The strange fusion between car and train that saw the light more than 120 years ago

Although it sounds strange today, there was a time when there were automobiles powered by steam in some parts of the world and even really amazing alternatives were made that imitated steam vehicles but only in appearance, as was the case with the car named Sterand.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
22 May 2023 Monday 15:28
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The strange fusion between car and train that saw the light more than 120 years ago

Although it sounds strange today, there was a time when there were automobiles powered by steam in some parts of the world and even really amazing alternatives were made that imitated steam vehicles but only in appearance, as was the case with the car named Sterand. Crazy.

Despite the fact that its name may be misleading, the truth is that it does not come from the word "crazy" in Spanish, but from the similarity of the car with a steam locomotive. The vehicle was produced in the United States in 1902 by the Western Motor Car Company, a company established in the state of Indiana.

The origins of the company, initially known as Rutenberg Manufacturing Company, go back to 1898 in Chicago (Illinois), by Edwin Rutenberg, who later changed the name of the brand and moved it to Indiana. This engineer and businessman developed a single-cylinder engine and then created some of the first four- and six-cylinder engines used by early American automakers.

Although the Western Motor Car Company's specialty was engine production, the firm also made a brief foray into the automobile manufacturing business. And precisely one of those creations was the Sterand Loco, of which a single unit and very little documentation has survived to this day.

Its bodywork was made to resemble a steam locomotive, as can be seen by looking at its exterior design, with features such as a cylindrical front end and the presence of a single headlight. However, instead of a boiler, it integrated a four-cylinder combustion engine that was capable of generating a power close to 16 CV.

One of the reasons that made this engine particularly curious was the built-in air compressor that activated a locomotive-inspired steam whistle and was also capable of inflating the tires if necessary. Today, some off-road cars built for demanding off-road conditions have tire compressors, but in 1902 this was unusual equipment.

The Loco came with a two-speed manual transmission (plus reverse), a spartan cockpit with two seats, a right-side-mounted steering wheel, and outer connecting rods connected to the rear wheels. These connecting rods were truly functional, moving with the vehicle and accentuating its locomotive-inspired look.

Another noteworthy fact about this vehicle was its maximum speed, which was close to 100 km/h. This may not sound like anything special today, but at the turn of the 20th century it was an impressive number. The surprising vehicle is currently for sale at a price of around 236,000 euros.

If you are interested in learning about some creation in the field of classic steam-based real mobility automobiles, you can take a look at the video that accompanies this article, where you can admire the Locomobile, from 1899.