JF Ptak Science Books Post 1407
This lovely steam-powered trolley looks as though it was just <this> close to being lifted off of its tracks and placed on the street for tooling around town. Of course part of the reason why Joseph Green Cooke's trolley was so lightweight1 is because it was traveling on rails, which meant the surface over which it would be propelled was smooth and predictable, unlike the streets that it would have to use to makes its way through a town. Uneven, choppy, bumpy roadways would mean that the vehicle would have to be more sturdy; more sturdy means more weight, more weight means bigger engine, and so on. So instead of this relatively light 1,200 pound vehicle you might wind up with something at 5,000 pounds, or more--at least in 1877's mindset. (The issue of Scientific American is available here.)
The lighter vehicle would come before the end of the decade, but it had mostly to do with getting away from the steam engine to the lighter gasoline engine2. It is serendipitous and perhaps ironic that the illustration facing the steam trolley is for the gasoline-burning train locomotive engine of Thomas Urquhart, who developed it for the Grazi-Tsaritsin Railway (Russia), which converted all of its 143 engines to this method by 1885. When the pages of the magazine are closed, the two images lay one on top of the other.
1. Earlier efforts at putting mobile steam-powered vehicles on the road stretches back into the very dim pre-automobile with the behemoth of Nicolas Joseph Cugnot, which strained its way along French streets as early as 1869....it also in the first recorded automobile accident, which caused enough trouble and damage and injury to scare away development money. There were engines that were considered "portable" traction devices in the earliest part of the 19th century (by Trevithick and Tuxford, among others) , though they were not mobile--the "portable" part was that they could be moved (at all). The movable, working traction machine ("tractor") would begin to make its appearances in the 1860's, though these were generally major pieces of machinery, locomotives on wheels.
2. Thanks to Gottlieb Daimler's 1885 prototype, and Karl Benz's 1886 patent for the gas-fuled car, and of course to the Charter Gasoline Engine Company of Illinois, whose work in the mid/late 1880's brought about the production of several gas-powered traction engines in 1889.
From the Western Review of Science and Industry, 21 December 1876: STEAM TROLLY. "Mr. Joseph Green Cooke, the locomotive and car superintendent of the Oude and Kohilkunde Railway, has constructed a steam troll}'' or carriage, the object of which is to enable resident engineers to inspect their tracks, bridges and works with rapidity