1916's Answer for Today's Gas Prices

Published: Oct 15, 2012

Ever heard of a straw gas car? It’s a car that runs on the gaseous vapour produced by heating straw. Back in 1917, University of Saskatchewan chemistry professor R.D MacLaurin and his engineering colleague A.R. Greig teamed up to test the possibility of using straw gas as fuel for engines.

Saskatchewan Patent

Based on Moose Jaw engineer George Harrison’s 1916 patent for "recovering gas from straw" the professors went to work. By heating baled straw in a retort, the gas, mostly methane, could be captured and used to run a motor.

MacLaurin ordered a gas bag, essentially a big sturdy balloon, from London, England. A Saskatoon dealer lent him a McLaughlin car. The beauty of the plan was that the motor did not require much modification.

The balloon was rigged to the car’s frame. A pipe led from the balloon to the carburetor. By turning a valve, the car could be run on gasoline or switched to the straw gas vapour in the balloon.

Heads turned in Saskatoon on an August day in 1918 as MacLaurin headed downtown in the straw gas-powered car. With its big balloon suspended overhead it was quite a spectacle.

Using a McLaughlin E35 car from the Museum’s collection and a representation of the original gas bag, the WDM is telling the story of the University’s experimental straw gas car at the Saskatoon Western Development Museum.

Join us on Tuesday, October 16th at 11:00 a.m. at the Curatorial Centre (2935 Lorne Avenue, south of the museum) as the Straw Gas Car makes its way to its new home at the Saskatoon Western Development Museum.


For more information:

Ruth Bitner
Collections Curator
Ph: (306) 934-1400

101-202 Fourth Avenue North, Saskatoon, SK S7K 0K1
Phone: (306) 242-1206 | Fax: (306) 242-1955 | 1-800-567-2444