Napthalene Locomotives

Gallery opened: 7 Sept 2018

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Napthalene is a white solid derived from the by-products of coal gas production. It is the simplest polycyclic aromatic compound, consisting of two benzene rings fused together. It is a white crystalline substance that smells of mothballs; it was the main constituent of them. It melts at 78 degC, and is not at first sight an attractive fuel for any sort of engine. The page on solid-fuel IC engines shows that using napthalene in the form of a powder is not going to be easy.


The only napthalene-powered locomotive currently known was an experimental design built by Schneider-Creusot. In 1913 it began working within the Schneider-Creusot plant.

Left: The Schneider-Creusot napthalene-powered locomotive: 1913

This article states that the motive power was a fairly conventional four-cylinder internal-combustion engine. It is clear how the solid napthalene is melted, but gives no information on how it was vapourised to make an inflammable mixture.

From Popular Mechanics May 1914.

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