Windham Life and Times – December 20, 2019

“Footprints of Genius”

William F. Meserve – Windham Inventor

“In 1901 the Pemberton Mills, in Lawrence, Massachusetts, engaged him to build a truck. This was steam driven, which seemed at that time to be the most dependable driving power. It was the first practical commercial truck in that section, and we have been told that it was without doubt one of the very first — if not the first — practical heavy commercial trucks to be built anywhere. A picture of it was published in The Horseless Age.”

The Meserve Two Ton Truck for the Pemberton Mills.

The Horseless Age | November 4, 1901

“The Pemberton Company of Lawrence, Mass., have just placed in service a steam truck designed and constructed by W.F. Meserve at his shop at Canobie Lake, N.H.  The truck is intended for use between the company’s works in Lawrence and the neighboring suburbs of Andover and Methuen, and was designed for loads up to 2 tons. Another similar truck has been ordered.”

“In the construction of the truck frame wood is exclusively employed, and the design aims at flexibility, strength and economy in first cost. Two stringers of white oak of 2 x 6 inches run the whole length of the vehicle, and are heavily bolted at the rear to a substantial wooden yoke the extremities of which carry the bronze rear axle bearings, In the front the stringers are bolted to the heavily trussed vertical frame, which carries the forward axle and steering knuckles. The stringers being placed with their largest dimensions vertical, insures sufficient rigidity, with certain amount of flexibility. Two light metal trusses…further strengthen the fame.”

The total length of the truck is 14 feet 8 inches, the wheel base 10 feet, the platform 10 feet long by 5 feet 6 inches wide and the gauge is 60 inches. Unloaded, its weight is in the neighborhood of 4,000 pounds. Wheels of the Sarven type are used, of 36 inches diameter, and are equipped this 3 inch solid rubber tires. All bearings are of solid bronze and the springs are substantial and of the full elliptic type. The forward axle is of 2 inches diameter. Equipped with heavy steering knuckles, while the rear axle is of 3 inches diameter, divided at the centre and strengthened by a 12-inch sleeve. The driving sprockets, on each half of the rear axle, are bolted to 12-inch hubs, the faces of which are of 4 inches width and serve as drums for brakes.

As is customary in vehicles of this class the boiler is located just back of the operator’s seat, and it, together with the engine, was constructed by Edward S. Clark. It is of 24 inches diameter, with 720 copper tubes 1/2 inch by 14 inches, and is heavily lagged with magnesia covering. The normal boiler pressure is 210 pounds. Gasoline is the fuel employed and is carried in two double riveted galvanized steel tanks, one on either side of the boiler. Their capacity is 30 gallons, and they are arranged that either one may be filled without relieving the air pressure in the other. An ordinary burner is employed, fitted with the usual automatic fuel regulator and pilot light, and the products of combustion pass through a sheet iron hood of the common form and occupy the space under the body. Their capacity is 75 gallons.”

“The engine is supported vertically nearly under the middle of the body. It is of the regular Clark double cylinder model, with cylinders of 3 1/2 inch bore and 4-inch stroke, Stephenson link motion and crosshead pumps for water feed and air supply. Its air pump is provided with an automatic relief and the water pump a by-pass in reach of the operator.”

“An injector is provided as an auxiliary. The engine is connected by means of a Baldwin chain to the Brown-Lipe differential carried upon a countershaftm from the differential Baldwin chains transmit to the two driving sprockets.”

“For controlling the engine a combined throttle and reverse lever is employed, by the rotation of which in either direction steam is admitted. Pushing it downward gives the forward motion, pulling it up produces the reverse, and in its intermediate position the link is on centre. There is a safety shut-off in the main steam pipe. The steam and water gauges are conveniently placed at the left of the operator. Steering is by means of a lever and linkage.”

‘In order to heat the feed water before entering the boiler it passes from the tank through a coil of pipe enclosed in a condensing changer, which receives the exhaust. From this chamber the steam escapes by a pipe terminating just above the boiler tubes in the midst of the hot gases, which tends to render the exhaust invisible. The boiler tanks and other mechanism which project above the platform are very neatly housed, the painting is tasteful, and the general appearance of the vehicle is excellent. Its speed is 7 or 8 miles per hour on level.”


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