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James C. Anderson

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Sir James Caleb Anderson, Bart, of Buttevant Castle, Ireland

1815 Married Caroline Shaw, the sister of R. Shaw, the MP for Dublin.[1]

1816 June 19th. 'Letter from Sir James C. Anderson, 19 Cumberland Street, Dublin, to Charles Grant, Chief Secretary, Dublin Castle, requesting personal appointment for himself and son and enclosing printed resolutions of a meeting of creditors of Messrs John Anderson and Co'[2]

1829 March. 'Several successful experiments have been made a patent travelling carriage, the property of Sir James Anderson, Bart, and W. H. James, Esq. the cylinders and machinery of which occupy space inconceivably limited, the former being only 3.3 inches in diameter, and one foot stroke (or length). The failure which has hitherto been experienced in bringing steam carriages to perfection, is in the present instance entirely obviated, by the and simple adaptation of the machinery, and the novel construction of the boiler, which renders explosion impossible. On the 5th instant, a trial was made of this extraordinary vehicle in the neighbourhood of Wanstead, when it proceeded four miles across the forest, over heavy road, carrying twenty-four passengers, at the rate of 15 miles per hour, and returned the same distance with thirty-eight. It is guided with perfect facility, and its velocity can be regulated at pleasure.'[3]

1829 October. 'Steam Carriage. — A series of interesting experiments were made on Saturday, with a new Steam Carriage belonging to Sir James Anderson, Bart., and W. H. James, Esq. on the Vauxhall, Kennington, and Clapham roads, with the view of ascertaining the practical advantages of some perfectly novel apparatus attached to the engines; the results of which were so satisfactory, that the proprietors intend immediately establishing several stage coaches on the principle.'[4]

On the 2d August, 1831, a patent was granted to Sir James C. Anderson, Bart. of Buttevant Castle, Ireland, for a very judicious arrangement of mechanism for propelling carriages by manual labour.

1841 'Plan Proposed by Sir James C. Anderson, Bart., and Jasper W. Rogers, Esq., C.E., for Establishing Steam Carriages, for the Conveyance of Goods and Passengers on the Mail Coach Roads of Ireland; Also a Proposed System for Repair of the Roads by Means of a Road Police, and for Telegraphing'[5]


Extract from Steam Locomotion on Common Roads by William Fletcher. Published 1891.

Sir James Anderson, Bart, of Buttevant Castle, Ireland, as far back as 1827 was engaged in the steam carriage enterprise in connection with Mr. James, of Holborn, the former, doubtless, finding the money to enable James to patent his inventions and carry out many experiments, until Anderson fell into pecuniary difficulties, which caused a dissolution of partnership, which was shortly followed by the discontinuance of James's experiments. But ten years afterwards we find the Baronet of Buttevant Castle engaged in steam carriage construction on a grand scale on his own account.

In 1838 he says: "I have spent two apprenticeships to this undertaking, and have expended £30,000 on experiments."

Sir James Anderson first of all patented a boiler suitable for steam carriages, which we are told was a poor copy of Hancock's boiler. Maceroni says: "Sir James Anderson's plagiarism on Hancock's boiler will bring steam road travelling into contempt." While Hancock says; "The flat chambers, as arranged, cannot succeed, and really are an infringement of my patent; "but he says, "the boiler is sure to fail, so he need take no further trouble respecting it."

A joint-stock company was launched, having for its object the introduction of Sir James Anderson's steam carriages on common roads, termed the Steam Carriage and Wagon Company. The prospectus intimated that several steam drags were in course of construction in Dublin and in Manchester, which, when completed, were to convey goods and passengers at double the speed and at half the cost of horse carriages.

Sir James Anderson says: "I produce and prove my steam drags before I am paid for them, and I keep them in repair; consequently, neither the public nor the company run any risk, the first steam carriage built for the company is nearly completed. It will speak for itself."

His friends said he had failed in twenty-nine carriages to succeed in the thirtieth. In the Mechanics Magazine, June, 1839, a Dublin correspondent writes: "I was fortunate enough to get a sight of Sir James Anderson's steam carriage, with which I was much pleased. It had just arrived from the country, and was destined for London in about three weeks. The engine weighs 10 tons, and will, I dare say, act very well. I shall have an opportunity of judging that, as the tender is at Cork. It has a sort of diligence, not joined, but to be attached to the tender, making in all three carriages. I talked a great deal about it to one of his principal men, who was most lavish in its praises, especially as regards the boiler."

In July, 1839, it was announced by the papers that the vessel, having Sir James Anderson's steam carriage on board, sailed from Dublin for London, and was hourly expected, and upon arrival the carriage would be put together as quickly as possible, and submitted to such a trial as the directors of the Company shall direct.

In August, the long expected carriage had at last arrived, and was undergoing the finishing touches of a London engineer, previous to its essay at locomotion on the roads of the metropolis. Meanwhile Hancock's "Automaton" was kept in readiness to compete with the long-vaunted powers of the machine of the Knight of Buttevant Castle. Colonel Maceroni was also preparing to take the road with his never-failing fountain of vapour. So we may judge that the result of the competition was awaited with interest, but the event does not appear to have taken place.

In 1840, Mr. J. Rogers says: "Several steam carriages are being built at Manchester and Dublin, under Sir James Anderson's patents, and one has been completed at each place. At Manchester the steam drag had been frequently running between Cross Street and Altrincham, and the last run was made at the rate of twenty miles an hour, with four tons on the tender, in the presence of Mr Sharp, of the firm of Sharp, Roberts and Company, of Manchester, and others."

The Morning Herald for 30th June, 1840, contained a long account of the doings of these steam drags, from which we gather the following particulars: An experimental trip of Sir James Anderson's steam drag for common roads took place on the Howth Road, Dublin. It ran about two hours, backing, and turning about in every direction — the object being chiefly to try the various parts in detail. It repeatedly turned the corners of the avenues at a speed of twelve miles an hour, the steam pressure required being only forty-six pounds per square inch. No smoke was seen, and little steam was observed. The whole machinery was ornamentally boxed in, so that none of the moving parts were exposed to view, and it was found that the horses did not shy at this carriage.

The directors of the company were to assemble at Manchester, in order to witness a trial of the steam carriage constructed there, after which a meeting was to be called at Dublin for the purpose of forming a company in conjunction with one already established in England, for opening up a communication by means of these drags between the chief towns in Ireland, as soon as a few of the steam carriages were finished. It was proposed that the united company should in the first instance, in conjunction with the railway trains from London, run from Birmingham to Holyhead, the passengers to be thence conveyed to Dublin by steamer; from Dublin to Galway the steam drags were to be employed; and thence to New York per vessel touching at Halifax; thus making Ireland the stepping-stone between England, Nova Scotia, and the United States of America. It will be seen that Sir Jas. Anderson purposed great things with his steam carriages, but judging from the paucity of the literature dealing with his public trials, we fear that little practical running was accomplished.

Want of success, however, does not appear to have caused him to relax his energies, for in addition to the carriages we have referred to, many more schemes were proposed and patented, the latest bearing the date of 1858, showing that Sir James Anderson, Bart, devoted no less than thirty-one years of his life to the furtherance of steam locomotion on common roads.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. The Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 117
  2. National Archives CSO/RP/1820/45
  3. Worcester Herald - Saturday 21 March 1829
  4. Morning Post - Monday 12 October 1829
  5. 15pp booklet published by N. Walsh 1841