpollet 6 h.p. with a result of 48.2 seconds. MCJ magazine estimates the actual capacity was 20 b.h.p.
The tourist races had been enlivened, it may be added, by interludes on the part of M. Serpollet and Baron Henri de Rothschild, who were allowed to make trial trips with their respective racing cars before actually competing. The whizzing flight of M. Serpollet's car startled the crowd considerably and was the first intimation of the live lier performances that were to be expected from the races in the speed section (The Car 28.05.1902).time he sped past on top speed state, were let for the purpose. " (AMJ 05.24.1902). However, despite the fire, Serpollet showed the absolute best time to travel a kilometer in 41.2 seconds, which corresponded to a speed of 87.79 km / h.
The Gardner Serpollet car, which set a speed record in Nice and was unofficially named Easter Egg, was sold in England for 55,000 francs. This car was shown at the the auto show in Agricultural Hall and then sold for 80,000 francs (Automobile Topics. 10 05 1902). The new owner was Mr. Creyke of Oxford. Mr. Creyke arrived in Bexheal in this car. He lent his car to Leon Serpollet to re-run after the fire of a new racing car. But the results of the re-run were worse, only 43 seconds. Therefore, the official result was the time it took to travel a kilometer on a new car.
Second place in the Speed section category steam cars was taken by L. Perry-Keen in a Gardner-Serpollet 6 h.p. - 57.6 seconds.
Mr. Craik and his car in Bexhill. The inscription "Easter egg" appeared already in England.
Thus, Leon Serpollet participated in the same competition in two different cars, which, since 1902, were often confused in the press
.Leon Serpollet and Mr. Montague pose in Mr. Craik's car.
I, Vasily Shishka, am writing the book “Cars of Leon Serpollet”. The main consultant to this book, as well as the initiator of its writing, is Chris Wedgwood, a man with steam in his blood, a steam engineer and car restorer. Chris and I spent many evenings chatting, trying to figure out the different nuances of Serpollet cars.
The second consultant is a wonderful French archivist, author of books on the history of French motorcycles, Didier Magister.
Invaluable help is provided by people from different countries who collect important information bit by bit: Alexander Kulchitsky, Dan Soudey, Davide Grappolo, Henk Schuuring, Thomas Ulrich, Umberto Voltolin, Fred Korthals, Daniel Ward, Tobias Ward, Goupil Dubois, Pierre-Jean Desfossé, Pascal Le Poder, Laurent Zoller, Michael Hortig, Jos-Pierre Wantz, James Wood, Stanislav Kiriletz, Rustam Bikbov, Ivan Ponomarenko, Davide Lorenzone, Bocha Balboni, Alekse and etc. Thank you all so much!
We ask for help from all people interested in preserving the global automotive history in the form of digital copies of brochures, family photographs and instructions for using Serpollet cars.
The history of the Grout automobile and the family isn’t in any one book, yet. All of this information I’ve collected from sources like original motor journals, vintage car club news letters, local news papers, online searches, and the helpful Walter Pollard. There are quite a few discrepancies in facts collected like were there 3 or up to 6 brothers? I’ve done my best to leave the conjecture to what lead to the company’s demise.
What would eventually become the Grout Brothers Automobile Company was established in Orange, MA, USA in 1896. Fred, the eldest of the brothers, was the mechanically minded of the brothers and with a 3 man team, built an opposed cylinder internal combustion auto in 1896. His brothers Karl and Charles joined the effort, and they made about a dozen cars between 1896 and 1898. He switched to designing steam wagons in 1898 after his I.C. vehicles proved to be too heavy for the power produced, and the carburetors were prone to fire. Their efforts finally proved enough for their dad, William L. Grout, to join, help organize, and expand the company. The father funded the brother’s endeavors with money made chiefly from his New Home sewing machine (over a million sold annually in the 1890’s), as W.L. Grout was quite industrious, a multi-patent holder, and a friend/rival of Mr. White (also of sewing machine and automobile production). It was his industry that brought the family to Orange, MA as the town was well supplied and situated for manufacturing. The first purpose built factory for automobiles was opened for the Grout Brothers in 1900- it still stands and is a tire warehouse.
Speed trials, fuel economy trials, hill climbs, and auto shows garnered the Grout autos great esteem with many 1st place prizes in the states 1903 race with the Stanley Turtle, a bent rod sent them home and the racer was disassembled. Grout produced fire engines and work trucks they called steam wagons as well as automobiles for pleasure. The driver of the steam wagon sat on the boiler, with the engine placed midway back and wheels driven by countershaft chains. A 1904 Grout Steam wagon is the oldest known truck pictured to haul an automobile in the USA. Grouts used their wagons to deliver their vehicles to nearby buyers or to the train, keeping their delivered product perfectly clean. By 1905, 125 men were employed and continued to produce “thousands” of Grout Automobiles if their ads are to be believed. Thomas Edison was one of the first to purchase their new gas models after a tour of the expanded factory August of 1905. 1903 was the last year of tiller steer, and 1906 was the last year for steam power.
There are no records surviving of how many cars the Grouts actually produced before their closure, but there is remaining hearsay of how the company met its demise. Family funding means family expectations and the younger brothers held onto Fred’s coat tails, becoming less and less helpful and more about having a good time as the company progressed successfully. A car went for a river swim during a delivery. A unnamed Grout brother in charge of delivery stopped for a drink at the pub, filled with liquid courage, he took a lady for a quick spin and went too quick for the turn before the river. Perhaps that’s why they implemented the steam wagon delivery. Charles and Karl made the family drama more public, going to court in 1907 against their 73 year old father who was trying to take management control, he didn’t like how the company was being managed and they claimed his second wife wanted more money and was taking advantage of his failing mind. The brothers were appalled when they each were willed $5 after their millionaire father’s 1908 death. Their stepmother refused to “fund their playtime” and pulled out all the remaining financial support that their father left standing. The brothers left the company and town, and the company met a steep decline, falling into receivership and multiple changing of hands before finally folding in 1912. The family sold any remaining holdings with the factory buildings auction in 1913, and the last mention of a Grout automobile being produced is 1915. The brothers had short lives, possibly due to tuberculosis. Fred died in New Mexico in 1909.
Tilly, a 1903 model J drop front is an example of the Grout Brothers’ abilities during their most productive years 1900-1904.
The earliest mention I have found of our car is a 1941 Wolfeboro NH article about three local young men collecting and restoring old vehicles. Harry Hopewell had what he then believed to be a 1905 Grout steamer in storage in his Newton MA home. The only clue we have of Tilly’s original owner somewhere in Maine is the story given at the discovery purchase.
After a particularly bad day of learning to operate her new to her car, the lady of the house was on the last leg of the drive and ran over her neighbor’s cat. Distraught, she parked the car at the back of the shed, where it sat, behind a wood pile, until Harry bought it.
After the war, Tilly was placed on display in Mr. Glen Gould’s Shirley Auto Museum where it sat, a bunkmate to a 1904 Grout that participated in the 2010 LBVCR, unrestored and un-operational until 1967. Tilly was part of a group lot my father-in-law, Frank Cooke, purchased from Harry who by then had decided that the year was more likely a 03 or 04. The license plate numbers inscribed on the lanterns are assumed to be the culprit of the 05 dating as Maine issued plates starting in 05. That’s a whole new rabbit hole to explore as the scribbled numbers in our oldest known photo are a 33? 55? 88? The only combination that works with the license registry is 85, to a Theodore Davis of Portland with a 4hp Grout. Satellite map imaging show his listed address is now apartment buildings, so I can’t confirm the story by building placements. Further research is due.
Frank got the car operational but not restored in any way and had it tooling about locally before deciding to ship it over for the London to Brighton run in 1979. It was a failed attempt stopped at Worthing with further injury as the bypass was closed during towing, causing great engine damage being pumped full of water. The Brighton and Hove Engineerium took custody of Tilly and not only repaired but repainted it, leading to a successful 1980 and 81 L to B run.
The 81 souvenir program has a cute note. “ Grout- American steam cars, Frank Cooke of North Brookfield, Mass. (USA) has taken part in the run these past two years with is 1903 car but E. Frank Taliaferro, from San Diego California, on the West Coast is in for a shock when he arrives with his 1901 Grout for the first time. On his entry for he stated, “Only Grout in running condition in existence (to our knowledge)”. Mr. Taliaferro me Mr. Cooke...(no’s 88 and 185)” Mr. Taliaferro had a 7hp surrey.
Tilly came back to the states and took the long-term mantle of the only reliably running Grout in New England until the early 2000s when Frank and his son Billings (Bill) decided to upgrade the original burner and replace the boiler as the car simply couldn’t produce enough steam for continuous driving. Frank passed in 2005, and Tilly went into storage incomplete.
Tilly was brought out of storage with an invite to the 2013 Boston Cup as part of their Made in Massachusetts highlight. It received the people’s choice award; Bill received the gumption to get it running again. Storage was not friendly to Tilly. The original wood body had developed a sway back and several structural cracks that were unsafe at any speed, forget the weight of a bigger burner and boiler.
Starting in 2016, M.S. Herman & Co did the body dismantle and restoration, while Bourdon Boiler Works built a new copper water tank to go along with the previously made burner and boiler, and Rempco rebuilt a newly acquired Grout engine replacing the small engine (not Grout) used for the 1979 repair. Stutzman Wheel shop made four new wheels. Randy Beaudoin of North Country Signs gave a color match new body and wheel paint and Kenny Jacobs did the gold-leaf and pinstripes. The seats are still in good condition and received conditioner only, but moths got to the flannel lining of the top. Mike Lemier of Richmond Upholstery repaired the lining and reset the glass windows.
The rest of the reassembly happened at home, and I assisted where possible. Trying to improve the brake system proved problematic. Tilly had only one brake drum and shoe on the differential as originally constructed. The construction of the differential offered the opportunity for a second brake setup. Frank added the necessary components to have a shoe on both sides of the chain sprocket. He used a cable and pully balance system from the brake pedal as the original brake rod path passes above the chain sprocket on the engine and is tight for two rods. Bill kept the two shoes and upgraded the cable system to two rods with a balance bar near the brake pedal to balance the pull on the two shoes. This still just slows us down, not stop. We’re still playing with brake lining options, hydraulics are a future possibility. The other brake project is to make a parking brake, as the hills and mountains of Vermont have few flat spaces.
A pilot tank was added, as the Grout originally ran a single fuel tank with both burner and pilot running on gasoline. It was mounted beneath the front passenger seat, out of sight. The new Stanley style pilot is now fueled by coleman fuel, the original pilot was comparable to a miniature blow torch and lit “with a single match”.
The first firing was in May of this year. Growing pains started not long after, as on the second run we (with me driving) plugged our boiler sight gauge with mud we’re still blowing out of the boiler and had a small scorch in our driveway. Time sitting wasn’t good for the inside of the boiler, we still have no idea what actually caused the mud to build up. But Tilly likes to sing, and we’ve been back out on the road a couple more times. Definitely miss those club meets, gets us out of the house and our cars on the road. And we’re currently installing a second boiler gauge of David Nergaard’s design. It’s similar to a Bristol Derr water gauge, so a bit higher tech but also camouflageable, it won’t stick out like a sore thumb. The sight glass only gave us the bottom third of the boiler, this new gauge will give us readings from empty to full.
The top never had a boot for it’s down position, Frank lashed it down with straps for open trailer towing. This is my winter project, to build a boot or two for Tilly. I’ve got enough material, there might be a bag for onboard tools as well.
2020 was supposed to be Tilly’s grand debut at the Eastern steam tour, which we were also hosting in Tilly’s old stomping grounds in central Massachusetts. That has been optimistically rescheduled to June 2021 and we hope to see our small and large horsepower friends again. We also want to spread the word that the Orange Historical Society would like to know who else has a Grout, Mr. Pollard is the lead Grout historian there. There are currently about 30 known steam-powered Grouts in the world and no internal combustion Grouts. Mr. Pollard is writing a book about the Grouts and their company, spending the last 25 years on research. He can be contacted directly at email@example.com.
Reprinted from Light Steam Power including Steam Power Vol.XXVII No.I.
This was not a publicised endurance run organised for publicity at a time when these American steam cars were being made. It was completed in one day in September, 1977 in England, from the Midlands over notorious Shap Fell into the mountainous North West.
Though the weather forecast was "unsettled" and rain had not helped the pre-run steam up the night before, Friday, September 2nd proved mainly fine but chilly- just as well for P.D. Stevenson's Stanley 740 is as yet without windscreen, hood, or even side doors. The sparse plywood side sheets gave little protection to driver and passenger, A. Ritchie, who also owns a Stanley. The fitting of a windscreen has now been given top priority.
With the steam car's pick-up style rear compartment well stocked with containers of paraffin, a fuel very scarce on British motorways, the party steamed away from Coventry at 4am all set for Penrith, Cumbria. Showery weather improved to fine later. Unfortunately burner trouble was to plague the crew, causing about ten stops in the first 200 miles. The original Cruban burner was suffering from low fire caused by carboning up in the vapouriser. The consequent shortage of steam was eventually cured by removing one of the eight strands in the burner vapouriser cable, thus allowing freer vapour flow. Thereafter the old car maintained steam pressure at 400 to 425PSI at 40 to 45 MPH with 500PSI available for startling acceleration in towns, at which pressure the main burner cuts out automatically. Below 40 MPH the flame dies down and restarts under automatic control. Condensing in the large fanless Stanley "radiator" is usually complete, though at about 25 MPH up the long windswept hill over Shap caused an occasional wisp of steam.
About an hour was used for completion of some fortuitous business en route, before arrival at the market town of Penrith, which is not very far from the Scottish border. Here four or five hours included a run around the town and its environs with a friend, who had owned a late model Stanley many, many years before. The return journey started at 1.a.m. the next day, when a squall was soon left behind. Burner troubles having been cured, the Stanley proceeded in fine style at 40 to 45 MPH on its return to Coventry with steam pressure carefully kept above 400 psi, which at cruising speed drops to 125PSI at the engine steam chest. This time more than 120 miles were completed without a stop, allowing full enjoyment of the exhilarating silent travel by the spartan crew.
The new parallel flow superheater, which maintains steam temperature at 716 deg. F. (380 deg. C.) at a steady 40MPH gives considerably improved running with economies in fuel and water consumption. Only 5 or 6 gallons of make-up water were needed on this return trip. The old zig-zag superheater would only maintain 572-617 deg. F. (300-325 deg. C.) in the same driving conditions, which caused a relatively sluggish engine. "Cylesso" cylinder oil is metred into the steam line at the rate of about 1 gallon per 1000 miles. If steam pressure drops below 400PSI fuel consumption increases noticeably and performance goes down.
Throughout the whole journey there was no mechanical bother. Automatic control of water level and steam pressure behaved faultlessly and the troublesome burner settled down to reliable performance after the minor modification. However, this Cruban design does suffer from a red deposit on the slotted burner plate, the reason for which is difficult to find- does anyone have any ideas? Otherwise the car is stated to be almost trouble free.
P.D. Stevenson intends to make many more long distance journeys in his Stanley, the first having been a long test run of 300 miles to Harewood House, Yorkshire, and return, which was accomplished successfully in September 1974. He knows his steam car is much more pleasant to drive than I.C vehicles, its quiet smooth power and high torque being especially appreciated. The speed is good for the roads of 1923 and later but more would be preferred on modern motorways. A maximum of 60MPH has been achieved for about 1 1/2 miles, but steam pressure was dropping. The specially allotted Edinburgh Registration Number SSC 740 is most appropriate.
Not long before the Penrith run, I needed no second bidding in speedily accepting an invitation for an evening run on country by-roads. With the steam gauge needle hovering around 500PSI, the acceleration from rest was akin to aircraft take off- and all without apparent effort. There was no difficulty in maintaining more than 400 PSI with superheat along the narrow twisting roads again with no apparent effort in almost complete silence-a faint chuff chuff chuff being heard only when accelerating away from a stop. Therein lies the charm of these and similar steam cars.
SSC 740 is claimed to be the only Stanley 740 in Britain. It is thought to have been acquired from France and possibly at one time owned by Ettore Bugatti of I.C fame, A saloon body was perhaps originally fitted. Since purchase by P.D. Stevenson in a very dilapidated state, the car has been stripped down to its chassis. The engine has been completely overhauled with cylinder bores honed 30 thou. oversize, new pistons made and piston rods hard chromed. A new solid shell firetube boiler has 636, 9/16 inch outside diameter (O.D) 16 gauge steel firetubes and steel tubeplates. The burner, steam stop valve and throttle valve are of Cruban design.
The unusual brake compensating gear is also believed to be of Cruban make. The steam pressure automatic is a Stanley. The exhaust steam circuit to the condenser includes a cylinder oil separator and a feedwater heater which uses 12ft. of 1/2 inch bore copper tube coiled inside a 6 inch diameter, 9 inch long cylinder. A flat spiral economiser coil of 30ft of 1/2 inch O.D copper tube is fitted inside the smokebox. The scanty temporary body will eventually be replaced by one of four to five seater open touring type.
Nearly all the work of this continued restoration is done by P.D. Stevenson himself, whose skill is more frequently applied to making specialised radiators for vintage cars.
Model F Doble.
A few of the many photos Charlie Johnson sent of the work done on the Doble F.
The car is still in the early stages of the restoration. we hope to bring you more as the work progresses.
Recollections of my meetings with Abner Doble in 1930
As recounted to Bill Lloyd on 13 - 19 September, 1999
My first glimpse of Abner Doble and E-24
I was born on 8th July, 1911 in Auckland, New Zealand. As a young lad in the 1920’s I had a keen interest in steam cars and had read of the legendary cars manufactured by Abner Doble in San Francisco. One day about 1930 I was greatly surprised to see one of these cars in Auckland city. It was parked on the northern side of Vulcan Lane off Queen street, just a stone’s throw from where I occasionally helped my father in his accountancy practice. I asked if he could photograph the car for me using his quarter plate camera and he did this on two different days with the car in the same place on both occasions. I often saw the car in the same area and in the same parking spot over several months. It was a pale yellow coupé with black mudguards and I noticed that the paint was blistered in a circular patch on the rear part of the front bonnet. The license plate was 8-341 and on another occasion 171031. The right hand window was partly down and a spectator once reached in and blew the horn. I was immediately interested in the instruments and noticed the steam pressure was reading 600 psi on a small gauge. I don’t remember the exact colour of the car interior but I do recall that the seat leather wasn’t black. To find out more about the car I got in touch with my cousin Charlie Jonas who was a mattress manufacturer with an office in Lorne street. He had built a small model steam locomotive and was active in the model engineering society. Doble attended an exhibition of this society and there is a photo of Mrs. Doble beside my cousin’s locomotive. He told me that Abner Doble was in New Zealand to supervise a joint venture with A&G Price at Thames for the manufacture of steam buses for the Auckland Transport Board and the White bus company at Thames. He also thought that Doble was importing the fuel for his car. It wasn’t running on petrol. It had a very distinctive and seductive odour of oil and steam that only a steam car can have. I believe it was running on diesel oil which was very difficult to get in those days. It was proposed to run the buses on diesel, which was much cheaper than petrol.
Doble’s car E-24 was parked in a side road in the busiest part of Auckland and usually attracted a lot of attention. I always had a close look at the car whenever I could and on one occasion I saw a tall and distinguished looking gentleman getting into it. He had a fair complexion and was neatly dressed in city clothes with a felt hat. He was noticeably stooped for a young man of about 35 and I immediately noticed a conspicuous and rather horrible scar that ran diagonally down one side of his face. It came from eye level down to his jaw and looked like a bad piece of facial surgery that hadn’t been stitched. It was particularly noticeable on his rather pallid features. There were several theories - a far fetched one that it came from a sword duel but the more likely explanation subsequently given in an article in Light Steam Power was that it arose from a boiler explosion. I am a pianist myself and instinctively look at a person’s hands when I first meet them. I noticed that his hands were unmarked, not the hands of a manual worker. He had the hands of a musician rather than a manual engineer. I would have liked to speak to him but was only about 19 at the time and was too shy to approach him directly. Fortunately the opportunity arrived by accident a little later. On this first occasion I watched as he got into the car and I heard a soft, deep rumble as the burner ignited. A faint blue haze came away from under the car and left a delightful odour of steam, oil and flue gases. The car moved off silently, except that when it was about 20 feet away there was a sudden “crack” like the knock of a hammer on metal. Neither my father nor I knew what this was at the time but I now realise that this was one of the high pressure relief valves discharging condensed water from the cylinders back to the water tank. I watched with my father as the car moved away in almost total silence. I had just had my first glimpse of one of the most famous engineers of the steam age.
Chauffeured by Abner Doble
A little later I had the opportunity of meeting Abner Doble in person and riding in his car. I was in a garage in Chapel Square in Auckland city to see a home built steam car with a Locomobile engine owned by “Steam” Stewart. H.H. Stewart had been a joint agent with the Treloar Milking Machine Co which had been the sole or primary agents for the Stanley Company some years before. Stewart also had some connection with the Doble/Price venture and had received around £750.00 in commission for introducing Doble to Prices. I was chatting to Mr. Stewart and Jim Lawler the garage owner in the enclosed garage office when Abner Doble wandered in. He had parked his car in the street outside the garage and was apparently expecting to meet Stewart there because he said to him “I want to make an appointment with you for lunch.” After a little discussion, Stewart introduced me to the first American I had ever met in the flesh. I noticed his accent but nothing otherwise remarkable about his voice. It was average, unhurried but business like. He was neatly dressed in a business suit with his felt hat and was smoking a cigarette in a short holder, something I hadn’t seen before. He and Stewart spoke on first name terms and when Abner was about to leave I took an indirect approach and hurriedly asked Stewart “Do you think he’d give me a lift?” “Give him a ride!” said Stewart in a rather obliging tone, possibly using the opportunity as a convenient way of removing an over-enthusiastic teenager from the office. Doble immediately agreed and we walked out towards the car. But before we got there he stopped to look at the experimental steam chassis that Stewart had built and which was being stored in the garage. “I like the idea of your single spoked steering wheel!” he joked at the hasty construction. As I got into the right hand side of his left hand drive car I noticed a small white wire haired terrier occupying the shelf behind the single front seat. These were fashionable at the time and someone had given it to him as a present. My next impression as I lowered myself onto the single bench seat was something of a surprise when the cushion hissed at me. I had never seen a pneumatic cushion before. He switched on and we turned around. He had been parked on the “wrong” or right hand side of the road. The car moved to the end of the short Chapel Square with the Catholic church on our right and we turned left into Wyndham street, then eastwards down to Queen street where he turned right. He stopped some distance up Queen Street, on the eastern side, directly in front of what was then the Auckland Savings Bank and said “I’ll be here for about 10 minutes.” He then reached across me to shut the passenger’s window to prevent the dog from escaping and excused himself with the comment “Just so he won’t elude you.” I definitely remember him using the elegant expression “elude”. He went into the bank leaving me and the dog in charge of this remarkable machine. I was careful not to touch anything. He returned from the bank and we proceed up Queen street to the Wellesley street intersection, occupied by the traffic officer since there were no traffic lights at the time. Abner leaned across me again and said to the officer “Can I go right round?” There was no reply but we were waved around and he made a complete U-turn at the intersection, going around the officer. “You’ve got a car to be proud of” I remarked as we gathered speed. “Oh yes, it’s a fine car” he answered with justifiable pride. I was a bit shy and asked what I feared might have been a silly question. “Can you drive with the hand brake on?” “Oh no, it’s just like a locomotive” he answered immediately. But then he hesitated a moment and as an afterthought said “Oh yes you could ..” and added something that now escapes me. It might have been “but it wouldn’t be desirable.” We turned right into Quay street and he put on a short turn of speed along by the wharves. There was a distinct and effortless surge of power which was most impressive, even though the conditions were too restrictive for anything more than about 40 mph. He switched off the burner and said “We’re coasting now.” Then a moment later he asked “How much further can I take you?” When I replied that I was going to Upper Queen street he was somewhat surprised and quickly exclaimed “We’re getting further from Upper Queen street every moment!” but I was so taken with the unique experience that I just said “No, just keep going.” We stopped a few moments later outside the Auckland premises of A&G Price on the left, about half a mile along Quay street. As we pulled up he said “I shall be here for about an hour” and extended his hand in a courteous manner which indicated that my unique journey was at an end. “Pleased to have met you Mr. Jonas” were his last words as he opened the door and stepped out. I walked back to the Baptist Tabernacle where I had left my father’s car or my push bike after my organ practice from 8 to 9 am. Not only had I willingly traveled well out of my way but my father was less than pleased to hear that I had also broken an appointment he had arranged for me with a potential employer, just when the depression was beginning to bite. But any pangs of conscience were more than adequately recompensed. At last I had had my first ride in a steam car and in all the world there was no greater steam car than the Doble and I had been chauffeured by none other than the deity Abner Doble himself. It was like meeting the almighty. I felt like the King of England had taken me on a tour of Buckingham Palace.
My last meeting with Abner Doble
I met Abner Doble on one other occasion. Possibly around August, 1930 my mother saw in the Table Talk column of the New Zealand Herald that Mr. and Mrs. Doble were now staying at the Grand Hotel in Prince’s street near the university. I telephoned the hotel and asked to speak with Mr. Doble. I was put through to him and asked if I might come down to see him. He agreed and when I asked when could I come he replied “Right now.” I wasted no time in getting there and found him and his wife sitting in chairs on the steps approaching the front door. We had a pleasant conversation in which he mentioned that he didn’t like living in Auckland and preferred Thames. Thames is a much smaller town. In the same breath he mentioned that he enjoyed tennis. I recall asking him about the burner and he spoke about the venturi but I didn’t really follow because I had never seen one. I told him that I was hoping to make up a steam car from a Mobile engine that I had. “You’ll find it damn hard!” he replied. “What speed could I expect from it?” I asked him. “Oh, about 25 miles per hour.” He also suggested “Why don’t you go down to Hamilton and see Jim Trelor? He’s got a lot of junk!” He was alluding to Stanley material, for which he appeared to have little regard. I asked if he could lend me any information but he said “It’s all packed up.” He was very patient and gave me about 20 minutes to half an hour. Then he ended the interview with the words “How much more can I tell you because I propose to take my wife out for an airing?” I remember these exact words because I thought it was an unusual expression. His wife had sat patiently throughout our discussions, saying virtually nothing. I later heard from Stewart that she may not have been his wife. Her name may have been Alene. He mentioned that he was the hand brake on?” “Oh no, it’s just like a locomotive” he answered immediately. But then he hesitated a moment and as an afterthought said “Oh yes you could ..” and added something that now escapes me. It might have been “but it wouldn’t be desirable.” We turned right into Quay street and he put on a short turn of speed along by the wharves. There was a distinct and effortless surge of power which was most impressive, even though the conditions were too restrictive for anything more than about 40 mph. He switched off the burner and said “We’re coasting now.” Then a moment later he asked “How much further can I take you?” When I replied that I was going to Upper Queen street he was somewhat surprised and quickly exclaimed “We’re getting further from Upper Queen street every moment!” but I was so taken with the unique experience that I just said “No, just keep going.” We stopped a few moments later outside the Auckland premises of A&G Price on the left, about half a mile along Quay street. As we pulled up he said “I shall be here for about an hour” and extended his hand in a courteous manner which indicated that my unique journey was at an end. “Pleased to have met you Mr. Jonas” were his last words as he opened the door and stepped out. I walked back to the Baptist Tabernacle where I had left my father’s car or my push bike after my organ practice from 8 to 9 am. Not only had I willingly traveled well out of my way but my father was less than pleased to hear that I had also broken an appointment he had arranged for me with a potential employer, just when the depression was beginning to bite. But any pangs of conscience were more than adequately recompensed. At last I had had my first ride in a steam car and in all the world there was no greater steam car than the Doble and I had been chauffeured by none other than the deity Abner Doble himself. It was like meeting the almighty. I felt like the King of England had taken me on a tour of Buckingham Palace.
The Doble Steam Buses
Since my ride with Abner Doble, I have ridden in eight other steam vehicles including the buses. I had two rides on the buses, both on bus Number 10 as a fare paying passenger around Auckland. Once was to Point Chevalier and later along Mountain Road past the grammar school, which I had attended just a couple of years before. Only three complete bus units were built, all different in detail. The first was sold to the Auckland Transport Board, installed in a converted AEC bus as described and illustrated in the newspaper cutting. This was the only bus I rode in. They were all conversion units, although one had a special body built by Cousins & Cousins and ran the 70 or 80 miles from Auckland to Thames for about 3 months for the White company. I saw this one once on the road coming from Auckland as I was returning from Thames. This one had the auxiliary unit driven by a donkey engine behind the condenser rather than by shaft drive from the main engine. I once owned the complete power plant out of this Thames bus and sold it to a Mr Alexander in Sydney in 1948 or early 1949. I later went to Sydney on the Wanganella in 1949 to exchange a turbo booster unit from Number 10 bus for a White steam car engine. I can’t recall his name. He wrote to me about a pressure atomizing burner that he had designed and how he found it.
The number 10 bus appears in the newspaper photograph and is the one which had the most use. This was the first bus I saw. It had a forward driving control, half way over the boiler room. I first saw it in Commerce street in the city, coming in to its terminus and was impressed by the silence of the bus as it made a U-turn in Commerce street. Riding was equally smooth, with a faint sound from the exhaust but much quieter than the old AEC bus engine. It had that subtle and attractive odour of steam and oil. I later saw the Thames bus coming from Auckland toward Thames as I returned. This Thames bus was sold to the Thames Authority, which was separate from the Auckland Transport Board that owned the Number 10 bus. I later visited the Price works in Thames after the project had been terminated and took stereo photos of one of the chassis. Everything lay there for some time, until Price had a big clean up, possibly when they became Cable Price. Even Doble’s workshop and drawings were there.
There were some problems with the buses because they were under-powered except that the third one, the Thames bus, had a bigger boiler. It had an auxiliary engine to take some of the electrical load. Jo Bell said that this took too much steam. It went at 1,500 revs and sounded like a petrol engine working. I think it was a little compound V-engine. The failure of the project was a combination of the lack of performance and the depression. Fuel economy with Number 10 bus was said to have been about the same as conventional buses but with cheaper fuel.
The fate of the steam buses
The compensator came from the Number 10 bus unit and some other parts from this unit ended up in my Chev steam car. I don’t recall if the third unit, the Thames bus, had a compensator. The second unit was lying idle for about 9 years but no one bought it. I don’t know what happened to that second unit. A chap in Hamilton, a Mr. Grinter bought the Thames power unit and I bought it off him. This is the one I sold to Alexander without ever taking delivery of it. I bought it with the idea of reselling it. I paid about 90 pounds for it and only saw it in pieces in the railway yards. It was just the power unit. I think the engine of the third unit, the Thames bus, went to a museum in the UK because I got a letter from them about it.
“Bo” Bollond at Thames bought my Stanley about 1945 after I stripped a lot of stuff off it. He got Prices to put a bus engine into it. I don’t know what bus engine this was. Brian Rankine has this engine at the moment. Bollond might have got one separately from Prices. He is the one who cut the auxiliary unit in half. Sadly, he eventually committed suicide by gassing himself, I believe as a result of women trouble.
Jo Bell, one of the guys who was in charge of the mechanics on the bus project at Thames said he once had the use of Doble’s car (E-24) for a weekend. If the project had continued he would have made the control boxes. A relation of his appears in a group photograph of the works people. At Gary Summerhayes’ prompting I wrote 48 pages of memoirs of my steam car experiences for the Model Engineering Society, now the Steam Engine Society.
I rode in Doble E-13 once in Christchurch when Alec Gudsell had it and remember being most impressed at the way it went through thick sand on a sandy road, like a locomotive pulling up hill. Joe Bell, who had worked on the bus project, said there could have been a third Doble car brought in by a tourist but only briefly. He had seen the word “Doble” on the back of an electrician’s jacket.
Capacitive Water Level Gauge: Assembly Notes
The probe is an insulated thin wall brass tube. The insulation I have used is Teflon (PTFE) heat shrink tubing. To prevent some problems experienced with earlier versions, the brass tube should be perforated about every half inch. I suggest rotating the tube while heating the heat shrink tubing to obtain uniform shrinkage. I have tried several samples of heat shrink tubing and think McMaster-Carr catalog number 75665K62 is particularly suitable. A four foot length costs less than eight Dollars.
A second method of insulating the probe is to wrap the tube with overlapping layers of teflon tape made for pipe joint purposes. I have not tried this method, but it has been used successfully by another user of this gauge.
The bottom end of the probe is inserted in a Teflon insulator which is in turn inserted in a drilled hole in a quarter inch brass pipe plug. Red high temperature silicon rubber joint compound seals the probe from water leakage. As the probe is open at both ends, the silicon rubber is not required to be pressure resistant.
The top end is centered by its contact wire on the sparkplug used as the gauge's signal connector. I have used both the Autolite 4194 and the Champion J99, which is an industrial furnace igniter. The Champion is both easier to use and more reliable, it having a long electrode to which it is easy to braze an extension. The extension serves only to make electrical contact with inside of the probe tube and may be as thin as twenty gauge copper wire. A few slight bends in this wire will insure adequate contact.
As the usual spark plug gasket works poorly with steam and to obtain a grounding point for the cable, an O-ring retainer made of a tenth inch thick brass or steel is fitted on the plug. If the seat hole is 0.75 inch diameter, a 206 Viton O-ring will work. The grounding point is tapped 6-32.
I have used a length or one inch black iron pipe with ends and suitable connections welded on. The ends may be made of three eighths thick steel plate. A 1 1/2 inch hole saw can be used to make the end pieces. The top end can be tapped to take the sparkplug directly, 14 by 1.25 mm. thread for the Champion plug. The bottom end should be tapped one fourth National pipe thread.
The side fittings may be five eighths round steel rod, or short bits of 1/4 inch black iron pipe.. Drill them and the body of the gauge one fourth of an inch so a bit of threaded rod will hold them in place during welding. Afterwards, they can be drilled five sixteenths and tapped one eighth pipe thread.
For a ten inch gauge, a twelve inch length of pipe is suggested. Thus the side fittings can be an inch from the end and still be ten inches apart.
To keep the probe centerd while inserting it in the case. I used a long piece of thin (18 gauge) steel wire inserted first. After the bottom fitting is in place, the steel wire sticking out of the top hole will keep the probe tube in view. One may then insert the end of the connector wire in the probe, remove the steel wire and screw the sparkplug home, remembering to have the ground connector and O-ring in place first.
An assembled gauge should have an infinite electrical resistance whether empty or full of water. The empty gauge should have a low capacity, probably about thirty picoFarads. When full of water, the capacity should be roughly ten times as great. If the gauge is over filled so the water goes above the end of the insulated probe, it will short out and have a relatively low resistance. This will cause no damage either to itself or the circuit to which it is connected. As soon as the water level drops and the plug insulator dries, the gauge will work normally.
The circuit board has two potentiometers on it for calibrating the gauge. with the gauge connected but empty, adjust the potentiometer marked R2 so the meter reads zero. With the gauge full of water, adjust the potentiometer marked R4 so the meter reads full scale.
Stanley Mixing Tube Fires by Pat Farrell (aka SSsssteamer) SACA
NW Steam Clinic September 27, 2019
What are mixing tube fires? The mixing tubes of the Stanley steam car are where the vaporized fuel and atmospheric air mix to produce a combustible flame to fire above the burner grate. When the fire presents itself below the burner grate in the plenum, or in the mixing tubes below, that is not acceptable. This generally is called a mixing tube fire. What are the causes? Most common tube fires are started by a fire leak from around the burner to boiler seal. The pilot light inspection hole not being fire tight, as well as the super heater exit at the rear of the burner can also start mixing tube
fires. A fuel flooded mixing tube fire is usually caused by a flooded burner. The flooded burner can
be flooded either by the main fuel jets, or by the pilot light being out causing raw fuel to build up in the mixing tubes and plenum. Mixing tube fires can also be started by forcing the burner too fast at firing up and flooding the burner with raw fuel. Instead, preheat well and build a slow hot fire. Tube fires can be caused by the fire dropping down out of the burner and into the plenum by the way of a cracked burner grate. The burner’s slots or its drilled holes can become too big and therefore dropping the fire down through them and into the plenum. A warped or heat damaged burner grate can be the cause for the over-sized slots. The burner grate’s plenum not being sealed tight enough around the burner grate, can also allow the fire to descend into the plenum. Flooding of the burner plenum can be caused by using too heavy of fuel for the too large of main jets being used. Thin your fuel with gasoline or reduce the size of your jets to help reduce fuel flooding. This flooding is also a problem found at higher elevations where the oxygen is thinner. Sometimes, old fuel will refuse to vaporize, and until that fuel is disposed of, the old fuel will be a problem. Partially plugged main jets can cause drooling that will accumulate creating flooding of the mixing tubes. Misaligned main fuel jets within the mixing tubes can flood a side of a mixing tube and thereby flooding the mixing tubes. Also a resulting fog of vaporized fuel blowing back outside of the mixing tube can result in a puddle of raw fuel and an eventual tube fi re. The main jets vapor spray should always do a perfect bull’s eye inside of the mixing tubes. What should be done? A roaring mixing tube fire should be extinguished as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the Stanley burner grate. The first thing to do is to eliminate the fuel source by turning off your main burner valve. If I have a roaring tube fire, I prefer to quickly pull off of the road and try to let the excess fuel burn itself off in a small flame. Continued driving fans the tube fire making it a hotter tube fi re and possibly doing excessive damage to your burner grate. Sometimes if my mixing tube fi re gets too large, I will use my Halon fire extinguished to keep the fire from getting too big and doing collateral damage. Never use a powdered fire extinguisher in your mixing tubes as that will plug your burner grate up solid with extinguisher powder. To resume firing properly, the excess fuel has to be burned off, so a smaller fire is encouraged into eliminating the excess fuel. If the burner has lost its fi re and it is blowing raw fuel fog into the air, turn the main fuel valve off immediately and drive until the fueled smoke screen has subsided and then pull over to relight the burner. The first lighting attempt is to light the fire from the top at the smoke bonnet’s access door. To prevent your body from being burned, stand upwind from the fuel vapor cloud when lighting. Next is to check your pilot light at the peek hole for being lit. Light the pilot light if it is still out. What is the collateral damage? Too much roaring burning of a mixing tube fire will eventually crack your burner grate. Plenum fires can also destroy all of your refractory materials located in your burner. Excessive tube
fires with fuel left uncontrolled can eventually burn your Stanley up. Always shut off your main fuel valve when leaving your Stanley unattended. Try to shut off your main fuel valve a quarter mile before arriving at your destination. That should clear out any stored fuel in your steam automatic system and prevent your main fuel from later cycling on and drooling fuel while the Stanley is parked. What can be done to continue driving while tube fi res persist? Sometimes while on the road, a quick fix for tube
fires is just not available. To survive this problem and to continue driving, these steps can be taken. Reduce your fuel pressure so as not to create too much internal pressure inside of the burner/plenum area. Reducing your fuel pressure to below 100 PSI can sometimes get you home. Get your Stanley rolling up to about 18 MPH or faster before slowly turning on your main fuel valve. This creates a draft so as to keep the fire burning above the burner grate and not in the plenum or mixing tubes. Some Stanley's have a stack blower that can be used to duplicate this need for a draft. Before using your main fuel valve, by using your firing up valve you can gently bring your fire temperature up to a good
firing rate following with firing with the main fuel valve. If your burner grates become sooted up from tube fires and it restricts the passage of the air/fuel vapor, remove your main fuel jets and if you have one, use your steam enema with full steam to clear your burner grate of any soot. I have also removed my smoke bonnet, and by blasting down each fire tube with an air nozzle, I cleared the sooted up the burner grate below of its blocking soot. Once I was in a blinding dust storm that blocked my burner grate with dust. My steam enema saved me that day too. Hopefully something in my above SSsssteamer experiences will help you in your steam car adventures. <
From bill Bill Lloyd 2011
Only today I had actually made a start at sorting through all my own Dungog photos, apart from just picking out a few here and there – like the ones attached. I still have hopes of making a disc of all my rally photos of the past decade, but something always seems to interrupt the process. I’m sure it will happen, eventually.
The Model K was delivered here to Denistone in Sydney to give me more time to “bond” with it. It’s been stone cold since it left Dungog, but we’ll be taking it out again on Friday so a couple of friends from the Road Steam Engine Association can have a ride and officially certify it for its annual club registration. The Doble went back to Trevor’s for some new plumbing. Trevor’s currently on holidays somewhere in central NSW for a few weeks. I nearly killed myself getting ready for the rally. Now I’m killing myself catching up afterwards. One of my friends went to London on Sunday. Another left for Japan today. He asked if I wanted to go with him, as I did once in the past, but alas, I’ve used up all my leave points for a while.
I’ve asked the body people to get me the Model K paint colour code which Basil wanted, so please tell him it will be forthcoming in due course. They’re currently working on the 1915 Detroit electric, which was dropped off in the same truck which then loaded the Model K for Dungog. The Detroit springs and wheels need stiffening up in a few places, with powder coating on the wheels. Incidentally, I made contact with your friend Don Davidson, first to buy a reproduction motor plate for the Detroit and then to see about having some Doble hub cap badges made. I told him how much I had enjoyed both the articles you sent me about his Detroit and Stanley.
Best regards to you both