1802 Walter Hancock's 'Enterprise'
Built by Tom Brogden
This amazing machine was built using the original drawing's.
The original Enterprise started running in 1833
Walter Handcock's Steam Coach of 1832.
Boiler Position, T Brogden 4-3-1999.
The 'Enterprise' is a replica of one of a series of very early steam driven carriages
built in London by the pioneering engineer Walter Hancock between 1824 and 1836.
In France an engineer called Cugnot built the first powered vehicles, slow moving lorries
for moving guns about 1770. In England, Richard Trevithick showed with his experiments, in
1801 that steam power was capable of propelling passenger carrying vehicles. He offered a
steam carriage for sale in 1803, but this was not yet a viable proposition as an alternative
to using horses. During the next twenty years the design of the high pressure steam engine,
its power -to-weight ratio and ease of operation were much improved. and, as a result, several
attempts were made to create effective, powered road vehicles.
The first two entrepreneurs to build practical powered road vehicles and to run them, regularly
and reliably were the rivals Goldsworthy Gurney and Walter Hancock. Gurney is, perhaps, better
known but it is arguable that Hancock produced the better engineered vehicles.
The original Enterprise started running in 1833, carrying fare paying passengers in London and
making occasional trips farther afield. (This is about the time George Stephenson was building
the 'Rocket' and the 'railway age' was beginning) It incorporated many of the best features of
the time including several of Hancock's own patents such as the artillery wheel. . His method of
suspending the vehicle on leaf springs and in particular of locating the rear axle in such a way
that it could be driven from an engine within the carriage were very advanced for the time and
wouldn't have seemed out of date 100 years later. His use of a steering wheel was novel for the
time also. The body was similar to the Shillabeer Omnibus - a successful design of horse drawn
vehicle where up to 14 passengers sat in two rows facing each other. The engine had two large,
vertical, double acting cylinders in a simple, cleverly arranged frame and could run at up to
about 100 rpm. His boiler can best be described as similar to seven modern domestic pressed-steel
radiators bolted together with a coke fire underneath them, supplying steam at up to 100 psi (6.1 bar).
This arrangement meant that there is less water in the boiler than a conventional boiler and steam can be
generated from cold more quickly and the overall weight of the vehicle is lower. Burning coke and using
the draught from a fan driven from the crankshaft meant that the exhaust was relatively clean and
unobtrusive, unlike Gurney's machines. He favoured the steam blast and burnt coal, producing a fiery exhaust.
The 'Enterprise' was operated by three men. A driver at the front steers and controls the speed with
a regulator and an engine man who was in charge of maintaining the water level in the boiler. He appears
to have travelled sitting on the half door of the engine room with his feet outside. A third man attended
to the fire and rode on a platform at the rear behind the boiler. He was in charge of a large brake handle
which may of been of some slight help(!) when descending hills. It is not clear how these three communicated
when the carriage was under way as they are out of sight of each other! Top speed was about 20 mph (32 km/hr)
but 10 mph (16 km/hr) was a more usual cruising speed.
The passenger seats act as water tanks and can contain up to about one ton of water giving a range of 10
to 20 miles before they need replenishing. It is not clear from descriptions of the time what the weight
of the original vehicle was as these early pioneers, particularly Gurney tended to understate the weight,
presumably to minimise the tolls but the replica weighs 3.2 tonnes.
Although Hancock's operation was nearly viable he eventually, like Gurney, gave up running his carriages
for public use, partly due to the poor state of the roads and partly because of opposition from the powerful
horse carriage lobby. He incorporated some parts of one of the early carriages into a runabout and continued
to use this himself. What happened to the other vehicles is not known.
Fortunately, Hancock kept detailed journals of his experiences and adventures with his carriages and these
together with his patents and some engravings made by others have provided enough information for us to built
the replica with some confidence that it is a close representation of the original carriage.
Hancock steam carriages Infant 2 on the right.
Seen here at Beamish.
Fred Dibnah at Swettenham.
Tom Brogden looks on at his creation, here at Alford.
In the vineyard at St Amour.
Vonnas with Roger Lees.
Trial run of Enterprise at Beamish Museum.
The engine viewed from the rear.
Comment from David Eustace, Canada.
When driving in 1833 Walter Hancock's arms became very painful when holding the steering because of
the rough roads. He invented a device he used on Infant II, Enterprise, Era and Automaton that
would lock the steering with a foot lever, to be used on straight sections of road. I therefore
submit that Walter Hancock invented the worlds first automobile cruise control, as well as the worlds
first successful Steam Omnibus used to carry 12,000 paying London customers for 4 continuous months, and
the patented Hancock wheel and Hancock high pressure steam engine. He did all this when Daimler
and Benz where just a gleam in their Granddads eyes; and Stephenson could only dream of a steering wheel.
Trevithick's London Steam Carriage.
Click here for another amazing Trevithick machine.