Teetotaling twin brothers built the most wonderful car of their era, and its day of glory may not be over yet
At the turn of the twentieth century, the American automobile industry was in a stage of youthful indecision. Two courses lay open to it: to follow the already well-defined path of steam propulsion, or to explore the lesser-known byway of gasoline power. Steam seemed to have the brighter future and, at this point, was heavily favored by the early auto makers. In the year 1900 more than 1,600 steam cars were produced, compared to only goo driven by gas.
The course of an industry, however—like that of an individual or an entire nation—is sometimes influenced by isolated incidents. Such an incident occurred in 1907 at Ormond Beach, Florida, where a crowd had gathered to watch the annual automobile speed trials. After a number of gasoline cars had made their runs, none reaching the 100 m.p.h. mark, the Stanley Steamer entry appeared. It was a frail vehicle that looked like a canoe turned upside down and mounted on spindly wheels. The press of the day had dubbed it “The Flying Teapot.”
As the Steamer started its run, it was silent except for a low, soft whistle. This rose to a faint whine, and a jetlike white stream flowed from the tail of the car. Soon the head of the driver could hardly be seen in the blur of speed. The car passed the 100 m.p.h. mark and surged up to 197 m.p.h. As it was about to touch 200 m.p.h., however, the racer hit a slight bump on the beach. The light car took off like a wingless glider, soared for about 100 feet at a height of 10 feet, then crashed to the cement-hard sand in an explosion of steam and flames. The driver was flung clear, badly injured but not dead.
Out of the flaming wreckage was born another of the legends surrounding the Stanley Steamer, the best car of its era but also the most misunderstood and maligned. No man, it was said, could open the throttle and stay with the Steamer. Anyone who could even hold the throttle open for three minutes, went another story, would be rewarded by the company with a prize of $1,000. Rumors went the rounds about men who had been blown to bits trying to win this prize.
These stories persist to this day, although all are false. The truth is that the Stanley Steamer was constructed in such a way that it was impossible for it to blow up. Early models, however, did have a tendency to let off steam in a noisy manner. One time in Boston, for example, a man drove up to a tavern, parked his Stanley Steamer at the curb, and went inside, forgetting to turn off a valve. The Stanley Steamer, in protest, gave off a thunderous blast of steam. The tavern windows rattled, glasses danced on shelves, and several startled patrons fell to the floor. The Stanley Steamer owner glanced at the prostrate patrons, remarked to the bartender, “Mighty powerful stuff you’re serving here these days,” and calmly walked out to his car.
This savoir-faire was typical of adventurous Stanley Steamer owners, who, according to a company announcement of 1916, had “the courage to buy the house they want, or the overcoat they want, or the automobile they want, even though their neighbors advise them not to.” They had to have courage of another kind, too. The fuel burners of the early Stanleys used to “flood,” shooting out sheets of smoke and flame. This looked a lot more dangerous than it actually was, since the front part of the car was virtually a fireproof compartment and the flames would go out of their own accord. Experienced drivers simply ignored the blaze and continued on their way, much to the consternation of all human and animal life in the vicinity. They did not always escape unscathed, however. One of them was driving a flaming Steamer through the streets one day, when a hastily summoned horse-drawn fire engine clattered around a corner, pulled alongside, and doused both vehicle and driver.
Incidents such as this—and the tales that grew out of them—eventually contributed to the death of the Stanley Steamer in 1925. This was a sad passing, for the Stanley Steamer was more than an automobile. It was the symbol of an era, an era of individuality and independence—an era that has been replaced, for better or worse, by standardization and conformity.
Appropriately, the highly individualistic Steamer was the brain child of two of the most rugged individuals in American industrial history—the Stanley twins, Francis E. and Freeland O., better known as “F. E.” and “F. O.” They were born in 1849 into a particularly large family in Kingfield, Maine—where, according to a local historian, “you couldn’t throw an apple without hitting a Stanley.”
F. E. and F. O. were identical twins. One was seldom seen without the other, and both were always whittling. This led them into their first enterprise, the carving and making of fine violins. Such an artistic beginning for a pair of auto makers is not as incongruous as it may seem. The Stanley Steamer, when it was produced, was as much a work of art as it was of mechanics. For instance, instead of employing patternmakers, the Stanleys themselves whittled the precise wooden forms required for casting machinery.
From violins the twins moved on to photography. They pioneered the dry photographic plate and perfected early X-ray equipment. The sale of these inventions set them up financially for the next stage of their career—the production of the Stanley Steamer. This important stage opened almost casually. In 1896 the Stanley twins went to a fair to see a widely advertised “horseless carriage” powered by steam. The car, imported from France, was billed as “The Marvel of the Age.” Actually it was not very impressive, continually snorting, jerking, and stalling.
The Stanley twins decided they could do better. Within a year, without any previous knowledge of steam engineering, they turned out the first Stanley Steamer. This was simply a small engine and boiler slung beneath a carriage, but it was an immediate success. Spectators were particularly impressed by the vehicle’s brisk pace and strange silence. “It was like watching a pair of pants run down the street with nobody in them,” one old-timer graphically recalls.
The Stanley twins had the New England characteristics of taciturnity and dry humor. They enjoyed a practical joke and were not above taking advantage of their car’s silence. Noiselessly pulling up to a toll bridge one time, they found the keeper sound asleep. When awakened, the keeper stared at the two men in the carriage and demanded, “How did you get up here without me hearing you? Where’s your horse?”
“He got away from us,” said F. E. “Have you seen him?”
The keeper shook his head. “No—but you’re blocking the bridge. You’ll have to get that carriage out of the way.”
“Of course,” said F. E., and covertly touched the throttle. The carriage silently glided across the bridge, leaving the keeper staring after it with open mouth.
Horses also suffered from the silent Steamer. They apparently couldn’t figure out what kind of invisible beast was drawing the carriage, and some horses wouldn’t even go near a trough that had been used by a Steamer taking on water. Dogs were another story. As soon as a Stanley Steamer appeared, the entire canine population would come running, barking, and howling. It used to be a mystery how a dog, sometimes more than a mile away, would know an unobtrusive Stanley was in the neighborhood. With today’s scientific knowledge, it is not hard to guess that the sharpeared dogs were attracted by the supersonic pitch of the Steamer’s burner.
To discourage dogs, the Stanley twins installed steamboat whistles on some of their early models. One blast and the dogs would scamper for home. More than a few humans were sent scampering, too—astonished by the sudden sound of a steamboat in the heart of, say, Syracuse, New York.
Train whistles were used on Stanleys, too. These were fine for “whistling down” the barriers at a train crossing— after the Stanley was safely across the tracks and on its way. The crossing keeper would then come out and stand scratching his head, wondering what had happened to the train he had heard.
On one occasion, however, the Stanleys’ train whistle backfired on them. Driving through downtown Boston, the twins noticed a woman coming out of a side street on a bicycle. To alert her, F. O. blew the train whistle. The woman, surprised at hearing a train in such an unlikely spot, stopped pedaling but forgot to put on the brakes. She ran into the side of the Steamer, left the bicycle, and literally flew into F. E.’s lap. F. E., with the aplomb lor which Stanley Steamer men were later to become noted, tipped his hat and said, “Madam, this seat is reserved. I am married.”
Despite such wry humor, the Stanleys were austere in their private lives. Neither of the twins drank or smoked, and both were shrewd, hardheaded businessmen. They took pleasure, however, in mystifying people with their similarity in appearance. They dressed alike and wore the same full-blown type of beard. For such a conservative pair, they also developed a strange passion for speed. This led to confusion among police all over New England.
For instance, in taking trips, the Stanleys would start out in two Steamers, F. O. a few minutes in advance of F. E. Sooner or later, F. O. would be stopped by a constable. While the lawman was lecturing F. O. on the evils of speeding, his twin would solemnly whiz past, identical in all respects. This numbed more than one rural arm of the law.
In 1899, after several years of making and selling individual Steamers, the twins bought a factory at Newton, Massachusetts, and formally launched what soon became known as the Stanley Motor Carriage Company. Two hundred cars were made that year, and the firm went down in history as the first American company to produce steam automobiles on a commercial scale.
This by no means meant that the Steamers were turned out on anything resembling a mass-production basis. On the contrary, the mechanics—all hand-picked by the Stanleys and all highly skilled it somewhat temperamental craftsmen—were encouraged to assemble the cars as they thought best. Consequently, each craftsman put into his cars something of himself as an individual, and, unlike the twins, no two Stanley Steamers were ever exactly alike. One mechanic even insisted on putting in the engine upside down, a principle he claimed was better than the Stanleys’. This was too much for F. E., who, after fruitless argument, went to F. O. and complained about the stubborn mechanic. “Better let him have his way,” F. O. advised. “He’s just as cussed as we are.”
And the Stanleys were “cussed” indeed. A customer simply couldn’t walk in and buy a Stanley Steamer. He had to be “screened,” like a candidate for an exclusive club. If the Stanleys decided he didn’t have the right personality for their car, they wouldn’t even take his order. Even when a customer’s order was accepted, this didn’t necessarily mean he would get a Steamer. If he did or said anything to displease the Stanleys between the time of placing the order and the actual production of the car, he would be refused delivery. This happened to a customer who asked for a written guarantee. The Stanleys, who figured their word was guarantee enough, showed the gentleman to the door.
This was hardly the way to build a business, let alone sell cars, and a modern automobile salesman would blanch at such treatment of a customer. It is a measure of the Stanley Steamer’s worth that it continued to sell as well and as long as it did, especially since one never left the factory until it had been paid for in hard cash. The Stanleys just didn’t believe in credit or installment buying, which they regarded as somewhat immoral.
The price of a Steamer was high for its day—in 1917, about $2,500—and there weren’t many people around who had that kind of cash. Sales were steady but never spectacular. The Stanley was a prestige car, and although many people would have liked one, they simply couldn’t afford it. If the car had been sold on credit, and more people had gotten to own one and know its wonderful qualities, it is possible the Steamer would never have been allowed to pass away.
However, there were other matters that contributed to its death. The Stanleys didn’t believe in advertising. They figured that it was a waste of money that should go into the improvement of their product. In later years, when the Stanley Steamer was suffering from all sorts of rumors, some judicious advertising might have saved the firm. Instead, the Stanleys stubbornly stuck by their policy of letting the Steamer “advertise itself.”
Nor would they give in to the demands of style and mass production, which would have increased the popularity of the car and brought its price down. Except for a few streamlined racers and an early rakish model known as the Gentlemen’s Speedy Roadster, the lofty, solid, individually-created Stanleys bore a resemblance to a prairie schooner. Almost always painted black, they had long, rounded hoods, which added to their funereal aspect. They looked like coffins.
Beneath that dark, gaunt exterior, however, beat a heart of mechanical ingenuity. The Stanley Steamer was—and still is—a model of engineering skill, combining comiort and economy with almost unbelievable speed and power. Yet with all this, it was surprisingly simple. The 1916 model, lor example, had only 32 moving parts, including the wheels and the steering wheel.
George Woodbury, a New Hampshire sawmill owner who reconstructed a 1917 Steamer, wrote a book about his experiences. The source of the car’s power, Woodbury wrote in The Story of a Stanley Steamer , was a twenty-gallon water tank set under the floor boards. The water was pumped into a small, drumlike boiler—23 inches in diameter and 18 inches highlocated under the hood. This boiler, bound with three layers of fine, high-grade steel wire, could easily take the 600 pounds of pressure considered necessary lor ordinary driving. Actually it was virtually impossible to burst the boiler, as the Stanleys once proved. They dug a hole in a field, placed a boiler in it, and pumped steam pressure up to 1,500 pounds. At that point, instead of exploding, the tubes within the boiler began to leak, allowing the steam to escape.
Inside the boiler were 751 small, seamless steel tubes, looking somewhat like metallic spaghetti in a big pot. In effect, they were tiny chimneys, conveying heat through the boiler from the pressure burner beneath and turning the water to steam. The cheaply operated kerosene burner—its jets fed from a twentygallon tank safely situated at the extreme rear of the car—worked on the blowtorch principle. Although small, the burner could generate intense heat.
The steam drove a two-cylinder horizontal engine, geared directly to the rear axle, which almost literally had the power of a locomotive, although its horsepower rating was low. Its tremendous performance sprang mainly from the peculiar nature of steam. This is best described by John Bentley, who states in Oldtime Steam Cars: “At best, the thermal efficiency of the internal-combustion engine may reach 35 per cent, whereas that of the steam engine tops 90 per cent.”
The Stanley Steamer also benefited from its single gear. In other words, when the engine turned over once, the rear wheels also turned once. This means that in a mile the simple Stanley engine turned only 980 times, compared to the 4,000 or 5,000 times of a complicated internal-combustion engine. No wonder the Stanleys asserted that their engine could “last forever.”
When the live steam had accomplished its job at the rear of the Stanley, it was piped back to a condenser in the nose. Here it was cooled to water and returned to the water tank, where it could be used again on an endless circuit. In this way, a Steamer could go for more than 200 miles before taking on a fresh supply of water. This was not so with the early Stanleys, which had no condenser arid could manage only one mile on a gallon of water, requiring so many stops at horse troughs that an outraged legislator in Vermont once demanded that “these vile, smelly, snorting steam demons be barred by law from facilities set out for the comfort and well-being of man’s noble friend and helper, the horse.”
The actual driving of a Stanley Steamer was simplicity itself. In fact, the Stanley anticipated modern automatic transmission by nearly half a century. A touch of the throttle—a sliding lever conveniently located just beneath the steering wheel—set the Steamer into silent motion. There was no clutch, and no gears to shift, which meant that a speed as low as 1 m.p.h. could be maintained all day without shaking, shuddering, rattling, overheating, or stalling. Another touch of the throttle would accelerate the car instantly.
There were two loot-pedals on the floor. The right one was for the brake, the left for reverse. The Stanley, incidentally, could go as fast backward as forward —and Stanley pranksters sometimes passed gasolinedriven cars in that manner.
The Steamer could also be thrown into reverse even while it was going ahead at speed. Since the old-time rear-wheel brakes were none too efficient anyway, this quick reverse action was helpful in times of emergency. During one race in New York State, a Stanley whirled around a corner just as a group of spectators was straggling across the road. The driver threw the Steamer into reverse, even though it was doing better than 60 m.p.h. With a shriek the tires tore loose, and then the body, which slid along the road and came to rest a few inches from the spectators, the driver draped over the windshield. The chassis, meanwhile, was obediently going backward. It slanted off the road, bumped across a field, and disappeared into a forest; finally it encountered a solid line of trees, and only then did it grind to a halt.
On another occasion, a brick wall failed to stop a Stanley. It happened in a garage in Chicago, where a mechanic was tinkering with a Steamer. He “fired up” all right and opened the throttle, but still the car wouldn’t go—for the simple reason that the emergency brake was on. After steam pressure had been building up for some time, the mechanic finally remembered the emergency brake. As soon as he released it, the Stanley rammed through the wall of the garage and emerged into the street, leaving a trail of bricks behind it.
This trick of building up steam with the emergency brake on was used by racing drivers to get greater acceleration out of a Stanley. The Steamer, in its heyday, was limited in acceleration only by the amount of strain its old-type wheels and structure could stand. As early as 1914, however, a Stanley went from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in 11 seconds. This compares with the 11.7 seconds it takes a 1958, 310-horsepower Cadillac to go from 0 to 60 m.p.h. At a recent sports-car meet in California, this writer did 0 to 60 m.p.h. in 9 seconds in a reconstructed and improved Stanley, which put the old Steamer right up there with such modern speedsters as a British-made Triumph and a Studebaker Golden Hawk.
The accelerating action of a Steamer is different from that of a gasoline car. Instead of a grabbing, jerking, neck-snapping forward lunge, the motion is smooth and gliding, strangely rubbery, like being flung out of a slingshot. Out on the highway, at speed, it is the ground, rather than the Steamer, that seems to be moving. With the silence, one has the feeling of forever coasting down a hill—even when the car is going up a hill.
It was at hill climbing, in fact, that the Stanley Steamer first attracted nationwide notice. In 1899 F. O. Stanley, with his wife as a passenger, drove a Steamer to the top of 6,288-foot Mount Washington, the highest peak in New England. The rugged dirt wagontrack wound for ten miles at a twelve per cent grade, but the Stanley made it in two hours and ten minutes —a remarkable feat for its day and the first time a motor vehicle had accomplished anything like it. It was not until three years later that the first gasolinepowered car managed to struggle up Mount Washington in a little less than two hours. F. E. promptly took a new model Stanley up the mountain in only 27 minutes.
This showed how much the Steamer had been improved—and, incidentally, stopped any argument as to which was the best car on the road in those days. One proud Stanley owner even boasted that his Steamer could “climb a tree if it could catch ahold.” There was more than a little truth in the boast, for a Stanley once literally climbed a tree—in fact, two trees. The car had been left standing at the foot of a bank of earth, which was topped by a grove of young birch trees. A boy, playing around the car, opened the throttle wide. The Steamer threw the boy aside, plunged up the bank, and slammed into two trees growing close together. The pliant trees bent back nearly to the ground, and the Steamer stopped only when it became entangled in the branches. A few minutes later the birch trees, noted for their elasticity, rose into the air again, carrying the car with them. There it was eventually found, suspended about ten feet from the ground.
This was the sort of incident that wove an almost mystic aura around the Stanley Steamer. Owners of the car were not above thickening the mystery. One of their favorite tricks was to walk down the road about a dozen yards ahead of a parked Steamer, then turn and whistle. The car, responding like an alert and well-trained dog, would roll down the road to its master.
The explanation for the trick was simple enough. The Steamer, after standing for half an hour or more, would “cool off.” If the throttle was open very, very slightly, there would be a space of some seconds before the engine took hold. This would give the owner time to walk down the road and “whistle” his car to him. The effect on a group of spectators can easily be imagined.
Another trick was more nerve-racking. F. O., who once accompanied a Stanley Steamer shipped to New Orleans, assembled the car in a field near the Mississippi River. Every day a crowd gathered to watch the vehicle taking shape. When the Steamer was ready to roll, F. O. began “firing up.” The crowd stared in tense apprehension. Up and up went the steam pressure—100 pounds, 200 pounds, 400 pounds, 600 pounds. Suddenly there was a terrific explosion.
F. O., not too concerned, turned to reassure the crowd. There was nobody to reassure. Everyone had scuttled out of sight. F. O. turned back to the car and examined it. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong. Perplexed, F. O. finally heard a snicker in some bushes behind him. Turning, he saw a couple of kids trying to hold back their mirth. One pointed beneath the Steamer, where F. O. spotted the remains of a big firecracker.
F. O. enjoyed this joke so much he took to carrying firecrackers around himself. When a crowd gathered to watch him “fire up,” he would wait till a particularly suspenseful moment, then drop a firecracker beneath the car.
These pranks—which, of course, added to the wild tales about the Stanley Steamer—also obscured many practical (although unusual) uses of the car. For instance, it made a fine peanut roaster. Before starting on a trip, a bag of peanuts could be placed on top of the boiler. By the end of the journey, the peanuts would be done to a turn.
A Stanley’s steam pressure was also excellent for blowing out clogged drains. In addition, several cities used Steamers to thaw out frozen fire hydrants in winter. A Stanley itself, of course, would never freeze as long as the burner was going.
On the other hand, there were a number of drawbacks to the old Stanley. It sometimes took up to half an hour to get up steam in a cold boiler. Although driving the car was easy enough, the “firing up” process was complicated and cumbersome, calling more for a plumber than a mechanic. The driver’s seat, faced with a bewildering array of gauges, valves, and pump controls, looked something like a boiler room. In fact, one of the most persistent canards about the Stanley was that a driver needed a steam engineer’s license, as well as a regular driver’s license, to operate it competently.
There was also the matter of smell. Kerosene, although cheap, has a pungent, penetrating odor. An old saying went, “You can see a Stanley Steamer before you hear it—and you can smell its owner before you see him.”
The Stanley twins and the head of their maintenance department, Fred Marriott, raced Steamers all over the country, particularly at fairs. Nothing on wheels could stand up to the Stanley, which usually beat its nearest opponent by as much as five minutes in a twenty-mile race.
In 1906, at Ormond Beach, driving a streamlined but otherwise stock-model Steamer, Fred Marriott set a world speed record of 127.66 m.p.h. and became the first human to travel two miles a minute. This record was set by a car weighing only 1,600 pounds. Actually, it was lack of weight that hurled the little “Flying Teapot” to its doom in 1907 on the same track. In that year, so fateful to the Steamer, Fred Marriott brought the racer back to Ormond Beach. Piling the pressure up to 1,300 pounds, Fred opened the throttle and sent the car speeding down the beach. Nearly fifty years later, Marriott was still around to describe what happened next:
I quickly got up to 197 miles an hour and the speed was rising fast when the car hit a slight bump. I felt it lift and then rise clear off the ground and twist a little in the air. It took off like an airplane, rose about 10 feet off the beach and traveled 100 feet before it struck. I was thrown clear and pretty badly smashed up. The machine broke in two and was bashed to kindling wood. The boiler rolled, blowing steam like a meteor, for a mile down the beach.
The cause of the crash was a simple one, although few could understand it at the time. In designing the streamlined body of the car, the Stanleys had left the underside flat. When the wind got under this at high speed, it lifted the light car and made it air-borne, creating the myth that a Steamer was just too fast to stay on the ground. It is interesting to note that the 200 m.p.h. mark touched by the 1,600-pound Stanley was not bettered by a gasoline car until 1927, and then only by a four-ton monster powered by two twelvecylinder airplane engines.
The Stanley twins were badly shaken by the near disaster at Ormond Beach. They never built another racer and, in fact, tried to play down the speed potential of the Steamer. This, then, brings up the natural question: What about that well-known and widely believed story that the Stanleys would pay $1,000 to anyone who could hold the throttle open for three minutes? Fred Marriott had a definite answer:
I’ll tell you what’s in that yarn— nothing . We did our best to kill it, but it always kept coming back. It used to make the Stanleys sore—and kind of sad, too. I guess they could see the way things were going.
In 1918, F. E. Stanley started out on a trip in his Steamer. Coming up over the crest of a hill, he found the road blocked by two farm wagons. Rather than hit them and possibly kill the drivers and horses, he turned off the road and crashed into a ditch. He was killed instantly.
F. O., heartbroken over the tragedy, retired. (He eventually died of a heart attack in 1940.) The Stanley Motor Company passed into other hands. It lingered on for a few years, out of tune with the fastchanging times, lost without those “cussed” dreamers and craftsmen, the Stanley twins. In 1925, the firm went out of business. In its last full year of production it turned out only 65 cars. Ford alone was producing more than that in a single day. Mass production and the internal-combustion engine had won out over steam and individuality.
Today there are many automobile experts who cannot understand why the Steamer was allowed to pass away. They argue that with modern improvementssuch as a boiler capable of a quick start—the Steamer would be a far better car than the present gasoline auto. And who can deny that our cities would be finer, pleasanter places if we all had silent Steamers, rather than the noisy, fumes-belching gasoline cars that now pollute the air?
There is also the matter of economy. During World War II, with gas rationing, many old Stanley Steamers were brought out of barns or rescued from junk yards. Aside from the low cost of operation, the gallant Stanleys brought back to many motoring enthusiasts the thrill of driving a truly outstanding and individual car. This set off a revival of interest in steam autos that is still growing. The era of the Stanley Steamer is gone, but the spirit of the time and the car has not perished.
Not long ago a petroleum engineer, who improved an old Stanley, drove from Los Angeles to New York on $4.50 worth of furnace oil. Another engineer designed and built a steam car capable of taking off from a cold start in one minute and maintaining a steady seventy or eighty m.p.h. on the open road. Some steam fans, like Charles Keen, a Wisconsin businessman, hide their silent secret under the modern exterior of a reconverted gas car. Others, like Hollywood writer Nick Beiden, take their improved Stanleys to sportscar meets and beat some of the latest models from the Detroit assembly lines.
Some observers contend that it is performances such as these that keep the steam car from coming back. They claim that powerful automobile and gasoline interests, having long ago won the battle against steam, are certainly not going to allow their old rival to be revived commercially. In at least one instance, this is not true. Not long ago, the Chrysler Corporation brought Calvin and Charles Williams to Detroit from Philadelphia to demonstrate their highly improved steam motor, which works equally well in cars, trucks, buses, or boats. It can be built for one third the price of a gasoline engine and can perform with greater efficiency and economy, operating on fuel oil costing sixteen cents a gallon.
The Chrysler Corporation is reported to be interested in producing the Williams’ steam motor. It is perhaps significant that the Williams brothers are twins. Automobile history may yet repeat itself. In fact, one auto expert, Ken Purdy, writes in Kings of the Road: “The steam-lovers may have to wait just a bit longer—until the atomic-powered automobile is ready. Chances are that it will be a steam car, for it seems doubtful that we will find a way to use atomic energy for transport except by converting it to steam.”
The greatest glory of steam cars, therefore, may lie just ahead.