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The Infant - a steam-powered car in 1831

The trouble with cars is gas. Instapundit highlights two newly invented cars, one running on air, the air running partially on gas and steam. I'd like to introduce you to Thomas Hancock, a rubber manufacturer and inventor who in 1824 invented a steam-powered car. It had a "steam engine in which the ordinary cylinder and piston were replaced by two flexible bags, consisting of several layers of canvas bonded with a rubber solution, and alternately filled with steam. The engine having worked satisfactorily at Hancock's factory at Stratford, east London, it occurred to him that its lightness and simplicity of construction made it particularly suitable for powering road vehicles. . ." (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Like so many inventors, Hancock's initial experiments with vehicles using the new engine were not successful, but "he continued to work at the subject, carrying out many trials on the roads in and around London, before introducing an experimental steam carriage, the Infant, into passenger-carrying service between Stratford and the City of London in February 1831.

In the following year he built another vehicle, the Era, for the London and Brighton Steam Carriage Company, one of many similar commercial concerns which came into existence about that time, when the success of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway had raised the hopes of speculators. The Era was followed by the Enterprise, which was operated by the London and Paddington Steam Carriage Company from April 1833. In October of the same year the Autopsy ran for a short time between Finsbury Square in the City and Pentonville in north London. It ran again in October 1834, alternately with the Erin, between the City and Paddington. Hancock appears to have continued his efforts until about 1840, by which time he had built ten carriages, making many trips through various parts of the country. After that year the success and rapid expansion of the railways led to a decline in public interest in steam-powered road transport. . .

Of all the projectors of steam locomotion on the roads, Hancock was the most successful; his vehicles were ingenious and well built, and often performed very well" (Oxford DNB).

From the Infant to the Autopsy. . .Hancock was way ahead of his time.