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Dr. Harvey's Twin Trailer (USA, 1913)

The twin trailer of Dr. L. C. Harvey (USA 1913, source Technical World Magazine July 1914)

Thanks to the HathiTrust, early editions of Technical World magazine of the USA have been recently digitized. Among this publication's many fascinating articles is an illustrated one from July 1914 about the twin trailer of Dr. L.C. Harvey from California. Dr. Harvey's RV is known to us from newspaper reports of the day and has featured in online articles by Hemmings and Coachbuilt, but this is the first time we have been able to see what Dr. Harvey's trailer looked like. It is one of the earliest travel trailers built in North America and possibly its first twin trailer.

Dr. Harvey's twin trailer was, as far as we know, first reported in The Motor Age of 21 August 1913, but the following extract and illustrations are taken from the July 1914 edition of Technical World magazine:

"Doctor L.V. (sic, should read "L.C.") Harvey of Upland, California, is about to start a motor caravan on tour which will cover most of the United States and a good part of Europe. The automobile which does the towing has been geared down to a speed of five miles an hour and the three vehicles that will travel in line form a complete and comfortable home that cost about ten thousand dollars. The doctor's wife and seven-year-old son will accompany him in his moving flat. The trip is for pleasure and study.

Source Technical World Magazine July 1914

"The motor caravan consists of two large inclosed wagons, attached to an automobile. The two wagons contain every comfort and many of the luxuries of home. They have electric lights, running water, screen doors, spacious beds, writing tables, and a library. Should he decide to take an auto tour about any city which he has reached, Doctor Harvey can detach the automobile from the wagons and use it for a touring car.

"The wagons are of special construction throughout, the running gear being the best, with roller bearings and springs. Air brakes are used. The floors are maple, the framework of hickory and the siding and ceiling of oak. The furniture is built in as a unit with the body. The couplings in the automobile are arranged so that the wagons will trail around corners in the same track as the tractor.

Source Technical World Magazine July 1914

"The water system is arranged with a fifteen-gallon tank under the car, connected to the pipes that lead to the air brakes, and the pressure forces the water to the sink for cooking, dish washing and drinking. The radiator of the automobile is also connected to the water tank and is kept constantly filled for the extra cooling needed because of the constant use of the low gear.

"An air tank on the tractor is kept filled with air by the pump on the engines, from which the tires are filled, the air brakes are operated, the water forced to the pipes, the horn blown and the motor started. The electrical lights are supplied from a storage battery, which is kept charged by a dynamo on the auto. This supplies all the different lights in and about the caravan.

"Doctor Harvey is a genius at mechanics and spends much time experimenting with new devices. He has taken out several patents which, he hopes, may in time bring him a large income."

Other newspaper reports of Dr. Harvey's twin trailer called it a 'trackless train'. Road-going vehicles with multiple trailers were not new in 1913. In France Colonel Renard developed a multi-trailer concept pulled by a Darracq automobile in 1903. And in 1904, according to Popular Mechanics, "an English engineer of prominence" developed a "road locomotive" consisting of a steam traction engine, a passenger compartment and a luggage van. As far as we know this concept was never realised.

A road locomotive concept (UK 1904, source Popular Mechanics 1904)

So what became of Dr. Harvey's twin trailer? After the initial reports of 1913 and 1914 the RV disappears from view. It could be that the Ford Model T's 20hp engine struggled to pull two such heavy trailers, or that the complex air braking and water systems were unreliable. Most likely however is that Dr. Harvey would have found the practicalities of driving such an RV overwhelming, especially when he tried to reverse.

Andrew Woodmansey

July 2022


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