Steamtrucks & -busses

This page is dedicated to a project which took place from 1930 until 1936 where engineers from Henschel und Sohn worked with Warren Doble on developing steam installations for use in road and rail vehicles.

This page should be seen as a global overview over the project whereas not all the details are not known at this time and as a starting point for further investigation.

The Project

On September 18, 1929, a revolutionary steam car was demonstrated in Berlin, it was built by Doble Steam Motors Co. from Emeryville, California. Among the spectators were delegations from Henschel und Sohn and A. Borsig GmbH. in Berlin who were very interested in the vehicle and the technology that it contained.

The concept was conceived and developed by Abner and Warren Doble. It consisted of a steam boiler that totally deviated from conventional boilers that work until then built. The water was in pipes that ran spirally through the combustion chamber, furthermore, the burner was mounted on the top and the outlet on the bottom of the boiler. One of the advantages was that there was a small amount of water in it that needed to be heated. The burner was switched on and off automatically by applying a thermocouple. Water was also supplied automatically. Because liquid fuel such as gasoline or kerosene (lamp oil) was used, it was also easy to do automatically. Furthermore, the spent steam was cooled to water in a condenser to increase the range of the vehicle.

Abner and Warren had already built and sold some thirty vehicles in their plant in Emeryville, California, which were equipped with a steam installation of their design. Their co-partners George and Bill Besler at Doble Steam Motors ltd were busy selling licenses to interested parties. They had not only found these in Germany, but Abner had also made deals in New Zealand with A.G. Price and in the UK with Sentinel Steam Waggons. Henschel also has a strong interest in such a radical idea, because there are very strong nationalistic developments in Germany and the government wants to be less dependent on the import of oil. Henschel wants to see if the Doble System, originally developed to be fueled by petrol or kerosene, is also suitable for being fired by heavier oils such as brown coal tar oil or coal tar oil or other liquid fuels that are present in Germany.

After negotiations between Doble Steam Motors ltd (legal owner of the patents), Henschel und Sohn and A. Borsig GmbH, an agreement was reached on 9 April 1930 on a license for the production of trucks, buses and rail vehicles. With the following division of tasks being agreed upon, Henschel will focus primarily on trucks and buses; Borsig will mainly be concerned with rail vehicles. DSM ltd will provide boilers, drive units, etc. to build prototypes.

The first developments

Abner Doble has been working as a consultant in Shrewsbury UK for Sentinel since 1930 to support them in the development of trucks based on Doble patents and offer to also support Henschel & Borsig in their developments, so he visits Kassel & Berlin in 1931 & 1932 several times and provides feedback on developments at Henschel and Borsig.

Warren has already been to Germany to get the project started.

The team working on the Henschel steam vehicles consists of employees of Technisches Buro 4, the department that deals with new developments at Henschel. Richard Roosen.

Henschel builds the first prototype chassis with a standard 80 hp Doble unit, which was supplied by Bill Besler in 1931 and does the first test drives in July of that year in the presence of Abner. The first results are encouraging.

In mid-1932, Abner and Warren visit Henschel together, with Warren being offered to work full-time for them from then on. At that time, Henschel had received Doble F-35 from Bill Besler, and a lot turned out to be wrong with this vehicle and the gentlemen went to work to solve his problems. Henschel has also done many tests with their prototype chassis and has achieved more good results. Daily distances of up to 200 km are covered without major problems with the chassis.


The tests were successfully completed in 1933 and the first pre-series buses were started, these are the Elberfelder bus and the Kraftverkehrgesellschaft Freistaat Sachsen (KVGFS) bus. The author suspects that the chassis of the KVGFS bus was used as the first prototype, this was equipped with the 80 hp drive unit. It is possible that this chassis was later equipped with a new 120 hp boiler and drive unit.

Work was started on the construction of a series of 10 trucks for the Deutsche Reichsbahn (DRB), and Warren was also working for several months in Berlin at Werft Claus Engelbrecht, Muggelsee, Berlin on a speedboat equipped with Doble steam boiler and drive unit. The author suspects that this drive unit is the only one that has survived.

The KVGFS bus is delivered in 1934 and the construction of the most impressive vehicle, the 3-axle Henschel is started, this vehicle is being built for Nordmark, Altona (now Hamburg). This was equipped with 2 drive units, each rear axle 1. Presumably, a larger boiler was also built-in, probably the same as that in a railcar.

At the beginning of November 1934, the first trucks are delivered to DRB and these are the first to be extensively tested by participating in the Winter Prüfungsfahrt in 1934/35 and a test drive to the Harz. The Thuringia Brauerei August Schmidt in Muhlhausen also received its steam truck in 1934.

The first front steering buses were built in 1935 and delivered to Stadtwerke Bielefeld and Kasseler-Omnibus-Gesellschaft (KOG), and a Sentinel steam truck from Shrewsbury arrived, which will be examined in great detail in the coming years and compared with its own developed vehicles.

In 1936, after being damaged in a fire, the Elberfelder bus returned to Kassel where it was re-bodied by Wegmann and the boiler position changed. This is now located at the rear and front becomes a front steer. The KOG bus has been converted to  diesel engine, just like the Bremer Vorortbahnen bus.

End of production

Because the price of tar oils has risen sharply in recent years, due to the increased use by the Kriegsmarine in its build-up to the Second World War, the profitability of these steam vehicles was becoming ever smaller and Henschel decides to cease production in 1937. The production of diesel and petrol trucks was also being relocated to Austria to free up production capacity for the rapidly growing arms production at Henschel. The Nordmark truck goes back to Henschel, whether it has been converted to a diesel engine or has been demolished, is not known.

Post production

After the production of steam trucks and buses ceased, Henschel still built stationary boilers according to the Doble system, which were called Baureihe HK, which stands for Hochdruck-Kleinkessel. Even after the Second World War, these were built for many years in various sizes.

During the Second World War, developments are halted, but the Doble F-31 and F-35 are still present at the factory, these are unfortunately destroyed during the bombing of Kassel on October 22, 1943, despite the intention of Dr. Roosen to bring it to safety. It is known that the Elberfelder bus served until 1942 and some DRB trucks were used in Kassel.


After the Second World War, the occupying forces at the time were very curious as to what technological developments had been in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s. The British investigated steam vehicles for this, looking at the Elberfelder bus and a DRB truck and dr. Roosen interviewed. The latter was only possible with the consent of the Americans because Kassel was in the American occupation zone, while Wuppertal was in the English. Whether the Americans and Russians have done similar research is unknown.

A few DRB steam trucks were still in service for some time after the war, but these were soon taken out of service.


Little is known about the fate of most vehicles, the author suspects that if they were not destroyed during the Second World War, it is very likely that they were scrapped in the following years.

The currently only known surviving object is a drive unit that is now located in Hamburg in a corporate archive.

The Vehicles

This is a list of vehicles that were part of this project.

Doble F31

build on a Buick model 60 sedan in 1930, destroyed in an airraid during WW2.

Doble F35

upgraded from Chassis E12 by William Besler, destroyed in an airraid in WW2.

Delivered as a chassis, body built by Erdmann & Rossi, Berlin.

Sentinel S6

built in 1935 wit serialnumber 9196, used for many years as a mobile testing platform, was fitted with a mechanical stoker.

Steam Launch

built in 1933 as a testing platform

Bus for Elberfelder Bahnen Wuppertal

used from 1933 until 1942, then decommissioned due to fuel shortages, converted to front steer and rear mounted boiler in 1936.

Bus for Kraftverkehr Sachsen AG

built in 1933/34

Truck for Wickuler-Kupper-Brauerei, Elberfeld (Wuppertal)
Truck for Thuringia-Brauerei August Schmidt Muhlhausen
10 trucks for Deutsche Reichsbahn

built in 1933, two diffent cabversions are known, used from depot Kassel.

Truck for Kraftverkehr Nordmark AG Altona

triple-axle truck with 1 steam engine on each rear axle, built in 1934, ran between Hamburg and Berlin, decommissioned in 1937

Bus for Bielefelder Stadtwerke

delivered in 1935 and decommissioned in 1936 due to poor performance related to the use of the wrong fuel and increasing cost of fuel

Bus for Kasseler Omnibus Gesellschaft

built in 1935, converted to dieselmotor

Bus for Omnibusbetrieb der Bremer Vorortbahnen

built in 1936, converted to dieselmotor


Here is a list of sources i currently have in my possession.

jaar van uitgave bron Naam Auteur ISBN
1934 Neue Dampffahrzeuge Zeitung Verein Deutsche Ingenieure Roosen en Imfeld
1934 “New Steam Driven Vehicles” Steam Car Developments & Steam Aviation
1934 Der Dampfomnibus, Verkehrstechnik Uhlig, H.
1935 Der Henschel Dampflastwagen, Organ fur Fortschritte des Eisenbahnwesens Organ fuer die Fortschritte des Eisenbahnwesens Schleifenheimer, H.
1935 125 Jahre Henschel. 1810-1935
1937 Leichte Dampfantriebe an Land, zur See, in der Luft. Münzinger, Friedrich
1941 Hochdruck-Kleinkessel mit Zwangdurchlauf für ortsfeste Anlagen Zeitung Verein Deutsche Ingenieure Roosen, R
1943 Versuche an einem kohlegefeuerten Dampflastwagen Automobiltechnische Zeitschrift Rüggeberg, G
1944 The Modern Steam car and its background + supplement Clymer
1946 B.I.O.S final report 1748 Fitton, A. and Sharpe, G.C.H.
1946 The Steam lorry, Comprehensive German Tests on a Vehicle of British Design Automobile Engineer, March 1946 pagina 117 -123 Nott, R.H.P.
1955 Steam Road Vehicles and Railcars in Germany, Chapter 3, Steam Busses, Lorries and Railcars By Henschel & Sohn, of Kassel Walton, J.N.
1960 Henschel Heute, 150 Jahre Henschel
1975 The Undertype Steam Road Waggon Maurice Kelly 978-0900404160
1976 Ein Leben fuer die Lokomotieve Roosen, R 3-440-04309-6
1996 Alle Lastwagen von Henschel 1925-1967 Hesse, KH; H.A. Bauer 3-926071-12-5
1996 “Volldampf statt vollgas” Last und Kraft, 4/96 Gottwaldt, A
1999 Das Lastwagen-Album, Henschel Regenberg, B 9783861332046
2001 Neuartige Dampflokomotiven von Henschel in Kassel: Das Lebenswerk des Ingenieurs Richard Roosen Zeitschrift des Vereins für hessische Geschichte (ZHG) Band 106 Gottwaldt, A
2006 “Henschel steam road vehicles” Steaming 2006 Regenberg, B
2009 “Henschel Steam Lorries, Buses and Railcars from British Intelligence” The Steam Automobile Bulletin
2012 Henschel: Lastwagen 1925-1974 (Typenkompass) Gebhardt, W.H. 978-3-613-03403-7
2012 Doble shippinglist.doc James D. Crank Crank, James D.
2016 Dampfselbstfahrer im deutschsprachigen Raum Schmidt-Römer, Dr.-Ing. H.


Based on the research i already have done i am looking for the following sources

  1. “Betriebserfahrungen mit dem ersten Henschel-Dampfautobus”, Henschel -Hefte , Marz 1934, 3. Kraftwagen-Sondernummer, S.6.
  2. “Der Dampfantrieb fur Strassenfahrzeuge”, Henschel-Hefte, Februar 1935, 4, Kraftwagen-Sondernummer, S.16.
  3. Oldtimer Heft / Magazin Sonderheft 2 Maart 1986
  4. From BIOS report 1748, appendix 1 Documents Evacuated, BIOS/DOCS/2651/2046/1 until BIOS/DOCS/2651/2046/17, these are drawings, documents and reports which are the basis of the BIOS report.
  5. Darin: A. Reinsch: Versuchsfahrt mit heimischen Treibstoffen 1935, Sonderdruck aus: Zeitschrift des Vereins deutscher Ingenieure 79, 1935, Nr. 52
  6. Articles from Die Strasse 1934 -1943
    Machemer, Heinrich Technische Prüfungsfahrt mit heimischen Kraftstoffen 88-90 3 1935 Umschau
    Liese, Albert Versuchsfahrt mit heimischen Treibstoffen 627-628 17 1935 Umschau
    Liese, Albert und Michahelles, August Kraftfahrzeug-Winterprüfung 1936 121-124 4 1936 Umschau
    König Kraftfahrzeug-Winterprüfung 1937 170-173 6 1937 Umschau
    König, Hans-Arnold Kraftfahrzeug-Winterprüfung 1938 125-126 4 1938 Umschau
    König, Hans-Arnold “Internationale Alpenfahrt 1939” 538-543 16-18 1939 Umschau
    Dittrich, Rudolf Versuchsfahrt mit heimischen Treibstoffen 1935 462-463 12 1935 Umschau

If you know of other publications which cover this project in any way i would like to know.


if you wish to get in touch with me in regard to this research, i can be reached through the Contactform here.

Alles over Hanomag, Henschel & Hanomag-Henschel