A classic early steam motor car built by Schenectady Locomotive Works in 1897 on the New England Railroad.

The unit developed over 9,000 lbs. of tractive effort and burned coke or anthracite coal,

carrying enough fuel and water to travel 60 miles before being replenished.  

(Internet Archive Book Images, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons)



A steam railcar, steam motor car (US), or Railmotor (UK) is a railcar that is self powered by a steam engine. The first steam railcar was an experimental unit designed and built in 1847 by James Samuel and William Bridges Adams in Britain.


North American Use

In North America, a railcar is known as a Doodlebug and the steam railcar as a steam motor car. The New England Railroad purchased a steam motor car by Schenectady Locomotive Works in 1897. In 1906, the Canadian Pacific Railway had an oil fired steam railcar and in 1908 the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad purchased one built by Alco-Schenectady.

In 1911, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway built a steam-powered railcar combining a Jacobs-Schupert boiler and a Ganz Works power truck in an American Car and Foundry body. The resulting doodlebug was designated M-104. It operated experimentally under its own power for only three months. With the steam machinery removed and an unpowered truck substituted, the car operated as an unpowered combine (combination baggage-coach car) until the 1960s.

The steam motor cars in North America reached their popular apex before the 1880s, with most fabricated to custom designs by small specialty builders before 1875. nearly all examples were unique and purpose-built to order; a few were experimental cars built and marketed by small firms or individuals on a trial basis and often not entirely successful due to their uniqueness or relative costs. The rise of electric traction was one cause for the ultimate demise of American steam motor cars.


San Francisco and Northwestern Railway Steam Railcar No 0.

(Unknown photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)