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Posted by dullfig 
February 04, 2015 05:23PM

I was just wondering, it seems the Gardner Serpollett flash boiler was mostly empty of water, and I was hoping someone here would know how fast it would heat up from a cold start.

Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 05, 2015 04:08AM
At a guess from having seen it done, about 15 minutes. The process starts with putting alcohol onto a wick preheater, followed by short bursts of pressurised kerosene as it gets warm. It is very spectacular as sometimes flames shoot up from the flue, right up in the air - the burner and generator are right at the back of the car so no damage is done!
Although the amount of water is small there is a whole mass of stacked thick walled tubing to be heated.

Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 06, 2015 10:31AM
Apparently the Serpollet would idle all the time while running. If I understand the schematic correctly, it had a donkey pump that pumped fuel and water. So technically the coils would have been empty only when cold

Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 07, 2015 02:39AM
Hello all,
I have only come across one (existing) type steam car that truly has a "Flash" boiler, that is the Turner Miesse car, all others are really mono tube generators.
The turner is designed so as to heat the tubes till a dull red and then introduce the water as steam is needed, so instantaneous that the car actually has no throttle, but has a control on the steering column that alters the amount of water delivered and a dump valve so that the driver can get rid of any unwanted pressure when he stoped
The fist serpollet design/patent was also a true flash, where the generator was made of crushed thick wall pipes, or castings with very small passageways. The tricycle in the Art et Metiers museum may have this arrangement possibly
The 1900's serpollet system was a mono tube arrangement where by there was a pair of mechanically driven pumps, one for water and a smaller one for the fuel, in a ratio of around 1 to 10, these pumps shared the same hinged coupling rod which was in contact with an eccentric, or I should say a group of about 8 eccentrics all will differing offsets, the smallest being zero offset, these cams slid on a square shaft, so that the driver (chauffeur, chaud = hot in French, feur=fire in French, in other words a chauffeur is a fireman, not so glamorous!) could select the amount of steam he needed by the leaver on the column.
the steam donkey pump came in 1904, I will write more if anyone is interested

open | download - US480286.pdf (216.6 KB)
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 07, 2015 04:01AM
Hey Chris,

Please write more. It is fascinating history isn't it?

The first Chauffeurs were employed as the boiler operators for the very early 1800's steam powered vehicles, during the dreaded red flag laws of England(boo!). The boiler generally being in the back with wood, charcoal, coke or coal fires manually tended, the water delivery also being manually tended.

The driver was in the front, I do not know if they invented a new name for the drivers, since that particular position was already common with horse drawn vehicles.

The very early Serpollet boilers used cast iron "shields" to protect the tube that was directly exposed to the fire. Basically a U shape. The tubes were also made interchangeable so that when the bottom tube(close to the fire) was eaten up pretty bad it could be swapped with the upper relatively undamaged tube. The lack of control with the early solid fuel fire likely contributed to this aspect of boiler maintenance.

There are also tales of the steam getting so hot that the cylinder would glow dull red at night and being able to find ones way home by following the trail of fire behind you when the liquid fuel burner became deranged.

Caleb Ramsby
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 07, 2015 04:56AM
Another true flash generator was the Pearson Cox steam motorcycle, the rider controlled the water supply. The later Dawn had a steam throttle in response to customer feedback!

Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 07, 2015 01:28PM
Ah yes, the Person Cox, I think you will find that they were agents for Turners and carried on with steam on there own when Turner ceased, or at least the designs are VERY Turner like....
The pre 1904 serpollets had a hand pump to initiate the steam, there was a low pressure on the fuel tank 1.5psi which was enough to trickle the fuel through the pump clacks and provide the low heat and initial warm up heat. after around 5 mins of warming the driver hand pumped water into the coils in order to be able to raise some pressure to move, once moving the mechanical pumps took over, there was a foot throttle, however this should be considered an on off valve really on these models, the throttle should be planted flat on the floor, and speed regulated purely but selecting the correct eccentric/ fuel and water delivery for the speed required. as a hill was approached, a larger eccentric was selected and almost immediately the pressure would start to rise which would keep the speed constant up the hill. if the driver was not so good, and he failed to select the eccentric before the foot of the hill, he then selected the big eccentric just as the engine started to slow, he now had the large eccentric, but the engine was rotating so slowly that the selection of the cam now had little effect, he then reached over and did the worst thing ever, had pumped to try to get some pressure, the hand pump did not deliver the fuel requirement, only water, which then chilled the coils, later cars had removable handles to remove the temptation.
Leon Serpollet realised that the water and fuel delivery needed to be separate to the engine and so in 1904 the pettit cheval was introduced, interestingly Abner Doble also came to the same conclusion
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 07, 2015 02:32PM
Many years ago Light Steam Power ran a multi issue history on Leon Serpollet and his fascinating cars.
Any chance of SACA reprinting them? First making sure it is totally accurate.
Also, in the Appendix of "The Steam Car 1779 - 1970" by Montagu and Bird they reprinted the 1906 speech Serpollet gave at the Milan Automobile Congress, describing what his next generation of cars would be.
The man had a crystal ball. This SACA should also reprint this.

Yes, Warren Doble for the F cars at the urging of Marc Lothrop,, the Scott-Newcomb, Endurance, Staley, Coats and French all came to the same conclusion. Water and fuel feed totally independent and not on the main engine when using a forced circulation monotube.

A friend of mine restored a Turner-Meiss to fine running condition in Los Angeles. At the Pebble Beach Concours last year and nobody paid attention to it.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/07/2015 02:41PM by Jim Crank.
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 07, 2015 03:34PM
the turner which your friend restored was a fantastic car, I have not seen the results of its restoration but would be keen to see it, there are only 3 to 4 turners which is possibly why it was ignored, you need enough survivors to create an interest to start with.
it is impossible to ensure that all the information is accurate, Leon is very much deceased, Anthony Beaver too, which leaves me as one of the few people who has had the time and the inclination to get involved.
incidentally, possibly the finest European steam car, the ex Milligan Serpollet type L is now in New York, under new ownership with Mitch Gross.
this is a fascinating car, not without its peculiarities but great. I did 42mph on the run into Brighton two years ago in this car!
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 07, 2015 03:57PM
In the Le Mans museum is a magnificent 1907 Brouard steam motorcycle. I looked at it really closely and it seems to be based on Serpollet ideas - hardly surprising as Brouard was a chum of Serpollet. It is extremely neatly designed, the burner and generator fitting into a tidy case with the vertical single cylinder d/a engine just in front. There are several other really early steam road vehicles there as well.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/07/2015 04:31PM by Mike Clark.

Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 07, 2015 10:01PM
An interesting thing that should be investigated by someone in England or Europe if at all possible.
Some years ago my late good friend Griff Borgeson met Serpollet's granddaughter through the President then of Peugeot, a Paul something or other.
Griff reported that she had one or two of those big steamer trunks stuffed with her grandfathers notes, drawings and letters dating right back to his first cars.
Griff said that she was very agreeable to his writing a book about Leon and I was going to pitch in and help with the technical part. Then Griff died from a blood clot and that ended that.
Another critical piece of steam car history that might just be tossed in the junk by her heirs.
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 08, 2015 01:01AM
Wow that motorcycle is really compact. I mean the steam generator. I wonder how fast it went.

Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 08, 2015 01:39AM
Jim, is there any contact details for the granddaughter, I would be fascinated to see such literature, I believe that Leon wrote constantly to his brother back home discussing various ideas. I am probably the best informed Serpollet person at present, having worked on several of them for many years now. The racing cars particularly interest me and would love to recreate the massive 1904 Gordon Bennett car, if funds ever allowed
Regarding steam powered motorbikes, are there any official speed records, I saw a run by a Stanley engined bike a few months ago, but I rather think it was only a terminal velocity measure, not a timed mile as per Boneville?

Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 08, 2015 12:18PM
I share your passion for sure. Don't just look at the material, see it properly preserved and made available for study.
You took on Serpollet and I did the same for Doble. I spent many years collecting material from all over the world, Acquired what remained of the factory files and drawings, acquired the Corporation, wrote the book and tried without success to get it published. No one gives a damn.

Serpollet is so very important because the whole foundation of the flash steam generator seems to have been his original creation. He also certainly developed the principal. Beyond any doubt both the Dobles and the Whites knew of and studied his work.
Unfortunately Griff did not tell me where she lived, although I believe it is or was in Paris.
My only suggestion would be for you to contact Griff's wife Jasmine who probably still lives in their house in Aix en Provence. She owned and ran the local movie theater there in town. She has Griff's files.

As far as steam motorcycles go, I don't know of any official record; but it seems to be 80.4 mph. Look on google under "Steam motorcycle speed record.".

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/08/2015 12:31PM by Jim Crank.
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 08, 2015 09:25PM
Hello again

Jim, my personal email address is chriswedgwood@manx.net if you have a last known address or last email address it would be useful and I will write, it would be a shame if the papers were lost. I have just "googled" the name and town, and discovered what an interesting guy Griffo was, but no addresses etc
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 08, 2015 09:45PM
Back to Serpollet.
Leon had used the petite cheval, (a steam donkey pump with second smaller delivery ram, water and fuel) as early as 1902 0n his racing cars, but had struggled to find a fool proof way of controlling its operation, and it was 1904 before it was on a production car, it is interesting to note that Serpolet marketed a model, whilst working on next years model with improvements, a very sound business plan, to accept that the design was not perfect. but get it to market and generate some income, whilst working on the next model, something that Abners perfectionist mentality would not let him do (Jim correct me if I am wrong)
The earlier production cars with the engine driven pumps were to some extent fool proof as the pump could not run unless the car was moving and the maximum speed that the pump could deliver was also related to engine speed, The idea of the balanced delivery system, on the face of it seems fool proof in its self, with the correct amount of water and fuel being delivered with every stroke one would think that you could not go wrong, however, the fuel was vaporised after the pump ,in a tube called the serpentine positioned about an inch above the flame jets and there is a limit to how much fuel this tube is capable of vaporising, a driver who failed to read the road or know his car could overwhelm the burner even on the old system and squirt liquid fuel into the generator.

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 02/08/2015 09:48PM by chris Wedgwood.
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 08, 2015 10:04PM
the petite cheval had its own problems, firstly it seems to have been plumbed into the main steam delivery pipe before the throttle with a simple needle valve mounted at the base of the steering column and a small quarter turn handle for the driver just under the steering wheel, this valve acted to shut off the steam to the petite cheval and also to meter the amount/pressure delivered to the pump, in order to match the pumps supply to the required road speed, again the throttle being used wide open and the production of steam being the speed control, the driver has to shut the valve every time he takes his foot of the throttle to cease the production of steam and also because as soon as the throttle is shut, the pressure in the steam delivery live doubles and the pump goes mad! but it is manageable buy an experienced driver and was an "option" on the 1904 cars, however, one could elect to have the engine driven pumps if preferred.
The next patent which I found, shows the main throttle, having two outlets, it was a simple button covering a hole affair, in this case, two buttons and in fact a number of holes. this was designed to stop and start the pump with the foot throttle, there were a series of holes under the pump button, the first was uncovered just before the engine port was opened, and then as the throttle opened more a progressive number of holes were uncovered

Have I bored you to death or do you want more?
open | download - throttle.doc (43.5 KB)
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 09, 2015 04:24AM
More please Chris!
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 09, 2015 12:45PM

Chris, do you know how many vehicles Serpollett produced in totality?

Caleb Ramsby
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 09, 2015 01:20PM
Looked through everything and no phone number.
This was some time ago, but I think the address was:

Griffith Borgeson.
Campaign Mirail
Aux en Provence, France

Yes Griff was one fascinating and charming person, my guest for two weeks when they had that Miller Celebration at the Leguna Seca Raceway. We had a roaring correspondence going for some years together, covering many subjects of mutual interest. He gave me his Doble file that went way back, because he grew up two blocks from Marin Ave. in Berkeley and used to watch Abner scaring the daylights out of some customer, Dobles test hill.
He never had a computer that I knew of.

Serpollet sounds like he was groping his way with one Band-Aid after another trying to control his system.
Possible you could look up that President then of Peugeot who gave Griff the introduction to Serpollet's granddaughter??
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 09, 2015 01:29PM
the earliest number I can confirm is car number 52 in 1899, the car Mitch Grose has just bought is number 1013 which is 1904/5, I have a reference to number 1094 in 1906, he made trams as well as cars and nobody is really sure how the numbering system worked, but he possibly made 1200 between 1898 and 1907 which is plausable
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 09, 2015 01:33PM
Hi Jim
The system actually works really well, it just works best when the operator understand the system and its shortfalls and understands how to get around them, like most steam cars actually, nothing as good as a Range Rover!!!!!
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 09, 2015 02:26PM
George Milligen had replaced the coarse quarter turn needle valve with one that required about 8 turns to open or close, this meant that snapping the valve shut as you lifted your foot off the throttle was near impossible, I tried the double port throttle, this worked well in many ways, stopping and starting with the opening of the throttle, but had one major downfall, if you were cruising along on a very light load the pressure would gradually drop to a point where there was nothing left to get the pump going again.
When the petite cheval was introduced by serpollet he also George Milligen had replaced the coarse quarter turn needle valve with one that required about 8 turns to open or close, this meant that snapping the valve shut as you lifted your foot off the throttle was near impossible, I tried the double port throttle, this worked well in many ways, stopping and starting with the opening of the throttle, but had one major downfall, if you were cruising along on a very light load the pressure would gradually drop to a point where there was nothing left to get the pump going again.
When the petite cheval was introduced by Serpollet he also modified the generator to have more tubes with tighter spacings, this was possible as the exhaust from the pump was used to create a forced draught and draw the flames through the more restricted passageways.
One of the problems I encountered was that when traveling along with a high demand and them stopping suddenly. The fire could choke its self as the forced draught stopped with the pump. I then found a drawing of a steam bypass valve for the pump, live steam entered under a piston which had a large spring on top of it, there was a hole in the side of the skirt which lined up with a hole in the side of the cylinder, this went to the pump, when high pressure was reached the piston rose which cut off the steam to the pump, the hole in the skirt now lined up with a second outlet which went straight into the pump exhaust line and kept the draught on the generator.
I scaled the drawing, made patterns, cast the parts, and would you believe it the two holes were in the chassis on the right centres and exactly where the part was on the drawings that I had found.
This arrangement was great, and allows you to let the pump look after it self, you then drive on the throttle just like any modern car, I think this way of driving is what Leon was desperately trying to avoid, but in the end it was the easiest way, he never wanted to have a full head of steam all the time and just use some of it with a throttle, he wanted to instantly generate what was needed as it was needed. A good driver can achieve this, but for most people driving with a throttle was easier
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 09, 2015 02:37PM
Thanks for the numbers Chris. That is a lot of production for such a radical departure from the prior art!

Caleb Ramsby
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
February 09, 2015 02:45PM
Hi Chris

Definitely more please.

I may be teaching you to suck eggs but there are a number of period articles, drawings and photos available at [gallica.bnf.fr] just search Serpollet. All magazines are downloadable as pdf documents and I think it is a great French language resource.

Re: Gardner-Serpollett
June 24, 2015 10:17PM
My material on French steam includes a brochure on a car by Paul Buard and a few photos of his motocycle, owned by the Auto Club du Ouest, at the Musée des 24 Heures du Mans at musee24h.sarthe.com . Nearly every time it is displayed it has a different date on the display card from 1907 to 1920.
The "LeMans Museum", Les musées de la Ville du Mans, will not answer queries on this machine as they are rivals and do not even acknowledge the existance of the motoring museum on their web pages.

The two best books on Serpollet I have are both in French: Les frères Serpollet – 1997 by Guy Dürrenmatt available used on Amazon for $107, and the excellent Le Clos Serpollet – 4 juin 2003 by Pierre Dubarry de Lassalle, not available except by theft from Harvard or Bibliothèque nationale de France. I have been working on having the second book reprinted for five years, but the copyright is in a pissing contest, may it please the court. Write me privately about it.

It is still my intent to at least compile a collecton of material on the many Serpollet systems although like some of our correspondents, I find myself having outlived and out-aged Borgeson, Dubarry de Lassalle, and all the other authors on the subject.

Chris is very lucky to have put miles on a Turner-Miesse as you can see on videos. The Turner-Miesse at Pebble Beach last September was very nice, and the first I had seen. I really hoped to see the engine/gearbox unit run as it is very compact. Sadly it stopped steaming by the time I arrived. The mechanic fielding it did not follow the printed instructions to manage the vaporizer or carry a spare, and I was rude enough to ask him how he took care of it. It is a number of vertical parallel corkscrews which are the perfect device to carbon up without any access for cleaning. I gave him a new manual for the car which I had just republished by some coincidence, but never got a note after the meet about how it went. One way to clean it is to heat it hot enough to burn the carbon out while passing a very little oxygen from a torch through it. Too much oxygen simply blows holes in it. Of course, they seem to have simply intended you to replace it.

I will write to see if the Serpollet granddaughter is still alive. To digress, it reminds me of the story of the dowager who had her c. 1913 car body put on a c.1928 chassis. The chauffeur offered the collectible chassis for sale. The buyer asked to know when and if the original body might be available. Some years later, he received a brief note or wire: Madame xx is dead. Body available. I am still looking for the trunk with papers of Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford, which vanished during a trip across the continent about 1795. Wish me luck and please write.

Karl Petersen
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
June 25, 2015 03:12AM
I have a numer of pictures I took of the Buard motorcycle in the Le mans Museum and when I've resized them will post some on here. It is a nice thing and very much based on Serpollet thinking.

Re: Gardner-Serpollett
June 25, 2015 04:32PM
If you can get a copy, check the 1903 and 1905 volumes of "Motor Vehicles and Motors" by W. Beaumont, much good Serpollet data and drawings there.
I know the guy who restored that car at Pebble Beach, it was a Turner-Meiesse, same thing.
We did E-20 together at Nethercutts. Sharp cookie.
The car is in LA if you want to photograph it, very private collection. I can send you his phone numbers if you want.

See if Mrs. Borgeson still lives in Aux au Bain, her name if Jasmine. She owns the two cinemas there and just might have Griff's notes on Serpollet's grand daughter. Do give her my warmest regards.
Fantastic house, the basement is Roman, going up from there. Jean Bugatti found it for them.

Sounds like Serpollet was thrashing around at a great rate, an exercise in futility..
In the back of that book by Bird and Montagu "Steam Cars 1770-1970" the appendix has Serpollet's
prophetic paper from the 1906 Milan Automobile Congress, where he describes what his next cars would be. I much suspect that Abner and John somehow read t, because it has just what John did only a few years later.
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
June 25, 2015 07:36PM
Jim, Turner Miesse only looks similar to Serpollet, however it is very different, the Turner is a true "flash" boiler with no water content at all, when stationary there is no steam pressure, and burner had only one setting and did not modulate. when ready to go, water was hand pumped into hot coils, and away you go, no throttle, speed controlled purely by the steam pressure, which in turn was controlled by a manual water bypass which was spring loaded. so that the delivery water bypassed at different pressure depending on the load on the spring. very crude, but works remarkably well
serpollet was actually nearer to the White flow motor than you think, water and fuel pumps both driven of the engine, so fire reduces as water delivery decreases and a semi flash generator........... far more elegant than the Turner, but also more to go wrong!!!
The Turner vaporizer, always got carbon in it, until I got the correct fuel, once I got proper Kerosene no problems, it actually glows red, but no problems at all
Re: Gardner-Serpollett
June 26, 2015 01:28PM
MyGod, what a system. Didn't know the Turner-Miesse was so different from the Serpollet. Thanks for straightening it out. Talk about the sledgehammer approach!!! And people today have hissy fits if the temperature varies at all and want to slap computers on everything.
But; these cars were the beginning of the use of "flash" steam generators, so they were learning their way with no previous experience to learn from.
No wonder Stanley Ellis said his rides in that Turner were hysterical. Seeing that glow from under the car at night from the cylinder heads.
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