Steam bike update

Posted by jerry on December 19th, 2008 — Posted in Journal, Steam

Back in October 2007 I wrote about a little-known steam motorcycle built in 1917 by William Taylor, based on an FN. Thanks to some detective work by one of my readers, an article turned up in Model Engineer Vol 1 no 7 about this very motorcycle, which provided some interesting technical details from someone who was evidently very familiar with the bike.

The frame was indeed from a Belgian FN (Fabrique Nationale) – the frame looks like that of the 1914 285cc model which was shaft driven. The FN company began life in 1899 as an arms manufacturer, later turning to bicycles and then motorcycles.

The engine was likely a Wachs as I mentioned in my original blog post. The engine was a single cylinder double acting engine with 2 1/8″; bore and 2 1/2″; stroke, directly coupled to the tailshaft (the bike was originally shaft driven) using a reduction gear of 6 1/2; to 1.

The boiler was 9″ x 12″ comprising 120 1/2″; of seamless copper tube, running a pressure of 500psi. The boiler feedwater was run through two water heaters, producing superheated steam. The burner was kerosene (parafin) fueled and had a simple pilot light. The exhaust was condensed by a surface condensor and the water fed back into the boiler, with any un-condensed steam being exhausted to the air.

The tank slung above the engine and boiler was divided into two, containing fuel and water, with the fuel being delivered to the burner under pressure.

According to the contemporary report, the bike could sustain 25mph, with higher speeds available in short spurts. The bike was heavy for its power and tended to underperform against its internal combustion contemporaries. And the burner did not behave well in high winds. In addition, as the reviewer noted “The rise in steam pressure on a sudden stop did not make one feel at ease in the saddle”!

So the bike was a one-off experiment – and the candidness of the reviewer usefully noted the bike’s shortcomings as well as its virtues.

Thanks to Pavel for the additional information.



Comment by rusnan

hai jerry how r u .
see you tube ‘steam bike test’ its my steam bike . i m very very confused abaut the boiler . theres isnt beading tool/leading tool. in indonesia theres isnot that tool . can i pay the tool on your country . tell me how much .
please on thangs

Posted on January 8, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Comment by jerry

Thanks for the comment Rusnan.

Perhaps you mean a flaring tool? This should be available at any plumbers or hardware store. I’m sorry I cannot supply tools or parts – I am just an interested observer of developments and have not (yet) built a steam engine.

Your video is impressive and your bike shows great ingenuity – well done! What pressure are you running? Standard plumbing copper pipe is probably not much good above 200psi and hopefully you are running about 50psi for safety.


Posted on January 9, 2009 at 9:09 am

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