The “steam dummy” – the little engine that tried to pretend it wasn’t a steam engine

The "steam dummy" - the little engine that tried to pretend it wasn't a steam engineIt’s just a cute little house on rails that won’t scare anybody.


The "steam dummy" - the little engine that tried to pretend it wasn't a steam engineSee? Look how small it is!
(These look like the drawings meant to reassure buyers.)

The "steam dummy" - the little engine that tried to pretend it wasn't a steam engineHere’s an "enclosed" steam dummy where they didn’t
try too hard with the "enclosed" part.

In the mid-1800s in American cities, horses and mules pulled streetcars for transportation. But they were too expensive to run, unreliable and unsanitary. When companies tried using steam locomotives, horses got  spooked.

Companies responded by inventing the steam dummy. The dummy used a lower-pressure condensing engine which did not make as much noise releasing steam. And the steam dummy was disguised to look like a passenger car.

It’s possible that the name "steam dummy" was a play on words. Dummy meant both noiseless, and (if I look it up in a 1913 Webster’s dictionary): "A sham package in a shop, or one which does not contain what its exterior indicates."

There were two types of steam dummies. Either the engine was a separate car which looked like a passenger car and worked like a typical train that pulled passengers in another car, or the engine and passenger car were combined into one car.

But the horses still got scared. It turns out it was the noise of the steam engine, and not what it looked like, that frightened the horses. By the beginning of the 1900s a new technology almost completely replaced the steam dummy: electric streetcars.

The "steam dummy" - the little engine that tried to pretend it wasn't a steam engineA disguised steam dummy, with a prominent smokestack. You’ll also notice that, unlike the engravings above from the marketing department,all the photos have the wheels showing.
The "steam dummy" - the little engine that tried to pretend it wasn't a steam engineI like how some photographs of the steam dummies remove the smokestack completely.
"No, this isn’t a fake steam engine, not at all."
The "steam dummy" - the little engine that tried to pretend it wasn't a steam engineNow these guys know how to disguise an engine inside a passenger car. However, I think the smokestack has conveniently faded away.
The Street railway journal from 1886>>

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