Friday, April 30, 2021

 A big H/T to Mr. Filthie once again!

Steam Powered Lawn Mowers

The picture clearly implies that the Coldwell was suitable for one-man operation. It looks as if the driver might be able to read the pressure gauge by turning round, but it is not clear if he can see any indication of boiler water level.

The men behind the machine appear to be William H Coldwell, Harry T Coldwell,and Thomas Coldwell. The first two chaps took out a number of mower patents, for example No. 796,811 which was issued in August 1905, but the March 1901 patent referred to above (No. 669,436) was taken out by Thomas alone, and the August 1902 patent (No. 707,304) by Thomas and William.
The 1901 patent refers only to a means of bearing adjustment, but the 1902 patent explicitly covers a steam mower and has a drawing very like the actual machine as shown here.



This version shows tiller steering.

The drawing is clearly derived from the original machine. The vertical steam engine C can be seen to the right of the boiler D.

It appears that the driver is going to have to be something of a contortionist if he is going to keep an eye on the pressure gauge and the all-important water-level gauge without leaving his seat.


The Leyland steam mower was one of the first motorised lawn mowers; produced for just a few years at the end of the 19th and the start of the 20th centuries. The earliest motorized lawn mowers were made around 1896 by a newly formed Lancashire Steam Motor Company in the town of Leyland, England. Shortly after, the company name was changed to Leyland Motors and later became British Leyland, makers of cars such as the Jaguar, Rover, Land Rover and original Mini car. The steam mower was produced for just a few short years before Leyland Motors moved into producing petrol-powered wagons.

The mower was, judging from the height of the handlebars, about six feet tall. It had a vertical boiler mounted above the mower chassis, and was powered by a small single-cylinder steam engine with a sizable flywheel and spur gear transmission to the rear driving roller. (completely unguarded, as was not uncommon at the time)
The boiler was oil-fired, presumably to reduce the workload of the driver. Stoking and steering at the same time would have made an uneasy combination.



The Leyland mower could be operated by one person, and removed the need to house and feed a draught animal that might have no other work to do. However, that one person needed to be skilled in the operation of steam machinery, which can be lethally unforgiving of incapacity or inattention, and would have expected appropriate wages. The boiler would have required a regular supply of water. It was also inevitably expensive to buy, and required careful maintenance, like any machine that included a steam boiler. 


Sumner renamed his company the Leyland Steam Motor Company in 1895, and the business in time went on to become the motor-car manufacturer British Leyland.

Competing steam mowers were marketed shortly after the Leyland, by Alexander Shanks of Arbroath, and Thomas Green of Leeds; none of the machines was a commercial success. The introduction of internal-combustion engines at the end of the 19th century gave a much more practical prime mover; Ransomes of Ipswich produced its first petrol engined mower in 1902, and there was clearly no future for steam mowing.

Examples of steam lawnmowers are in very short supply; apart from the example at the University of Reading, no others are known. There is a modern replica of the Leyland steam mower in a museum in Coventry, made by British Leyland apprentices some years ago.


1 comment:

  1. That is awesome and my wife says no, I can't have one.
    More information about the lawnmower in the video.
    The restoration at the Rough and Tumble Museum at Kinzers, PA.