amberwolf wrote:Not sure if this is the best place for them...
Really likin' the gal on the "velocipede" (Sign on bike says "Safety First" but I am suspicious whether those shoes are steel toed...)
These railway bikes regularly turn up while poking around the web for old velocipede stuff - I mean the early road-going bikes. Seems like they're the last of any modern-ish vehicles still being called "velocipedes". Think I've found out why.
Generically they were called "Hand Cars". The Car Builders Dictionary from 1881 had a page to illustrate various configurations...
But it's interesting that in this same Dictionary while they had pages and pages of adverts from numerous suppliers of parts for rail cars and railway equipment there is only one advert for a company selling hand cars:
So turns out George Sheffield from Michigan was selling his own design of hand cars by about 1879 and he called his design "velocipede"... Maybe alluding to the fact his were lighter-weight, three-wheeled machines. His patent from 1879:
The Sheffield Velocipede Car Company had its beginnings about 1877, when George S. Sheffield, a Michigan farmer, invented a three-wheeled railroad hand-car propelled by a combination of hand and foot power used in a push-pull fashion (see illustration above). At about 140 lbs., it was light enough to be swung off the tracks to make way for trains, and made an excellent track inspection car.
In Fairbanks Morse: 100 Years of Engine Technology, C.H. Wendel tells the following story about the origin of Sheffield’s invention. (Take it for whatever it’s worth.)
“George Sheffield lived on a farm about seven miles from Sheffield, Michigan [apparently just a cross-roads town near Three Rivers, as it is not listed in our 1880 atlas of the United States, and the only Sheffield, Michigan, known to the United States Geographic Survey’s Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) was in Kent County, which at its nearest point is 60 miles north of Three Rivers]. The farm was a short distance from the Michigan Central Railroad. Every morning and every evening, George Sheffield walked the tracks to and from work.
“Sheffield conceived the idea of building a small car which could propel him over the railroad tracks. In the winter of 1877 he built a small three-wheeler for this very purpose. After a few experimental models he developed a model which would embody all the salient features of the F-M No. 1 Velocipede car which was sold for many years.
“The homemade Sheffield velocipede had no right to use the rail tracks, so he made his journey in darkness. One night he was headed home and discovered a broken rail. By procuring a lantern and flagging down a train, he prevented a certain disaster. However, Sheffield’s little velocipede was now made manifest to all. In recognition of his valorous act, the company permitted him to run his car between his farm and Three Rivers. Shortly after, a railway company representative called on Mr. Sheffield, asking him to build the velocipede for their own use.”
Sheffield applied for a patent on his hand-car early in 1879, and received Patent No. 213,254 only two months later (11 March 1879).
Looks like George sold a LOT of his velocipedes... Many of the smaller hand cars in museums look like the Sheffield design... One in private hands was up for sale last year:
Some sites claim George was the first. Maybe so but other examples of pretty rustic-looking circa 1870s bikes have been found
There were other builders after George for sure and things got more bicycle-like fast too:
100 Years ago ya could roll-yer-own out of the Sears catalogue...
Nice "Cavalcade" of different styles...
Teetor quad design sold for decades...
So I'm guessing George Sheffield popularized the small hand cars and his Velocipede name just stuck... as Kleenex is to tissues...