In this blog we look briefly at a failed attempt by Chesterfield neighbours Bryan Donkin and the Chesterfield Tube Company to enter the commercial vehicle gas propulsion market.
In our April blog we briefly mentioned the following: ‘An attempt in 1933, pioneered by the Tube Company and Bryan Donkin, to introduce compressed coal gas as a means of propulsion for cars and lorries was unsuccessful because of the lack of filling stations and the taxation of road vehicles by weight.
We thought we’d share these photographs with you, which are taken from a 26-page booklet produced by the Chesterfield Tube Company in 1933, promoting the idea and the trials that were then taking place. They are presented courtesy of one of our members, but we believe there is a copy in Chesterfield Local Studies Library. The booklet must have been popular at the time, as it was reprinted a year later.
The tube company were interested as the gas was compressed into cylinders – hopefully produced by the company. Donkins were interested in the compression of the gas (they produced compressors) and in the filling station’s other apparatus.
The publication goes into some detail about how the experiment came about. One of the drivers was that coal gas was, at the time, being wasted in coke production, particularly in south Yorkshire and more locally. There was a failure to capture this gas and use. Issues around explosion fears, robustness of the traction cylinders to be employed, conversion of the petrol vehicles alongside ‘cruising range’ were all explored, in an upbeat publication.
Illustrated in the booklet were a Chesterfield Corporation bus – having been converted – along with one of the tube company’s own lorries, a Whitwood Chemical lorry (not illustrated here), a Chesterfield Corporation refuse lorry and a gas department lorry.
As we stated, the experiment petered out. Today the production of coal gas is now non-existent.
The illustration captions from the booklet have been retained in the selection reproduced here.