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"This is a Velocipede"

Photo by kind permission of Trevor Catterson

Patented by George Sheffield in 1879, this example is probably the best preserved Sheffield machine in the world and lives at The Buckinghamshire Railway Museum at Quainton Road Station.
To see the patents Google Patents and put in the numbers
213254 & 9571 Reissue, 260903.

BUDA Pump Car
See our "downloads" page for the many
BUDA Catalogues we have in our Library



Very early advertisement with "wheelbarrow" spokes before the traditional Sheffield "teardrop" wooden spokes in the Quainton Road Station machine appeared. A "wheelbarrow" machine survives in a Museum in the US.

A Railway Velocipede is a simple 3 or 4 wheeled rail vehicle which the rider propels along the track using his arms and legs. It was invented by George Sheffield to get to work by unofficially riding on the tracks of the Michigan Central Railway in the hours of darkness. One evening he found a broken rail and by borrowing a lantern from a local farm, he stopped an approaching train and prevented a derailment and loss of life.

News of his nocturnal velocipeding was out but the railway company was grateful for his prompt action and allowed his use of their tracks, also asking him to build another velocipede for the Michigan Central.

His patent was issued on 11 March 1879 and according to the Scientific American of 3 November 1883, 4000 of these machines had been sold in America and Europe in just 4 years, a worldwide hit.

They were used as personal transport for track inspectors and signal engineers and could carry two people if needed. Their light weight meant they could easily be removed from the track when required.

Although mainly used by US and Canadian railways, several were bought by railways in Britain and it is examples of machines from the old Great Western, London and North Eastern, and Southern Railways that sometimes appear at our rallies. They are mainly products of the Sheffield Car Company of Three Rivers, Michigan, and the rival BUDA company of Harvey, Illinois.

The British company Wickham of Ware built at least three types of velocipede, mainly for export, but none has surfaced yet.

Kevin Thomas


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For further information about Railway Velocipedes please contact:
Jacqui Thomas

e-mail info@railvelocipedes.org

Velocipedes and other Hand Powered Rail Vehicles. Hajtany (HU); Railbike (US,GB); Dresinsykling (NO); Handcar (US); Drezina (RU);
Resiina (FI); Drezyny (PL); Skinneccykel (DK); Cykeldressin (SE); Draisines (BE); Bicilinha (BR); Dresin (NO); Biciclette Ferroviarie (IT);
Spoorvegfiets (BE); Dressin (SE,NO); Dresina (SP); Schienenvelo (CH); Dreziny (CZ); Spoorfiets (NL); Pump Car (US,GB); Velorail (FR,GB);
Cyclo Draisine (FR); Irish Mail (USA): Spinning Barbara (Wales,GB);

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