as far as i know the boiler up top,coal firebox below.......heats boilers water turns out steam.....steam released via piston arrangement ala train style to the rear wheel........ropers story is a classic of antique cyclery........his design was good and faster/more reliable than the gas systems being experimented with......he died racing a bicyclist on it
Roper built 2 of these using 1894 Columbia Model 36's. One was for Col. Pope owner of Columbia and one for himself. Roper built about 10 vehicles duing his life time. He built the worlds first motorcycle in 1868-9 which is in the Smithsonium in D.C.. His first car was in around 1860 and the oldest car in the U.S. was his 1865 vehicle which is in the Henry Ford Museum. This vehicle was actually used for around 40 years!
I talked to a guy at the (now defunct) Castle Hill Concours in Ipswich, MA who drove a 1908 Vanderbilt Cup Stanley down from Maine. I watched it nearly launch up the hill on its way to the main field. He said kids in Camaros and such would sometimes rev at him, likely as a joke, and he would destroy them in a (short) drag race. Made so much torque from 0 rpm that the rim could spin inside the tires. IIRC, 750 lbs/ft. The later Doble Steam cars were something like 1000. People think of steam today as slow, but of its many issues, power wasn't one of them. Horsepower is a measurement of applied power times engine speed, so the higher an engine revs, the higher peak horsepower will be, but that tells nothing about usable power at lower engine speeds. These steam engines rarely exceeded 1000 rpm (and gas engines of the day weren't much better), so the low horsepower numbers people sneer at today don't actually reflect their usable performance. I'm not saying a 1912 Cadillac can run with even a new Ford Focus, but higher end cars (read: most of them at this time besides the Model T) would hold with modern traffic pretty well outside of an expressway (and some of them could manage that, too).
A few photos from the Collings Foundation Greatest Races a few years back:
Steam vs horse & carriage vs electric vs gas. IIRC, the Stanley Steamer won.
Stanley Steamer and, IIRC, a Stutz Bearcat racing a thoroughbred pulling a gentleman who is applying natural pre-aerodynamic downforce to the sulky(?). This horse was pretty awesome—stomping impatiently before the race and visibly happy when it realized it was winning.
This woman raced the Bleriot XI. She didn't win, but lost quite stylishly.