Turn of the Century Lifu Steam Car

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A ride around the Suffolk Lanes in a LIFU steam car. Mrs. R.G. Pratt as co-driver with the former owner, Mr. McHodson, as driver.

The turn of the century “Lifu” or “House” steam car, as it was sometimes called, was manufactured by the Steam Car Company, Houses System Ltd. This was a British firm which appears to have had steam cars manufactured under its patent by other firms working under license but on this point there is little information. (Can anyone add any details of the concern or say definitely if these cars were manufactured elsewhere than in Great Britain? The period would be 1899 or 1900 to 1903.)

The following is a description of one of these cars:

The engine is of 10 hp and horizontal with the working parts running in an oil bath. The cylinders are compound but by means of an intercepting valve, both may be worked at high pressure when climbing steep gradients. The power is transmitted to the back axle by a steel pinion on the crankshaft meshing with a bronze gear wheel on the outside of the differential gear case, all running in oil.

The cylinder end of the motor is hung to the frame of the car by a double-ended ball joint, thus allowing free action of the back axle, while at the same time the machinery mechanically adapts itself to the movement of the axle. Two pumps are worked from the engine with a double-ended plunger, one being the main feed pump and the other maintaining the air pressure in the oil tank when the car is running. By means of an auxiliary hand-feed pump, the fire tube boiler can be filled when the car is not running, and there is a hand air pump fixed to the seat for raising the air pressure in the oil tank when necessary.

The burner uses ordinary paraffin oil. When steam is up the burner flame is regulated automatically by the pressure in the boilers, and can be turned out from the driver’s seat. The copper fuel tank holds enough oil for from 60 to 80 miles. The water tank holds sufficient for 30 to 40 miles, according to the condition of the roads, and both fuel and water tanks have indicating dials.

The steam after leaving the engine passes into an exhaust box and atmospheric condenser; the uncondensed steam is then taken into the smoke box, above the boiler and passes away invisibly. The water from the feed pump is forced through a large coil of copper pipe in the cover of the smoke box and then into a mud separator in the boiler, the products of combustion being used to raise the temperature of the feed water before going into the boiler.

A brake, operated by the foot, expands two levers (shod with fiber) into a flanged disc fastened to each of the hind wheels; this brake works during either forward or backward motion. The reversing of the engine also acts as a powerful brake. IMA

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