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Steam Traction on the Road (Hardback)

From Trevithick to Sentinel: 150 Years of Design and Development

Transport Photographic Books Colour Books Trains and Railways

By Anthony Burton
Imprint: Pen & Sword Transport
Pages: 200
Illustrations: 100
ISBN: 9781526701510
Published: 12th September 2018



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This is the story of how for more than a hundred years steam power played a vital role in the development of road transport. It all began with tentative attempts to build steam carriages by pioneers such as Cugnot in France and Trevithick in Britain, and in the early part of the nineteenth century there were significant attempts to develop steam carriages and omnibuses. That these attempts ultimately failed was largely due to opposition by road authorities and draconian legislation. Steam power did, however, find a real purpose in agriculture, where the traction engine was used for a variety of tasks from towing and working threshing machines, to ploughing. Once the value of the traction engine had been established, it soon found a use in many parts of the world for heavy haulage work and appeared in an exotic guise as the showman's engine. The latter was not only used to haul rides to fairgrounds but also powered a dynamo that could light up the fair at night. By the end of the nineteenth century, steam on the road took on a new life with the development of steam cars and trucks. For a time they vied the new internal combustion engine for supremacy on the road. The American Doble Company even developed a 100mph steam sports car. Ultimately steam lost the war, but steam vehicles survive and delight us still thanks to enthusiastic owners and restorers.

As featured in

Railway and Canal Historical Society

The author is well known for his books on road transport and canals in particular, and this latest volume looks at ‘150 years of design and development’.
While it concentrates on road steam, there are a couple of chapters on farming and steam ploughing, so these areas are not neglected. Likewise fairground applications of steam are not forgotten.

Transport Trust

Arranged in eleven logical chapters, this book provides a fascinating and well-structured, mostly chronological account of the development of road-based steam vehicles.

Ultimately, the limitations of steam power and the demise of the genre are deftly accounted for. But in an age when alternatives to fossil fuels are keenly researched, this well-produced book is a timely reminder of the ingenuity of vehicle inventors and designers.

Road Transport History Association

A curious and interesting book of great cultural interest.

Read the full Spanish review here

Miniaturas JM

As featured by

Antiques Diary, November/December 2018
 Anthony Burton

About Anthony Burton

Anthony Burton is a professional author, who has been writing about the history of technology, including the textile industries for the past forty years.

He wrote and presented the B B C-T V series The Rise of King Cotton and also wrote the accompanying  book.

Recently he has been the advisor to Discovery Channels programmes Industrial Revolutions and Industrial Revolutions Europe, which included visiting silk mills and museums in Britain and Lyon in France.

He is a founder member and former chair of the Stroud Water Textile Trust, that preserves and demonstrates machinery of the West of England woollen industry.

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