JULIUS HOCK made an engine which “took in a charge of air and light petroleum spray” but relied on a flame jet for ignition.

JAMES BEGAN to make bicycles in Birmingham.

AMERICAN DR JW Carhart, professor of physics at Wisconsin State University, and the JI Case Company built a steam car that won a 200-mile race.

CARLESS, BLAGDON & CO, a chemical company based in Hackney Wick, came up with a solvent which was commonly used to remove nits. It was marketed as ‘Petrol’.

Robey & Co produced a steamer dubbed the Advance which hauled an ‘omnibus’ trailer carrying 45 passengers at 6mph over a route including sharp bends and a 1 in 9 acclivity.


RW THOMPSON, WHO HAD cut his steam teeth working for the Stephensons, built a series of steamers but when demand exceeded his production capacity he called in another locomotion pioneer, Messrs Ransomes, Sims & Jefferies of Ipswich. This firm, which dated back to the 18th century, built a roadster called the Chenab (one of a batch destined for India) and sent it under its own steam to the Royal Show at Wolverhampton. Its stablemate, the Ravee, was driven from Ipswich to Edinburgh and back, covering 866 miles at an average of just over 6mphwith an occasional sprint at 20mph.


GEORGE BRAYTON OF Boston, Mass patented the first in a series of internal combustion ‘hydro-carbon engines’; they were fuelled by gas or vapourised fuel oil such as naptha. Ignition was by flame and engine pressure was about 45psi. They became known as Brayton Ready Motors because, unlike ‘external combustion’ steam engines these engines were available for immediate use. They worked on the constant-pressure Brayton cycle; pressure in the engine’s cylinder was maintained by the continued combustion of injected fuel as the piston moved down on its power stroke. This system is used in gas turbines and jet engines and is similar to the Diesel cycle. Over the next few years Ready Motors were built from 2.25lit (1hp, 408kg) to 19.3lit (10hp, 1.8 tonnes). They worked in factories as stationery engines, and powered boats, PSVs, automobiles and the Holland 1, the USA’s first submarine. These engines played a critical role in the development of the modern internal combustion engine. Hundreds were made; six still exist.

As shown in the 1872 patent drawing, gas and air were drawn into a cylinder, compressed by a piston and stored in a reservoir whence it was released into a second cylinder, being ignited by flame as it passed through a wire gauze.


AMEDEE BOLLEE of Le Mans built the first of a series of advanced steam cars.

IN WEST LONDON EH Levaux proposed a clockwork car that would be wound up by roadside engines. A number of 2hp engines were built but the weight of the steel springs killed the scheme.

BELGIAN ZENOBE Gramme opened a dynamo factory.

LOUIS ERRANI and Richard Anders of Liege patented a ‘hydrocarbon liquid’ engine.


Despite all the obstacles steam carriages were still being made and this Randolph is about as advanced as they got. It tackled crowded Glasgow streets with a turning circle of just 40ft and a stopping distance of 15ft, albeit from a speed of just 6mph on the flat. Up to 10 pass engers were carried in comfort; the driver’s cab offered better protection than steam trucks made 50 years later. There was no visible smoke and it even boasted a silencer. However Randolph did not see a market for ‘private carriages’. Strictly speaking this late-model steam PSV is not an integral part of the motor cycle story but it looks to cool to leave out.

JOHN HENRY Knight, an amateur inventor from Farnham, Surrey, built a steam trike, or “voiturette”.

MESSRS BAYLISS, Thomas and Slaughter teamed up to make bicycles in Coventry under the trade name Excelsior.

TRACTION ENGINE builders Brown & May of Devizes, Wilts developed a steam truck with a four-ton payload and chain drive via a differential. It was a bit of a blind alley, as loaded traction engines were simply too heavy for contemporary roads but nonetheless it was a truck. And without trucks how would motorcycles and spares parts reach the dealers?


OTTO-LANGEN & CO continued to develop their four-stroke gas engine; by 1876 their Deutz company had built 2,700 of them. Early models were notoriously noisy and the vibration could damage foundations but they were more fuel efficient than steam engines. In its final form the ‘Otto Silent’ gas engine is the ancestor of countless modern four-strokes. It was developed with the help of technical manager Willhelm Maybach who brought in a young gunsmith called Gottleib Daimler. As the engines were made smaller and smoother Maybach and Daimler realised that with a portable liquid fuel they could be made small enough to propel road going vehicles and laid their plans accordingly.

The Otto-Langen ‘silent’ is the ancestor of modern four-strokes.


OTTO-LANGEN & Co and the Crossley Brothers, Francis and William, jointly patented the four-stroke cycle: induction, compression, ignition, exhaust. All together now, “Suck! Squeeze! Bang! Blow!”

This timeline started at the Big Bang and we’ve arrived: “SUCK! SQUEEZE! BANG! BLOW!”

MR MEEK OF Toward & Co, Newcastle upon Tyne, built a lightweight steam trike that was more like a bike than a coach; it worked well.

GEORG LIECKFELD of the Hanover Machine Works, modified a two-stroke opposed/piston engine patented by Ferdinand Kindermann into a four-stroke. The Kindermann-Lieckfeld engine ran on ‘town gas’. The patent, granted to Lieckfeld’s boss Conrad Krauss, also covered a friction clutch, cam-operated inlet valve and a reverse gear.


BRITAIN’S ‘RED Flag’ Act was revised to do away with the red flag, but every road going self-propelled vehicle still had to be preceded by a man to warn drivers of horse-powered vehicles. This was despite a parliamentary committee report in 1873 which strongly recommended the removal of all restrictions on vehicles under six tons, which would have put them on equal terms with horsedrawn transport.

SHOZO KAWASAKI set up the Kawasaki Tsukiji Shipyard in Tokyo.

DUGALD CLERK began work on his own engine designs after modifying a Brayton engine (see 1872). He later wrote: “This Brayton engine provided my first experience of an engine operated on the compression principle…I saw at that time, after making this test, that the Brayton engine could be altered with but little trouble to operate as an explosion engine, exploding under compression…I then proceeded to alter the Brayton engine. The first alteration consisted in rearranging the inlet valve and providing a spark plug to ignite the mixture electrically. The electrical ignition was made by a built-up spark plug, similar to the Lenoir engine, with the construction of which I had become at this time familiar…This experiment proved that the Brayton engine, working as an ordinary engine, gave more power than working in the ordinary flame method…”


KARL BENZ patented a two-stroke engine which he had designed the previous year. His other patents included spark ignition using a battery, the spark plug, the carburettor and the clutch.

ITALIAN GUISEPPE Murnigotti of Bergamo patented a motore atmosferico al velocipede with a ½hp four-stroke parallel twin fuelled by coal gas and driving the front wheel via conrods. Steering was by tiller to the rear wheel so it’s probably A Good Thing it was never built.

The Murnigotti is one trike that was best left on the drawing board.

EDOUARD DELAMARE-Deboutteville of Rouen invented a ‘universal machine’ capable of cutting, milling, drilling and turning.

No, it hasn’t got an engine. But this French tricycle was powered by the weight of the driver who presumably rode with a horsey-style rising trot. So it does reflect the urge towards an easier mode of transport which led in turn to motor cycling.