Grace's Guide

British Industrial History

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Walter Hancock: Enterprise

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1832-3. Steam coach 'Enterprise'.

Note: This is a sub-section of Walter Hancock

Hancock's Enterprise steam bus had several features which were innovatory by contemporary standards. The engine was suspended on leaf springs along with the body of the vehicle, and the axle located with swinging arms as is still done today in the Ford Explorer, with power being transmitted to the axle using chain drive. The rear axle was also used to drive a centrifugal blower fan which was used to force air into the firebox.

The "Enterprise" required three operators in normal running. The driver sat at the front and was responsible for steering (via a steering wheel rather than a tiller) and controlling the speed via a regulator. A second operator occupied a small compartment to the rear of the vehicle between the boiler and the engine; this man was responsible for looking after the boiler's water level and selecting reverse gear when required. The final man stood on a platform at the rear and was responsible for maintaining the fire and braking, which was carried out by means of a large lever which acted directly on one of the rear wheels. Nothing is known about how these three people communicated.

On 22 April 1833 Hancock’s steam omnibus The Enterprise (built for the London and Paddington Steam Carriage Co) began a regular service between London Wall and Paddington via Islington. It was the first regular steam carriage service, and was the first mechanically propelled vehicle specially designed for omnibus work to be operated.

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