Nicolas Joseph Cugnot was the first man on earth to drive a self propelled road vehicle.Cugnot , an army engineer , designed his steam carriage for hauling field artillery. Constructed in 1769 by a man named Brezin. The Kings Minister of war was apparently not too satisfied with Brezin's first machine, asked him to build a second one. Two years later in 1771 Brezin's second machine finally saw the light of day. French politics during the seven years of war, prevented the second machine from being run. But reports say that the first machine that was driven by Cugnot was capable of carrying 4 passengers at a maximum of 6 miles/hour and required to boil the water once every 15 minutes. Cugnot was not only the first man to drive a self propelled vehicle but also the first man to knock it over a wall.


                                      Cugnot's Self Propelled Vehicle                                Driving the vehicle through a Wall

In the early 1700s' steam power began to change the world. The industrial revolution taught the world to harness steam as an extremely purposeful energy. But though the experiment with the first motorized vehicle began in France, it wasn't France that would lead the way to this new mechanical revolution, but England.
Certainly there had been attempts by the earlier monarchy to experiment with self driven carriages. Crazy European kings would often build horse less carriages and put helpless citizens to work as a self propelled vehicle.   
In 1784, in Redruth , a village in Cornwall, William Murdock built a small three wheeled no passenger carrying model which ran away from him  after dark throwing out sparks. An event which went down in history as being the first self propelled vehicle to frighten a pedestrian. But Murdock did not continue his experiments for long.

William Murdock's Self propelled vehicle 


About the same time, Richard Trevithick , another English engineer, was also working on the same model. A scaled down model was the first attempt. His experiment was so successful that Richard finally decided to start working on an actual model. He was joined by his cousin in the attempt and they both together constructed a full scale model. On Christmas eve , 1801 , they decided to test their new self propelled vehicle. Describing the event, a witness to the same, "It can run faster than any man can walk and can carry eight people." 
Though the development was successful, nobody came forward to finance the project. Hence the project was scrapped and the boiler was sold to a man who used it to power his mill.

In 1805 in Newport USA, Oliver Evans designed a amphibious steam propelled motor. Seldom that can be called a car. It weighed 20 tons and was fitted with digging devices, chain buckets and paddles to move it through water. But still it was a self propelled motor and a biological ancestor of today's car.

People in places as far as Hartford, Connecticut, Prague, Halifax, Nova Scotia were building steam carriages. But it was in England that saw a sudden boom of steam powered machinery the need for steam powered and mechanical transportation that arise because of Napoleonic wars. With more machines meant better roads. Two geniuses Telford and Macadom revolutionized road building methods and within a short time built beautiful roads for coaching across England. By 1820 it seemed every engineer in England had taken to build steam powered coaches, not for individual ownership but to carry paying passengers.
James Anderson, Scott Russell, Maceroni Squire  and the like were the engineers at work. But it was Gordon who convinced that mere wheels to push a carriage was a more impractical form of mechanical locomotion. He designed a carriage with six steam powered legs and feet to stand. In 1827, the famous Goldsworthy Gurney, whose steam buses were most successful also had similar legs and feet. It could carry 21 passengers, had a water tube boiler and was fitted with separators to ensure dry steam to the cylinder. If worked efficiently it could be seen chuffing at 15miles/hour in the streets of London.

Goldsworthy Gurneys Steam Bus


The paid coaches brought about a new era. The era of democracy of the automobile. The public transport can always be given the credit of this new form of democracy. This was a place where discrimination was seen at its least. A merchant or banker could be sitting next to a baker or butcher. But at the same time the passengers had to bear the wrath of the crowd comprising mainly of agricultural laborers who saw this new revolution as a hindrance in their interests. "Down with Machinery" and they set upon the carriage and its occupants as if the stone age boilers, unstable steering, squeaky wheels and laughable brakes were not enough to scare the already horrified passengers.

Nor were the steam carriages blameless either, they blew sparks, made eerie noises at night that would send a chill  through the people living around and in one case with Hancock's machine, the machine had a track door through ashes or if required the entire fire could be deposited on the road ,right in the middle of the road and what with the great Goldsworthy Gurney's machine throwing sparks, smoke, making hissing noises at every interval as the shaft gave way to excess steam and a few pairs of steam powered legs and feet. It felt like a giant centipede walking aimlessly looking for an evening hunt. 

Hancock's Carriage

The assistant engineer or whatever he was called mostly had to satisfy himself at the back of the vehical, in the company  of  boiler, red hot coal, leaping chains and coke. Greasing the machinery with a brush dipped in palm oil and checking the safety valve. Walter Hancock, the builder of steam carriages with surprising names like Infant, Autopsy, Automaton, Era and the like ran carriages between city Moorgate and Paddington carrying in all 4000 passengers. His steam carriages were a little different from the other carriages. Hancock's carriage used 200 pounds per square inch of pressure  instead of the normal 50 pounds per square inch, in the boiler. It also invited trouble. 

In one such case in 1832, the attendant had fastened the safety valve while the coach was standing. Unfortunately the steam wasn't used as fast as it was made, eventually bursting the boiler. Another such mishap was recorded in 1834 when one of Scott Russell's machine running between Glasgow and Paisley, burst its boiler killing three people.

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