The Steam Bus Era.

Thomas Clarkson Steam Bus Pioneer.

 The October meeting of the Local History Society convened in St Andrew’s Church at 7.30pm and was well attended as usual. Announcements over, the Chair, Trevor, introduced the evening’s speaker – Mr Russell Bulley, C.Eng B.Eng MIET. His subject was Thomas Clarkson – born in 1864, in Chelmsford, Essex.

Mr Bulley began the meeting by issuing a challenge. He began by saying his subject, Thomas Clarkson and the steam bus history, had very little Peterborough local history content. However, in 1868 a man called Perkins (not Frank Perkins!) built a steam bus in Peterborough. It ran for 14 years, but there appears to be no information or pictures of the bus anywhere. So the challenge is, if any one has any information on this steam bus, please let him know (and if anyone reading this has any information, please submit it using our “Contact” page and we will pass it on).

A 1913 Paraffin fired team Bus

“In the 1830s there were a number of steam buses. These buses were popular but a   rebellion by stagecoach companies and the Government’s Red Flag Act was the Locomotives on Highways Act of 1865, which reduced permissible speeds on public roads to 2 miles (3 km) per hour within cities and 4 miles (6 km) per hour in rural areas. This legislation also brought a temporary halt to the steam bus progress.

Steam power for private cars never achieved great prominence, but in the early years of the twentieth century steam-powered buses were highly attractive to a travelling public that looked distastefully upon the smelly and smoky” petrol buses, declared by one newspaper to be rattling and reeking petrol-dropping monsters.”


Mr Bulley gave us a comprehensive history of Clarkson’s interesting life, his inventions, patents and progress of the steam bus technology in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

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