Skip to main content

Twilight for the Steam Car

1917 Stanley Twins in Model 730

To observe the 20th anniversary of their first car, the Stanley twins posed in a new 1917 condensing car, the Model 730, in front of the same Maple Street house where the famous photo of their first car had been taken. (Stanley Museum Archives)

As the number of vehicles and motorists increased in the United States, the Stanley Motor Carriage Company attempt­ed to keep up with the changing world around them, but de­pendence on water to power cars became troublesome. As traffic increased in cities, so too did complaints about the vapor exhausted by steam cars, especially on colder days when the steam was most visible.  

Water tanks held 20‒50 gallons, depending on the model, giving a steam car a range of 30‒50 miles. During the earliest days, when autos and horses shared the road, the availability of water troughs made filling up easy. As the use of horses diminished, so too did access to a ready water supply. Makers introduced such innova­tions as the condenser (which recycled water) to stem the decline of the steam car, but twilight approached — for both the steamer and the Stanley Motor Carriage Company.


1921 Esther Shallcross wedding photo

Esther Shallcross wedding photo, 1921. (Marshall Steam Museum Archives)

Marshall Connection
The Next Generation

In 1921, after years of courting, Clarence Marshall and Esther Shallcross married and moved into the house at Auburn Heights. They welcomed their son, Thomas C. Marshall Jr., on February 20, 1924.


Photo 1916 Stanley Touring Model 735 beside Marshall Steam Museum

Photo 1916 Stanley Touring Model 735 beside Marshall Steam Museum, 2009. (Marshall Steam Museum Archives)

1916 Stanley Touring Model 725
The Stanley Condenser

Early Stanleys used a total-loss water system. Water was pumped into the boiler, heated and turned to steam, then the steam traveled into the engine and finally exhausted into the atmosphere. With the addition of the condenser in 1915, steam was captured, condensed back into water, and deposited back into the water tank to be reused.  

The 1915 Stanley sales catalog suggested that with this addition, the 24-gallon water tank would allow the car to be driven 120–200 miles before refilling and would “effectively prevent the show of steam.”


Aerial view of condensing model, 1916 Stanley Motor Carriage Co. catalog

Aerial view of condensing model, 1916 Stanley Motor Carriage Co. catalog. (Marshall Steam Museum Archives)

Twilight for the Steam Car