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Restored 70' McKeen Motor Car
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 Posted: Tue Jul 12th, 2011 04:39 pm
51st Post
Herb Kephart

Joined: Thu Jul 19th, 2007
Location: Glen Mills, Pennsylvania USA
Posts: 5979
Thanks for the info, and the great pix, Darrel.

I would be willing to bet that every McKeen was a little different that any other. Here is a shot of a motor truck, that shows, if you look carefully, gear teeth just showing on the center of the crankshaft. This would seem to indicate gear, instead of chain drive 


Fix it again, Mr Gates--it still works!"
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 Posted: Wed Jul 13th, 2011 02:43 am
52nd Post

Joined: Tue May 10th, 2011
Location: Loveland, Colorado USA
Posts: 6

That is an interesting shot - the only one I've ever seen where the 42" wheels did not have spokes.  Various details were different with every car body so it makes sense the power truck and engine were different on every car.  McKeen called that knife edge front end a "wind-splitter" and claimed that this design reduced wind drag.  Later wind tunnel tests showed that the car was more aerodynamic if it ran backwards.  In later years the front was more rounded - maybe McKeen also discovered that the knife edge front didn't do anything - especially at the speeds that they typically traveled.

If you have a copy of "the American Railroad Passenger Car" by John White, look in part 2, page 594.  There is a picture of a McKeen power truck and engine.  This looks like a later design with an enclosed engine and drive train.  The engines were called type A,  type C and type D (I assume that there was also a type B).  V&T #22 had an early type A engine.  The 200 hp type C and 300 hp type D engines came out about 1913.  One car even had chain drive to both axles of the power truck.  I wouldn't be surprised if they tried a gear drive at some point.  Whatever drive system was used, the engine and drive were mounted on the power truck and were subject to every shock and jar that the roadbed had.  This kind of vibration is not good for anything mechanical.

Another interesting note - there were no truth in advertising laws in the early 20th century.  McKeen made many claims about his motor car that were simply not true.  His first motor car traveled all over the country and he claimed that it performed flawlessly.  In fact, it had to be towed into many stations due to breakdowns.  He claimed that his cars would handle a 4% grade.  They struggled on any grade over 2%.  He claimed that wind-splitter design was the reason that the wind drag was less that a standard passenger car and ignored the fact that his car was 2 feet shorter than a standard passenger car.

All in all, every McKeen car is unique.


Last edited on Wed Jul 13th, 2011 02:47 am by CMmodeler

Darrel Ellis
Yes, I do still play with trains.
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 Posted: Thu Jul 14th, 2011 09:53 pm
53rd Post
W C Greene

Joined: Fri May 4th, 2007
Location: Royse City, Texas USA
Posts: 8253
Love dem ol' McKeen cars! Good info here.

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