A blog about Victorian miniatures, some historical and some definately not!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Tortoise Steam Tank

Abdul666 asked a question about the origin of the tank depicted on the cover of Voices Prophesying War, there are elements of five illustrations on the cover of the book and all of them are also inside the book with annotations of some sort showing the origin except the tank. Abdul666 was quite correct that the airship was taken from one of the works of Robida.
Looking through The Tale of the Next Great War I found this illustration
Quite clearly the same design as on the cover of the other book.

Although there appears to be no comment in the text of The Tale of the Next Great War it has this annotaion underneath the illustration.
'The first patent application (No. 747) for an armoured fighting vehicle was presented on 3 April 1855 by James Cowen and James Sweetlong.'This invention consists of an improved locomotive battery to be used in the field of battle, and is so constructed as to exert a most destructive force against the enemy , while protected from damage in return' '

This has piqued my interest, Im not sure the illustrations are directly linked to the patent application or not, google has so far not come up with any answers.Im going to see if I can find out more information.


  1. Seems closely related to, if not merely identical to this 'British War Cart, 1855 '.
    (Please delete if redundant with another comment)

  2. Indeed , the date a design indicate it is the same after it has had it's shell removed. I have visited that site before , some marvellous models

  3. Patent No 747 aka The Devastator had an outer shell which included Scythes , roughly level with the wheels & a chimney outlet for steam....it looked very much like the Turtle.I have further information if you are interested

  4. The 'British War Cart 1855' model is a fictional creation, based on the Cowen proposal but in little way truly representative of it (William Wardrop is a brilliant modelmaker, but many of his creations are whimsical). Cowen's 1855 proposal was to take a steam traction engine equipped with Boydell Footed Wheels, a type of wheel with hinged 'feet' used by a number of agricultural traction engines to prevent then sinking in the soft soil of fields.

    Cowen's idea was to fit a helmet-shaped armoured cover, attach scythes (possibly rotating) and equip it with cannon. The Tank Museum at Bovington has a model of the concept (the proposal got no further than paper), which you can see here in a photo I took twenty years ago:
    Model of Cowen War Car 1855

    On this page you can see some images of traction engines with Boydell wheels:
    Traction Engines With Boydell Wheels