James Boydell's steam horse, 1857.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Plate taken from the 'Illustrated London News'. Such was the interest raised when Boydell first exhibited his steam horse in a Lincolnshire field, that spectators from as far afield as Cuba and Rusia were among the crowd. The steam engine had already begun to take over static tasks on the farm, such as threshing, but in the fields it was too cumbersome to be practical. Boydell's novel proposal was the 'endles rail', a series of hinged boards attached round the perimeter of each wheel; like a skier on soft snow, this steam horse would spread its weight and thus avoid becoming bogged down.