They shall measure to their cities round about

In the year 1896 an Act of Parliament was passed which, it is no
exaggeration to say, revolutionised tramway locomotion, and was destined
to produce consequences undreamt of by the promoters of the measure.

Under the Tramways Act of 1870, Municipal Corporations had been
exercising their powers of buying up existing tramways, working them in
the interests of the ratepayers, and of generally entering into the
business of providing a cheap and efficient means of traversing the area
within their boundaries. They used the new Light Railways Act of 1896
occasionally, but only for the promotion (by two or more combined local
authorities) of certain lines running through several districts.

Prior to 1870, tramways, like railways and canals, had to be promoted by
special Bills, and the Tramways Act of that year was intended to
facilitate their construction, and to cheapen and simplify the method of
obtaining parliamentary powers, either by Bill or by the alternative of
an application to the Board of Trade for a Provisional Order authorising
the construction of the tramway, the said Order being subsequently
confirmed by an Act of Parliament introduced by the Board.

The Act of 1870 provided that no tram line should be sanctioned without
the consent of the district local authority, and that the local
authority might buy up the undertaking at the end of twenty-one years at
its then value–practically only the worth of the rolling-stock and
plant, without any allowance for the goodwill of a going concern.

In either case (that of a private Bill in Parliament or a Board of Trade
Provisional Order), if a tramway was planned to run through two or more
districts, the consent of the local authorities having jurisdiction over
two-thirds of the length of the line was sufficient. But this condition
gave the local authorities owning just over a third of the route, power
to veto the whole scheme.

Under the same Act, land, otherwise than by mutual agreement, could not
be acquired by tramway promoters.

Up to 1896, electric tramway schemes had remained in abeyance, but
though the Light Railways Act removed many obstacles to their increase,
and made electric traction commercially possible, it did not bestow
perfect liberty of action. But the fresh legislation on the subject,
anticipated during this year’s session of Parliament, will doubtless
result in such amendment of the Act as will abolish all ground of
complaint on the part of the advocates of the industry.

At the time the 1896 measure became law, hardly any Tramway Company in
Great Britain, whether horse-drawn or steam-propelled, paid its way,
except in a few large centres. The companies knew that the time was
drawing near when they could be bought out by corporations; so they had
no inducement to make expensive reforms; and only by charging high
fares, and by avoiding every possible form of capital-expenditure,
could they keep their heads above water. Their undertakings, one and
all, sank into a state of inefficiency, and a strong public feeling
arose in favour of their being reformed, and worked with improved cars
and at popular tariffs by local authorities. So, one by one, these
bodies absorbed the private companies, placed new rolling-stock on the
lines, and adopted electrical traction, to the advantage of the public,
and in one notable instance–that of Glasgow–it is claimed, at great
pecuniary benefit to the ratepayers also.


Throughout the British Isles these municipal tramway undertakings now
flourish and increase in number. Take a map, and we shall see that the
coast line from the North Foreland to Plymouth is dotted with towns
provided with electric trams, while inland, Camborne, a Cornish
tin-mining centre, marks their western English limit. Then round Land’s
End along the Bristol Channel it is the same. South and North Wales show
a blank until Llandudno is reached. Then up-to-date towns provided with
electric traction thicken on the Lancashire coast as far as Fleetwood.
In the Isle of Man there are no fewer than four electric tramways.
Except at Glasgow and district, the west of Scotland is bare of any kind
of tram, and continues so round the North Cape and the East Coast until
we come to Aberdeen, Dundee, and Kirkcaldy. Next are clusters reaching
from North Shields to Middlesbrough. After this, electric trams are to
be found at Hull, Great Grimsby, and Yarmouth.

Inland are three great centres–Liverpool, Manchester, and
Birmingham–around which “electrified” towns gather thickly. Isolated
Guernsey and the Isle of Wight each possess an electric tram, the
latter being on Ryde pier.

In Ireland there is a wide stretch of country, empty and desolate from
an electric tramway point of view, _i.e._ from the Giant’s Causeway to
Cork, except at Newry, Dundalk, Lurgan, and Dublin. By far the greater
number of these British and Irish tramways are on the overhead trolley

The 1896 Act provided for the establishment of a Light Railways
Commission of three members, whose special work was to facilitate the
construction and working of tramways or light railways in Great Britain
and Ireland, the Commissioners being appointed by the Board of Trade.

Application for a Light Railway Order may be made for a county, borough,
or district council by any individual, corporation, or company, or
jointly by councils, individuals, corporations, or companies.
Applications have to be referred to the Commissioners in the first
instance, and, if approved of, are placed before the Board of Trade for
confirmation. Provision is made by the Act for the purchase of land
under certain conditions specified in the Lands Clauses Act. Provision
is also made for enabling local authorities to acquire any undertaking
whose route passes through their district, the time and terms of
purchase being arranged by agreement between the promoters and the
municipalities, the terms of sale, usually thirty-five years’ purchase,
being settled on the basis of a fair market value of the line in full
work, but with no allowance for compulsory acquisition.

Local authorities, landowners, and adjacent railway companies have the
right to object to proposed lines. The local authorities, however,
possess no power of veto, but generally the Commissioners refuse
applications from promoters if their schemes are strongly protested
against by the municipalities concerned.

To what extent this Act has been taken advantage of may be judged by the
fact that last year no fewer than forty-seven municipalities were stated
to have disbursed, or to have decided to disburse, eleven millions
sterling in their electric tramways. In several instances the
municipality owns the tramways and leases them on certain conditions to
large companies or syndicates, a kind of compromise between absolute
urban control and unrestricted private enterprise.

How it works in the provinces can be understood by taking as examples
four of the largest cities in Great Britain, viz., Glasgow, Liverpool,
Manchester, and Birmingham.


Glasgow, with a population of some seven hundred thousand, possesses the
most successful and lucrative system of municipal tramways in the world,
the working for the year ending May, 1902, on a capital expenditure of
nearly two millions, showing a gross revenue of £614,413, with a gross
balance of £200,371; and so large was the reserve fund in consequence,
that it was applied to the writing off of all expenditure on the old
horse-traction plant and equipment, so that the capital account included
only the expenditure relating to the new (electrical) system of
locomotion. In the language of the bookmakers, the city of Glasgow’s
tramways stood, financially, on velvet. In 1894 the Corporation began
the service of tramways (heretofore leased by it to a private company)
with everything new–buildings, horses, and cars–their policy being a
very frequent service at low fares. Not satisfied with horses, they
soon began to search about for some better method of traction, and in
1899 resolved to substitute electricity on the overhead trolley system,
and accordingly the change was effected; new lines were from time to
time constructed, until at the present moment Glasgow possesses,
including leased lines, 140 miles of single track and nearly six hundred
double and single-deck cars.

Unlike the somewhat haphazard fashion of London, the Glasgow tramway
lines have been planned in a skilful manner and on a definite system, to
give means of transit from the north and south and east and west of the
city. It is divided into five separate and independent areas, each
supplied with current from its own sub-station, but these areas can be
interconnected if necessary.

On a convenient side of the Clyde, with ample facilities for obtaining
coal and water, is the main generating station, built with a steel
framing clothed with Glasgow plastic clay, two great chimney-shafts, 263
feet high, towering above it. In this fine building is contained a
mighty specimen of what is called the three-phase distribution of
electrical energy, the system being to create the power at one centre
and distribute it over a wide area; that is, electricity is produced in
the form of three-phase alternating current at a pressure of 6,500
volts, and sent on to five outlying sub-stations, where it is
transformed to a potential of 310 volts, and then converted from
alternating into continuous current at 500 volts, for working the cars.
The total capacity of the main station is:–

Three-phase plant, 10,000 kilowatts.
Direct-current plant, 1,200 kilowatts.

The engines used to produce this are of 16,000 h.p. capacity, while each
of the generators is of the great weight of ninety tons, almost the
largest in existence for traction work.

Altogether, the tramway enterprise of Glasgow is in its magnitude and
its good management almost unique. The size of its power-house will be
surpassed by that which supplies the Electrified Metropolitan District
Railway; but the wise and economical arrangement of its traffic can
hardly be beaten, and is a model to other large cities and towns
contemplating the adoption of electric tramway traction.


On a large scale are the Liverpool Corporation Tramways, the total
mileage being 127 of single track, the rolling-stock 451 cars, and the
capital a little over a million.

When the Corporation acquired the Liverpool United Tramways and Omnibus
Company’s undertaking, in 1897, they at once decided to use electricity
on the overhead trolley system, instead of horses. Singularly graceful
centre and bracket poles with arched arms and scroll-work were adopted
in the wide thoroughfares, and in the narrow streets the overhead
conductor-wire was upheld by rosettes attached to buildings on each

The new cars are remarkably fine and comfortable, and include the
Continental single-deck, with a side entrance, and the double-deck,
about 27 feet long, with doors at the ends, and with three large,
well-curtained plate-glass windows on each side. A special kind of
staircase is fitted to these double-deckers to enable people, the aged
and infirm in particular, to descend in safety even when the cars are in
motion. They are also fitted with useful revolving route-indicators,
which, being illuminated, light up the upper deck as well. No one can
grumble at the fares charged, which are at the rate of one penny per
stage of two miles. That these tramways are a great boon is shown by the
enormous number of passengers–nearly 100,000,000–carried last year.

At Pumpfields, near the Exchange and Waterloo Goods Stations, and at
Lister, near Newsham Park, are the power stations, each housing plant of
15,000 horse-power (up to 7,500 kilowatt capacity). The energy is
distributed to sub-stations, and thence to the cars at the safe orthodox
pressure of 500 volts.

The Liverpool tramway routes necessitate many twistings and turnings.
The junction of lines at the intersection of the London Road and Lime
Street is a sight worth seeing, there being at that place special
trackwork with sixteen points.


Manchester–fifth largest city in the empire–has a wide district to
serve, as the Corporation works certain tramways in such districts as
Stockport, Heaton-Norris, etc. Thus its track consists of 150 miles of
single line, and its rolling-stock of 600 cars, worked on the overhead
trolley system.

These cars are of three sizes, and carry respectively 67, 43, and 20
passengers, the smallest cars being single-deck. The larger ones have
six nicely-draped plate-glass windows on each side, and the upholstery,
fittings, and lighting are excellent.

The estimated capital expenditure is the same as at Glasgow, two
millions sterling. A speciality of the Manchester Tramways undertaking
is its splendid car depôt, the site covering three acres, two and a
half of which is roofed over. The façade to Boyle Street is 700 feet
long, and reminds one of some large and picturesque public school, a
tramway-car depôt being the last thing one would take it to be. It is
claimed to be the largest car-shed area in Europe, and the covered-in
portion is the most extensive in the world. In this and three other
similar sheds and a few smaller ones elsewhere all the cars are stabled.
Formerly they were concentrated in one place.


_By permission of the_ _Manchester Corporation Tramways._]

The cars are of the British Thomson-Houston Company type,
double-motored, and are fine examples of elegance and solidity combined,
and fitted with all the latest improvements for the comfort of


Birmingham, as regards tramways, stands in a peculiar position. Its city
area is restricted; it has only short lengths of tram lines, and these
require to be linked up with outlying districts. The lines were leased
to the City of Birmingham Tramways Company, but whether the Corporation
will or will not take them over now, has not yet been decided. However,
by a majority of fourteen votes it has sanctioned the substitution of
electricity on the overhead method, and this is being proceeded with;
and when the transformation is complete Birmingham and district will
have an electric tramway system of nearly a hundred and ten miles. Its
tramways have always been popular, and at a charge of a penny for a
three-mile ride–a record for cheapness–56,000 passengers made use of
them on Mafeking Day, no small proportion of a city of 522,182

Before quitting the subject of tramways, it will be interesting to note
the fares charged in different parts of the world. In London they begin
at a halfpenny. On the Continent they vary; for example, in Berlin the
fare is 1¼_d._ for two miles, and a halfpenny for each additional mile;
in Paris it is 3_d_. inside, with transfer ticket, and 1½_d._ on the
platforms, or outside the car; in St. Petersburg 1¼_d._ and 1½_d._ is
the fare; in Stockholm it is the curious sum of 1⅜_d._; in Florence it
is 1_d._ from the suburbs to the city, and 1½_d._ across the city; in
Cape Town it is 3_d._ for three miles; and in Canada the fare averages
2½_d._, and 5_d._ after midnight.


The memorable question once put to the House of Commons, “What is a
pound?” to this day has not met with a strictly accurate reply. The same
may be said of the frequent inquiry, “What constitutes a Light Railway?”

Under the Act of 1896 a Tube should officially be described as a Light
Railway. So should a Shallow Underground, an Urban Tramway, and a Rural
Tramway. So, too, should a Brighton Beach Line, or any short train
running along a pier. So also should any railway line for the carrying
of minerals, worked by heavy sixty-ton locomotives, and hauling five or
six hundred tons of ore at a time! _Reductio ad absurdum._

The originators of the Act did not define what a Light Railway really
is, but they evidently had in their minds, _inter alia_, that railways,
unrestricted by Board of Trade regulations as to fencing, sidings,
gradients, and permanent stations, should be permitted to run along the
high roads, acting as feeders to the existing lines, to the benefit of
the small towns, villages, and farms near which they passed. Thus a
pleasing vision unfolded itself of revived agricultural prosperity, of
handy little trams peacefully steaming along the highways, stopping,
when hailed, at some convenient corner, where the farmers’ waggons would
be in waiting with produce to be taken away to market in exchange for
goods delivered to them.

It was a promising idea, for the cost of construction per mile would
necessarily bear no comparison with that of ordinary heavy railways. But
in this form Light Railways were not developed. Agriculturists abandoned
the hope of any immediate relief, and it came to be recognised that the
Act meant a development, not of goods, but of passenger traffic, and
that, so far as extra-urban districts were concerned, Light Railways
meant Tramways, just as they did in town or city.

It may be asked, “Do not local railways answer all requirements of the
ever-increasing population and already congested districts? Whereabouts
are these country tramways that we hear so much about? and in what
respects are they so useful and necessary?”

For goods the network of local railways covering the country is no
doubt fairly sufficient, and eventually, when well-organised services of
electric-motor waggons aid in feeding them with merchandise collected
and delivered at the very doors of consignor and consignee, they will
fully answer their purpose; but for linking together city, town,
village, and hamlet in the interests of working-men–in many districts
the chief customers–they are almost useless. For this class, wishing to
get about quickly–going to and from their daily toil, paying visits to
their sporting pals, attending dog shows, football matches, etc., taking
their wives and children shopping, and on holidays going some distance
afield–a local railway, even if close by, is of little use, with its
rigid time-table, its fixed stopping-places, its high fares, and its
general formality. What they wanted, and what, until the introduction of
electric traction, they waited patiently for, was a service of
comfortable cars, that would pass their houses every few minutes, and
would take them long stages for, at the utmost, a twopenny fare.

To meet this want, in various parts of rural England, more especially in
Staffordshire, horse and steam tramways were tried, but the latter
method, from mechanical reasons, proved to be a failure. The rails
weighed but 45 lbs. to the yard; they were set in iron chairs and laid
on wooden sleepers, and the engines were of the locomotive vertical
boiler type. Soon it was found that the weight of the water damaged the
locomotive, and the incessant vibration and pounding shook the track so
much as to necessitate constant renewal, and the expenditure became so
great that many private Steam Tram Companies either wound up, were
reconstructed, or were taken over by the local authorities.

Unattractive was the appearance of these old-style tramcars–great
cumbersome, top-heavy, two-storied structures, drawn by what looked like
a big iron box with a black funnel poking through its lid. They were
dirty, they smelt, the service was irregular and slow, and the fares
were too high.


Studying an up-to-date map of Great Britain, one is struck by the fact
that in the distribution of cities, towns, and villages it resembles the
stellar system, with London as the governing central body, while lesser
planets, each surrounded by groups of satellites (not very bright ones,
it is true), varying in size and importance, represent subordinate star
centres. These have grown, and still grow bigger and bigger, the suburbs
of a large town reaching out farther and farther until they touch the
outskirts of the next town, so that in some districts an overgrowth of
houses and factories covers many a square mile.

In the quiet old days that are gone, a working-man, particularly if a
weaver, could labour far away in the country in some miniature workshop
or in his own little room at home. But for years past he has been
compelled to trudge backwards and forwards to some big factory or mill,
where steam-power was concentrated, and run upon so economical a
principle, that outside of it the individual workman had no chance of
gaining even the barest livelihood. With the advent of steam the
villages in certain parts of England were abandoned for the town, where
clusters of great workshops had sprung up. A new order of things arose,
and operatives, if they could, lived within the town boundaries. But as
rates, taxes, and rent increased, they concentrated in outlying hamlets,
within walking


_By permission of the_ _Manual of Electrical Undertakings, Ltd.,

distance of their work. Thus these hamlets gradually became townlets,
and eventually towns, which in their turn developed into centres of
industries–lesser lights revolving round the greater.

All over the kingdom manufacturing industries have a natural tendency to
settle down in particular localities favoured by the proximity of the
raw material, and by railway or water facilities. Thus Dundee, Aberdeen,
and the North of Ireland are associated with linen and strong textiles;
the Eastern counties and Lincolnshire with agriculture; Warwickshire and
Yorkshire with machinery; Burton-on-Trent with beer; Coventry and
Nottingham with cycles; and so on. Any intelligent schoolboy could reel
off a list of such towns and their products.

Swansea, with its great works for smelting copper and tin ore–the
former brought from South Australia, Chili, and Cornwall; the latter
from the Straits Settlements and Cornwall–and its manufactories of tin
plates, bolts, and zinc goods, is the centre for neighbouring towns
associated with its industries, such as Porth, Pontypridd, and Penarth,
which, together with the Mumbles, are partially linked together by

Glasgow, where shipbuilding, armour-plate rolling, and locomotive
constructing flourish, has around it the towns of Gourock, Greenock,
Rothesay, Coatbridge, and Bridge of Allan, all more or less commercially
interested in the great northern city.

Newcastle-on-Tyne and Sunderland, headquarters of England’s
shipbuilding, are surrounded by places connected with or engaged in
kindred industries, as Tynemouth, Stockton, the Hartlepools, Gateshead,
Jarrow, and North and South Shields–the last four practically suburbs
of Newcastle–a fine field for electric tramways.

Then in Yorkshire we have such centres of the linen and woollen
interests as Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, Halifax, etc., begirt with
townlets which are in process of being interconnected; and further
south, in South Lancashire, Burnley, Oldham, Ashton, Blackburn, Preston,
Rochdale, Bolton, Manchester, and Liverpool, together with endless
smaller places–every one of them engaged in our gigantic cotton
trade–cover large thickly populated areas, supplied with tramway means
of intercommunication.


A remarkable instance of the localisation of special industries, and of
a city begirt with good-sized towns, is to be found in the South
Staffordshire Black Country, its central sun being the city of
Birmingham. While in the Potteries are a number of small towns almost
touching one another–star clusters, destined maybe eventually to
coalesce into a single planet of the first magnitude. Here humanity

Alighting from a train at any wayside station in the South or West of
England, if one walks along the main road, and avoids the villages, one
may go for miles without meeting a soul. The Londoner, whose nerves have
been unstrung and jarred by incessant contact and friction with his
fellow-citizens for months at a stretch, has only to journey a few
miles, say to Chertsey, Ewell, Epsom, or anywhere in Herts or Surrey,
and in a few moments he finds a peaceful solitude not likely to be
disturbed save by passing cycles or motor-cars. But in the Midlands, and
for that matter anywhere in the North, it is different. There the bulk
of Britain’s population is concentrated. One cannot go for a stroll
without coming across individuals of all ages, who, although accustomed
to see many people, stare at every stranger after a fashion unknown in
the home counties, as if he or she were a wanderer from another planet.
And should it be a child whose curiosity is thus aroused, he will
probably follow the stranger for miles, gaping at nothing!

In the past, the manners and customs of the Black Country folk were
decidedly rough, based on the principle of a blow first and an
explanation afterwards. But this little trait has, under the modern
influence of inter-communication with the outer world, been
considerably modified. They work hard and “play” hard, and are given to
week-end excursions and an annual “outing” to Blackpool, Southport,
Lytham, or other favourite seaside resort. They earn good wages and, if
steady, quickly save money and live in comfortable houses of their own;
but if otherwise, their “good pay” only accelerates the wretchedness of
their surroundings. Lavish with their cash, they are hospitable in the
extreme; great consumers of plain beef and mutton, sweets and kickshaws
they relegate to the women and children; but they no longer–as was
affirmed of puddlers and miners during the boom of many years ago–drink
champagne and feed their bull-pups on loin-chops and rump-steak. They
are keen on dogs, pigeons, and singing-birds. Dog-fights are a thing of
the past, of course, but it is whispered that suspiciously high-bred
gamecocks are still to be seen sub-rosa throughout the district!

Altogether they are not half as black as they are painted; neither is
the aspect of their country, though except in the neighbourhood of
Birmingham it can hardly be called picturesque. They represent the
sturdy old Midland English, independent and brusque, whose confidence
once gained will not be betrayed.

Here, then, in the country called “Black,” is a concentration of
industrial centres, each possessing great natural wealth of coal and
iron, and turning out in enormous quantities cutlery, anvils, bolts,
buttons, ironwork of all kinds, guns, hinges, locomotives, nails, pens,
pins, rails, rifles, screws, tin and zinc-lined goods, tools, tubes,

In its eighty-square-mile area, between Wolverhampton and the
headquarters of “Chamberlainism” on the one side, and Stourbridge and
Walsall on the other, dwell over a million people, distributed among
some twenty-one towns ranging in size and population from Quarry Bank
(8,000 inhabitants) to Wolverhampton (94,000), and including such
familiar places as Handsworth (38,000), Stourbridge (17,000), Tipton
(33,000), Wednesbury (29,000), and West Bromwich (68,000), all busily
engaged in the industries before mentioned.

Such in a few words is the Black Country district, which the adjoining
Potteries closely resembles. A more promising field for tramway
enterprise could hardly exist. No wonder that George Francis Train in
1860 selected North Staffordshire for one of his earliest, though
unsuccessful, ventures–a two-mile tramway from Hartley to Burslem, in
the very heart of the Potteries.


Subsequently tramway companies came on the scene, with horses and steam
traction, and–in one instance–with electricity. There were five
distinct enterprises: the South Staffordshire Tramways Company, the
Birmingham and Midland Tramways Company, the Dudley and Wolverhampton
Tramways Company, the Wolverhampton Tramways Company, and the Dudley,
Stourbridge, and District Electric Traction Company (a short line of
about four miles).

Not only were these lines entirely separated and disconnected, involving
tedious changing of cars, but two of the five were actually of different
gauge from the rest, making through communication impossible. It was no
system, merely a conglomeration of _disjecta membra_. The tramway
condition of the district became thoroughly unsatisfactory, utterly
inadequate to the needs of the travelling public. Matters gradually went
from bad to worse, and a financial Lord Kitchener was urgently needed to
remodel everything.

He appeared in the form of a powerful organisation, the British Electric
Traction Company, with a share capital of £4,000,000, which entered into
negotiations with the various companies and with the local authorities
controlling no fewer than twenty-two districts, into which the Black
Country area is divided. The proposition was to combine all the Black
Country tramways into one great system to be worked by electricity in
the most up-to-date manner, to give frequent service, to ensure rapid
and comfortable communication between all parts, to straighten things
out well, and to adopt this motto, “One management, one method, one
gauge,” provided the local authorities would for some years suspend
their rights under the Acts of 1870 and 1896 to buy the tramways for
practically the worth of old iron.

Some of the local authorities thought well of it. Others did not,
contending that they, and not the Company, ought to undertake the
reform; while the rest saddled their adherence to the scheme with such
impossible conditions, that the negotiations dragged wearily on, and it
was some time before the great scheme was finally carried through at the
cost of much trouble with the local authorities in the matter of routes
selected for the requisite extensions. In one instance the line,


_By permission of the_ _Manual of Electrical Undertakings, Ltd.,

of being carried in the natural way direct to the urban boundaries of a
large town, was compelled by the authorities of the area involved to
turn off at an angle and to gain access to the town in an utterly
roundabout fashion, much as if in London, one was obliged in approaching
St. Paul’s by Ludgate Hill to deflect up the Old Bailey, and to reach
the cathedral by way of Newgate Street.

One thing only is still wanted to make this Light Railway scheme
(typical of other similar ones) perfect, and this is that its cars
should have running powers right into Birmingham and other large towns,
and it is to be hoped that before this book is published they will be
granted. Travellers do not want to change cars when they arrive at the
municipal boundary. They want to move from one centre of population to
the other, to get in at the Birmingham starting-point, and to get out in
the centre of Walsall, West Bromwich, or Wolverhampton, as the case may
be, or even to go without changing as far as Kinver, on the edge of the
Black Country, a favourite holiday resort hitherto inaccessible to the
manufacturing population.

In the North Staffordshire Potteries the British Electric Traction
Company has pursued the same policy as in the Black Country with
excellent result, as may be judged by the number of passengers in 1901.
In the Potteries and the Black Country many millions made use of the
tramways, the system throughout being that of the overhead trolley, and
the combined length of track about 75 miles.


The whole question of local authority in its relation to rural tramways
needs settling on a sound common-sense


_By Permission of_ _Dick Kerr & Co., London._]

basis, making the requirements of travellers the dominating object to
the exclusion of petty differences and local aspirations and

If Great Britain is to be networked with these handy means of transport,
and the interspaces of town and village bridged over with cobweb lines
of trams, an Act of Parliament should settle a universal gauge, and on
equitable terms provide for free running powers, whether in town or
country, and encourage an interchange of traffic.

It is constantly urged that it is better for cities and great towns to
create tramway lines of their own, and work them within their own
boundaries, and that the task of dealing with the rural interspaces
should be left to the small towns and areas, and not to private
enterprise. The opponents of this principle argue that one great
objection to municipal trams is that they are compelled to work within
artificial local boundaries, and that there are grave drawbacks to
municipal trading in any form. As to the interspaces, to work them by
themselves would never pay, and any interspaced tramway system would be
almost useless without intimate connection with urban centres as
feeders, which is only obtainable by the uniform control afforded under
joint stock enterprise. Besides–say the objectors to municipal or rural
council control–if private working is the most economical way of
running tramways in interspaces, it should be still more economical in

Surely, therefore, there would be no hardship in restricting the
development of urban and rural tramways to local authorities wielding
power over areas of a certain size and importance, and the loss to small
communities of the power of objection or veto to large schemes ought not
to be felt by them. They and the landowners should take warning from the
history of railways, and encourage in every way the introduction and
extension of tramways, which in remote districts would vastly relieve
the tedium of existence, enabling labourers and others to temporarily
exchange some dull little village for the comparatively lively market
town at a nominal cost. Whereas, in many instances, instead of welcoming
this herald of a brighter and less monotonous life, too often is
repeated the scene immortalised in _Punch_ some years ago. A brickfield:
“Bill, who’s that chap?” “Do’ant know. A stranger, I should think.”
“Then heave ’arf a brick at his ’ed.”

Capitalists should be encouraged to embark in tramway enterprises that
are bound to be beneficial to everybody, and in which they would be
entitled to a fair return of interest; for truly the labourer is worthy
of his reward.

“Through the faithless excavated soil
See the unweary’d Briton delves his way.”


Hitherto we have been considering Metropolitan Electric Railways
constructed at considerable depths below the surface, or lifted up on
high, as at the Liverpool Docks.

There is another system, however, and one that is strongly advocated by
the London County Council, at present chiefly as a means of linking
together existing tram lines by taking the cars underground through
congested areas and bringing them to the surface again where the traffic
is less dense.

In its ever-increasing congested condition, London reminds us of a
patient afflicted with dropsy of long standing, susceptible to
occasional alleviation, but hopelessly incurable. In Tudor, Stuart, and
Hanoverian days the town gave no signs of this malady; but with Queen
Victoria’s reign the germs of it became evident, and now the giant city
lies prostrate in a state of helplessness that has baffled the most
skilful engineering physicians, whose remedies, trains and trams and
tubes, have been successful only in giving temporary relief to the
sufferer, who forthwith resumes and even increases his original bulk.

For ages the ocean, without breaking its bounds, has absorbed the rivers
and streams running into it; but imagine the process reversed, and the
English and Irish Channels and the North Sea unrestrictedly pouring
their torrents into the Thames, the Forth, or the Liffey! Only one
result could ensue. The channels thus gorged with water, their currents
would cease to flow. A similar fate threatens London, into whose narrow
and inelastic fairways an Atlantic of traffic is ever pouring. One day
the current will be unable to flow, and there will be a permanent
condition of “block.” Then, and only then, perhaps, will a partial
migration of town to country bring about a more natural state of things,
and save this colossal city from utter collapse.

These shallow tramways of the London County Council are a novelty in
England, but on a large scale have been successfully adopted in Paris,
Buda-Pesth, Boston, and New York. At present the shallow subway which
the Council has been authorised to construct at a total cost of
£279,000, commences at Theobald’s Road, Holborn, where it forms a
junction with an existing surface tramway, the property of the Council.
Thence the line falls in level, until, in Southampton Row, it runs
beneath the street, whence, in a trench of inconsiderable depth, it
passes along the new thoroughfare, Kingsway, from Southampton Row to the
new Strand crescent, Aldwych. There it turns towards the Embankment, on
gaining which near Waterloo Bridge it again comes out to the surface. In
its total length of about five-eighths of a mile it has four stations.
Its motive power is electricity on the underground conduit third rail
system. The cars, running singly, and at frequent intervals, are
single-decked. It claims for its principle that the station platforms
are readily accessible, so that instead of having to descend a great
number of steps, or to enter a lift to reach the cars, passengers arrive
there by means of a short well-lighted stairway; that the ventilation of
the tunnels is perfect, and the speed of the cars equal to that of the
trains, and as they run singly and close together, long waits are
avoided, and thus they are specially suited for short-distance
travelling. It also claims a general immunity from vibration.

To thoroughly understand how a complete system of shallow underground
works we must go abroad to Paris, Buda-Pesth, Boston, and New York. I
may remark that in describing this system a certain amount of repetition
is inevitable.


Paris has its “Twopenny Tube,” or rather its equivalent. On July 30th,
1900, Londoners for the first time travelled by a deep-level line from
the City to Shepherds Bush, a distance of 5·77 miles; and a few days
earlier, on the 19th of the same month, the Electrical Chemin de Fer
Métropolitain de Paris–the main channel of an elaborate system that
links together every district of the capital–was opened for traffic.
This chief artery connects at the fortifications, the Porte Maillot with
the Porte de Vincennes, a distance of 6·6 miles. In other words, it
crosses Paris diagonally from north-west to south-east; from a point at
the north of the Bois de Boulogne to another at the north of the Bois de
Vincennes; the eighteen stations (including terminals) on the main line
being Porte Maillot, Rue D’Obligado, Place de L’Etoile (Arc de
Triomphe), Avenue de L’Alma, Rue Marbœuf, Champs Elyseés, Place de la
Concorde, Tuileries, Palais Royal, Louvre, Châtelet, Hotel de Ville,
St. Paul, Place de la Bastille, Gare de Lyons, Rue de Reuilly, Place de
la Nation, and Porte de Vincennes.

On the Métropolitain there is a three-minutes’ service of trains during
the day, and a six-minutes’ service at night. On the London Tube the
intervals vary from two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half minutes in the
day, while at night they are the same as in Paris, both railways being
open for some twenty hours out of the twenty-four.

In Paris two classes of passengers are provided for: first and second.
The former are called upon to pay 2½_d._, the latter 1½_d._, for any
length of journey. Up to nine a.m., second-class, or workmen’s tickets,
are issued for 2_d._, the return half being available for the remainder
of the day.

Thus, as regards date of opening, length of line, service of trains, and
average fares, there is a close similarity between the English and
French lines; but the system is widely different. In London we burrow
deep; in Paris they go just beneath the surface, the authorities after
much hesitation having adopted the shallow underground system. Our Tube
trains are shot through huge iron pipes penetrating the subsoil at
depths varying from sixty to a hundred feet, and to get at the rail
level, passengers must take a perpendicular journey in a big lift. But
their Parisian counterparts trip down a few steps and along a
brightly-lighted, white-tiled tunnel, so beautifully ventilated and
smokeless–electricity being the motive power–that an enthusiastic
expert declares its atmosphere to be “perfectly clean and sweet.” The
tunnels are as near the surface as possible, and on the greater part of
the line the keystones of the masonry arches are only about 3 feet 6
inches below the street level. The excavations were at first attempted
by means of shields, as in “tubular” work; but this had to be abandoned
in favour of the time-honoured “cut and cover” plan employed in the
construction of our early underground railway.

When the great Parisian scheme is completed upon a twentieth-century
model, much more finished and convenient in many ways than any of ours
in London, it will comprise a total length of 38·86 miles of track,
seven-tenths being laid in shallow covered trenches, the remainder in
open cuttings or on viaducts, the entire cost being estimated at twelve
million sterling. An interesting feature of the scheme is that each
section is self-contained and ends in loops, so that shunting is
obviated. No trains run from any one distant strip of line into another,
but where there are crossings, or where the termini touch, there are
stations to facilitate changing. This arrangement ensures a rapid
service, maintained with regularity and punctuality on each section.
Like our “Tube,” the success of the Parisian Métropolitain was from the
first immense, and at the end of ten months showed a return of over
forty million passengers.


Along the Boulevard Andrassy at Buda-Pesth there is a shallow electric
tramway built upon similar principles, a few feet under the main
thoroughfare, which is by no means a failure, financially or otherwise.


Now let us cross the Atlantic, and note what has been effected at Boston
and New York.

The former–the picturesque old-world capital of the State of
Massachusetts, with its population of over a million–is familiarised
to every schoolboy who knows anything of history and the War of
Independence, with the city where the tea was thrown into the harbour by
Colonials disguised as Mohawks, an incident that indirectly brought
about the creation of the United States. It is a city also sacred to
literati as being the home of Nathaniel Hawthorne, and is so
old-fashioned–or so excessively up-to-date, whichever you please–that,
until recently, neither cabs, omnibuses, tubes, or underground railways
were to be found within its boundaries. What with the uneven surface and
the labyrinth of the streets, Boston is picturesque in spite of itself,
and its old buildings emphasize this. There are the two New England
meeting-houses. The “Old South” has been proudly preserved in its
ancient state, although the ground on which it stands is almost as
valuable as that in the City of London. Architecturally, it is a brick
barn, with a pretentiously ugly steeple. “Old North” has an equally
plain body, but from its steeple, as a tablet affixed to it sets forth,
“the signal lantern of Paul Revere warned the country of the march of
the British troops to Lexington and Concord.” King’s Chapel, another
ecclesiastical antiquity of Boston, was, for a quarter of a century
after 1749, the place of worship of the official British colony, and
accordingly became an eyesore to the earnest puritanical Bostonians.

But Boston cannot, like Charlestown, South Carolina, boast of a St.
Michael’s Church, famous for its beautiful steeple, so greatly
resembling that of St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields as to suggest that
probably they were both designed by the same architect, Gibbs, one of
Wren’s pupils.

In the Act passed by the State Legislature authorising the construction
of the Boston subway, it was stipulated that its length should be some
five miles, and its total cost not more than one and a half million
pounds sterling.

The construction of the subway was begun at the Public Gardens, where an
incline, a hundred yards long, carries the surface lines into the
tunnel, passing under the edge of Boston Common to Tremont Street. It is
joined by a branch subway from Pleasant Street, where another incline
leads to the surface. From this junction the subway proceeds beneath the
Tremont Street side of the Common to Park Street, which is the central
point of the system. Thence it is carried directly beneath Tremont
Street to Scollay Square, and by means of a bifurcation under Hanover
Street on the one hand and Cornhill on the other to a junction under
Washington Street. The tunnel continues under Washington Street to
Haymarket Square, and immediately rises by an incline to Causeway
Street, where it connects with both the surface and the elevated lines.
Wherever possible, the subway was carried out by open excavations, and,
as in the Paris Métropolitain, by the old-fashioned “cut and cover”
method. The roof of the tunnel is generally about three feet below the
surface, though in some places considerably lower. At and near the
stations the subway sides are lined with white glazed bricks, whitewash
being used elsewhere.

There are five stations in the Boston shallow underground, viz. at
Boylston Street, Park Street, Adams Square, Scollay Square, and
Haymarket Square. These are approached by short stairways, protected
from the weather by neat clock-surmounted kiosks, or small iron
structures, in shape resembling our cab shelters, and placed at
convenient points, either on the sidewalks or–where there is sufficient
width–in the centre of the


_By permission of the_ _London County Council_]

roadway. Passengers can thus, by about twenty-five steps, go to and from
the platforms in a few seconds. The ticket-offices are at the bottom of
the stairways. The passenger returns at Park Street (the busiest
station) are among the largest in the world, being 28,000,000 per annum.

The Boston surface street cars adopt the overhead trolley principle of
electric traction, and the elevated railway-cars the third rail system,
both these systems being continued throughout the subway.

The subway is illuminated electrically, but a considerable amount of
natural light is also obtained, especially at the stations; and Captain
Piper, deputy of the New York Police, when on a visit to London last
February, discussing the question of ventilation in tube railways, gave
it as his opinion that the freshest air he had “struck” in an
underground railway was at Boston. “The air,” he said, “is excellent.”

The subway is, of course, perfectly clean, smokeless, and comparatively
quiet; neither in the streets can any noise be heard from the cars that
are continually passing close beneath. By an extension of the subway
under Boston harbour, the surface lines in the district of East Boston
are connected with the main system, thus making the entire length eight
miles of single track.


In New York, after much careful consideration of the advantages and
disadvantages of deep tunnels (tubes) and shallow railways, the Rapid
Transit Commissioners decided upon the latter as being likely to give
the best facilities for quick travelling. On account of its peculiar
peninsular shape, admitting of extension in one direction


_By permission of the_ _London County Council_]

only, the problem of transportation in the Empire City is comparatively
easy, the routes being straight, and no necessity existing for
intercommunication as in London. But, on the other hand, the number of
persons to be carried morning and evening is greater.

Instead of the arched roof and masonry side-walks of the ordinary
underground, there is a rectangular structure with a framework of steel
beams riveted together, concrete enclosing the erection completely at
the top and sides, and forming the bottom, rows of steel columns helping
to support the roof between the tracks–in other words, a kind of
Britannia Bridge let into the surface of the earth. The line has four
tracks, the two centre ones being reserved for an express service (30
miles an hour), with stations 1½ miles apart. On the other tracks the
stations are closer together, about four to the mile. So that there are
two kinds of stations; one with platforms on the outside of the outer
(or slow) track (at which only local trains stop), and another with
platforms for fast trains only, and island platforms for either local or
express trains. At the former stations the subway is sufficiently deep
to allow of a bridge over the entire four tracks, with staircases
leading to the various platforms. By means of loops, and, in places, by
the lowering of the express track beneath the local tracks, crossings
and switchings at the termini are, as in the Paris Métropolitain,
eliminated, and the cars run continuously without any shunting whatever.

Its general scheme is as follows. Starting with a loop round the General
Post Office, a four-track route is taken direct to the Grand Central
Station in 42nd Street. It then turns west along 42nd Street to
Broadway, and proceeds under Broadway to 104th Street, a distance of
seven miles. Here the four tracks divide, a


_By permission of the_ _London County Council_]

double track continuing along Broadway to Kingsbridge, and another
double track going in an easterly direction under the Harlem river to
the Bronx district. Each of these branches is seven miles long, making a
total length, for the whole system, of twenty-one miles, seven being for
four track and fourteen for double track. The northerly ends of the
double-track line are on the surface for a combined distance of about
five miles, the remainder being shallow underground. At convenient
points inclines lead to the surface from the subway, and are linked to
street trams and elevated railroads. Electricity is exclusively used for
traction and lighting, and the cost of the entire scheme was originally
estimated at £7,000,000.

Now, what is the conclusion to be come to as to the adaptability of the
shallow underground system to our vast metropolis, whose station at
Liverpool Street is the busiest in the world, with its “turnover” of
forty-five millions of passengers per annum; St. Lazare, at Paris,
coming next with forty-three millions?

In newly-constructed thoroughfares provision for shallow subways, and
for sewers, pipes, cables, etc., can be easily made; but in
old-established streets the difficulty and expense in making them would
be formidable, as vaults and cellars used for business purposes
frequently extend right across the narrow carriageways, and a perfect
network of conduits would have to be displaced and moved either below or
alongside the subway.

Some idea of the cost of interfering with sewers may be gathered by the
fact that in constructing the New York subway an entirely new outfall
sewer, over six feet in diameter, had to be built one mile in length! On
the other hand, labour is cheaper in this country than in America, and
in London there is no rock to be removed as in New York.

In conclusion, I would quote from the report of Lieutenant-Colonel
Yorke, who was sent over to Paris two or three years ago by the Board of
Trade to inspect the Métropolitain. He thinks that as regards
convenience for passengers and economy of working, the balance of
advantage lies with the shallow tunnel or subway as compared with the
deep-level tube. But he hesitates a little when confronted with the
thought of what would happen to London while its roadways were in
process of being undermined. The difficulties in the way of adopting the
subway would, he says, be great, though he does not emphatically declare
that he considers them prohibitive; and he approves of the attempt made
to introduce the system in the manner adopted by the London County
Council beneath the new street between Holborn and the Strand.

“Cars without horses will go.”–MOTHER SHIPTON.


The above prediction, constantly quoted at the advent of railways, is
being realised with the utmost exactness. Except the late craze for
cycling, nothing is more remarkable than the boom in the motor-car.

Prior to the passing of the “Locomotives on Highways Act” in 1896,
motoring was an impossibility. Even then its advance was slow, and until
about three years ago motor-cars were decidedly unpopular. The London
street boys–miniature representatives of public opinion–derided them,
and, with their usual fiendish lack of sympathy, rejoiced when they came
to grief; while ’bus-drivers and cabmen ironically likened all
automobiles to traction engines, cherishing the delusion that they
continually broke down, cost a small fortune to maintain, and, worse
than all, dislocated every bone in their occupants’ bodies.

This contempt reached a climax when certain lemon-coloured electric cabs
were seen plying for hire, ugly to look at and limited in speed; while
simultaneously a line of steam omnibuses, so cumbersome and weighty


_By permission of_ _Henry F. Joel & Co., London_]

as to really merit comparison with traction engines, began to run to
Victoria Station.

But an extraordinary and rapid change has come over popular taste, and
nothing is needed to bring motor-cars into universal use, save a
lowering of their cost; for even the cheapest are rather beyond the
means of people with moderate incomes. This may be one reason why they
are so fashionable, though the King’s marked predilection for travelling
by them has done much to make “motoring” the correct thing; and His
Majesty has recently consented to become a patron of the Automobile

Before the advent of the motor-car, Society, though tired of “biking”
and craving for a novelty, could not tolerate the notion of being seen
in any other than a well-horsed vehicle. Society now thinks differently,
as evidenced by a stroll in the Park during the season. There, in the
midst of graceful landaus and other equipages drawn by the most splendid
horses in the world, may be seen endless electric and steam barouches,
broughams, victorias, and cars, all perfectly noiseless, and magnificent
petrol motor-cars (_not_ noiseless!), resplendent with brass and
oxidised silver fittings and upholstered in morocco, whose fair
occupants are smartly dressed in tailor-made motoring gowns or, on warm
days, in ordinary carriage toilettes.

Some of the fashionable hotels own big cars and run them in lieu of
coaches for their customers’ benefit to various places near London;
while, to the vexation of omnibus companies, motor waggonettes, duly
authorised by Scotland Yard, ply to and from Putney and Piccadilly
Circus, always “full up” with people, no longer the butt (as they used
to be), but the envy, of pedestrians. And these public cars, though not
perfect, are an advance upon omnibuses, and do not break down more
frequently than horsed conveyances.

In the country motor-cars have become indispensable, more especially to
landed proprietors, with houses always full of visitors who, with their
luggage, have to be conveyed to and from the station. They are much used
for race-meetings and for conveying shooting parties to the covert side,
stubble, or moor, in comfort, golfers to the links, and fishermen to the
riverbank; picnics would be failures without them; and delightful
excursions to all kinds of outlying places are arranged by the host,
proud of “motoring” his guests, who thus are made acquainted with bits
of beautiful scenery they would otherwise have remained ignorant of; as
in the case of the King’s and Queen’s visit to Chatsworth last January,
when a feature of the programme was a series of motor-car tours in North
and West Derbyshire. In fact, the motor is a most important factor in
English country life, and the art of managing it is gradually
superseding that of riding, driving, and four-in-hand coaching. Eheu!

Horseless vehicles are not actual novelties. They have merely been in
abeyance while the perfecting of our iron roads has proceeded. The
earliest practical specimen emanated from an inventor named Guyniot a
hundred and thirty years ago, but nothing commercially serious came of
it, and the idea slept. In 1786 William Symington produced his
steam-engine, to run upon an ordinary road. It had the condenser and the
ratchet-motion used in his steamboat, an invention of which he was the
originator. The boiler and funnel were in the front, a coach on
C-springs between them, and the steering gear, with a kind of bicycle
handle-bar, at the rear. The machine, it was said, worked well.

Then, in 1821, a steam-coach by Griffiths attracted much attention,
being the first self-propelled vehicle to ply for passengers on British
roads. It had a boiler with water-tubes as now used in the Serpollet and
Belleville systems for motor-cars. In appearance it somewhat resembled
the Symington, but carried a double coach mounted on railway springs.

Walter Hancock’s three-wheeled steam-coach of 1828 looked like a
tricycle with a big funnel, and was propelled by a pair of oscillating
cylinders working the double-cranked axle of the steering-wheel.

In 1859 the Marquis of Stafford had a steam-coach built that weighed
less than a ton. With its chain-action it anticipated the modern
bicycle: in front it had a kind of bath-chair seat facing the steering
gear. In this vehicle Lord Stafford and party of three made trips at
from nine to twelve miles an hour over heavy roads without any
difficulty, it being easy to guide and remarkably steady. In these steam
coaches the funnels appear to have been placed in the rear.

All these ideas, though from one point of view crude, undoubtedly

“…such refraction of events
As often rises ere they rise.”

The motor-car industry in Great Britain is flourishing, and it is
estimated that out of a total of some ten thousand horseless carriages
in the country one-tenth are of home manufacture (the remainder being
French or American), a small proportion, truly, but a great increase
upon the number built in 1890; and at the Reliability Trials of the
Automobile Club last September (1902), thirty-five of British make took
part in the contest, and only twenty-six of Continental or American
origin, a most satisfactory feature to those who are eager to see
British makers second to none in motor-car construction, especially, as
the aim of the competition was to encourage the building of machines
that would be thoroughly dependable in all conditions of road and


_By permission of the Fischer Motor Vehicle Syndicate, London._]

At the last Crystal Palace Automobile Show, national vanity was
certainly gratified. Not only was the exhibition the largest ever held
in the country, but was a concrete example of the remarkable progress of
an industry which, so far as these islands are concerned, started
lamentably late in the day. There were brought together at the Crystal
Palace about seven hundred and fifty motor-propelled vehicles of every
class, ranging from the powerful steam lorry, capable of transporting a
load of 7½ tons, to the latest “flier,” light and elegant of
construction, and costing anything up to some £3,000. Motor tricycles
and bicycles formed a strong section. The cosmopolitan character of the
exhibition is shown by the fact that among the two hundred or so
exhibitors were the leading English, French, Dutch, Italian, and German

By general consent the show was regarded to have made plain the fact
that in efficiency and reliability the English maker has drawn at least
level with his foreign rival, while, so far as the production of motors
for _commercial_ purposes is concerned, he still stands far ahead.

Automobiles are of all sizes up to magnificent 40-or 60-horse-power
racers. For town use there are broughams, victorias, landaus, and
landaulettes (open or closable for country work), the phaeton with four
seats, placed two by two, looking forward, and the tonneau–a kind of
small omnibus with a movable back–with the two rear seats in the

Sometimes cars are run with six seats arranged in three pairs, with
plenty of room both for the driver and the coveted box-seats. Most cars
of either pattern have a glass front screen, while some have a fixed
roof as well. The greater number are driven by the use of petrol, the
machinery being in front under what is called the “bonnet,” and the ease
with which the oil can be obtained has great advantages for a touring

Steam is also employed for motor-cars, and is practically noiseless, but
there are obvious objections to its use, however skilfully the working
parts are constructed.

In London, electromobiles are extremely popular, and no wonder, for
there is no smell, no vibration, and no noise; the speed attainable is
great, and they are under perfect control, advantages involving the use
of storage batteries, the recharging of which is a lengthy operation,
seldom taking less than five hours. But, as Mr. Llewellyn Preece
observed about twelve months


_By permission of the_ _Electric Power Storage Co., Ltd., London_]

ago, “this condition of affairs is gradually disappearing; private
electric carriages are now to be seen in London, and their number is
increasing. Cars can be obtained capable of running to Brighton,
Portsmouth, and other places within seventy or eighty miles of the
metropolis.” (_i.e._ on one charge. They may be called “short-tour

Electric town-cars are generally of the landaulette type–for
theatre-going, and for paying visits in such inaccessible suburbs as
Stoke Newington, Balham, and Hampstead. They carry from two to four
passengers, can attain a speed of fourteen miles an hour, and will run
forty miles without recharging.

A long-distance electric car, to compete with petrol, has yet to be
made, but it will shortly be possible to obtain one of moderate weight
at a reasonable price that will cover one hundred and twenty miles on a
single charge; and, as a matter of fact, tours of more than a thousand
miles (from London to Glasgow and back) have been satisfactorily


The perfect motor-omnibus, and, for that matter, the perfect ’bus of any
kind, has yet to arise, and is suggestive of Darwinism in the length of
time required for its evolution. But can London and the long-suffering
traveller wait ten million years or so–putting up meanwhile with the
inconvenience of existing vehicles–until the omnibus companies wake up,
or are superseded by more enterprising business adventurers?

Why, for instance, should all omnibuses be stuffy? There was a reason
for it when their floors were covered with straw and they were shut in
with doors. But now there are no doors, and there is nothing to harbour
damp; yet even when the passengers sitting at the entrance of the
omnibus are assailed by icy blasts, those at the far end are in an
atmosphere of mustiness strongly suggestive of stables. Then, on days
when the roads are greasy, these vehicles crawl along, often taking an
hour and a half to travel from Fulham to Liverpool Street (a distance of
about six miles). Upon such minor nuisances and annoyances as the
exiguous space (about 2 feet 6 inches) between the seats, ticket-giving
and ticket-examining, the jarring of brakes, the rattling of loose
coach-bolts, the lurching of the top-heavy structure, the windows that
will not open, the glare and dust in summer, the Cimmerian darkness in
winter and at night, the stout people who take up too much room, the wet
umbrellas and odoriferous waterproof cloaks, the exasperating and often
unnecessary stopping every few hundred yards to the distress of the poor
animals, it is needless to dilate. We experience them every day of our

But better times are in store for the horses, and better times for our
children (perhaps even for ourselves), who will see in London’s streets
electric omnibuses in which it will be a delight to travel.

Between Oxford Circus and Cricklewood (not far from Hendon) are now
running improved motor-omnibuses built in Scotland for a London
syndicate, to the requirements of the Chief Commissioner of Police. It
will be remembered that some years ago a very large Thorneycroft steam
’bus plied for custom. It carried thirty-six passengers, but, turning
the scale at three tons, it was of illegal weight as a vehicle, and
should have come under the definition of a traction engine with speed
limited to four miles an hour, and preceded by a man with a red flag. So
it was ultimately withdrawn.

But the new “Stirling” steam omnibuses are only 32 cwt. when empty. The
engine is of 12 horse-power, and is geared for three forward speeds of
4½, 9, and 14 miles per hour, with one slow reversing speed, while by a
clever contrivance the driving machinery ceases to act if 14·2 miles be
exceeded, both steering gear and brakes being under perfect control.
Handsomely fitted up, with large windows that can be taken bodily out in
hot weather, and with comfortable leather-covered spring seats, the new
’buses are a decided step in the right direction.

At the last meeting of the London General Omnibus Company the
deputy-chairman stated that there was no kind of motor traction that
would pay the company to take up. If anything was done in that direction
it would be in the use of petrol. Steam was of no use, because of the
great vibration, and he doubted if the Government would permit 15,000
such omnibuses to run over the streets. In his opinion the time to take
up motor omnibuses had not yet arrived.

But the London Road Car Company has taken a different and more
far-sighted view of the situation, and a combination of petrol and
electricity is now to be tested by it.

Cars of the Fischer combination pattern have arrived from America. Each
has a 10 horse-power petrol engine which drives a dynamo, the current
from which is used to work a motor acting directly on the wheels.

This may, perhaps, seem a needless complication, but there is much
method in it. A 10 horse-power engine is not sufficiently powerful to
drive a fully-laden ’bus up a hill at any reasonable pace, but there are
many places where a ’bus will run by its own weight, and needs no
engine. The new car is provided with accumulators. When little or no
power is required by the motor, the current is switched on to the
accumulators, so as to store up a reserve for hill-climbing. So when
necessary, the car draws on the reserve in the accumulators, and with
them and the dynamo develops not 10 but 20 horse-power, enough to take
it up and over any hill that ’buses climb.


Capacity fifteen passengers; weight, 2 tons 13 cwt.; speed, 12 miles an

_By permission of the Fischer Motor Vehicle Syndicate, Ltd., London_]

The manager of the Road Car Company is of opinion that the new vehicles
will carry from twelve to twenty passengers. Owing to the greater speed
of the motors, however, the passenger accommodation provided by, say,
half a dozen such cars would be greater than that of a similar number of
omnibuses, for the service would be more frequent. Not much increase of
speed can be hoped for in congested areas, but outside these the motor
should be able to run half as fast again as the horsed ’bus.

There exists, however, no reason why a still more improved and refined
omnibus service should not be started, electricity alone being adopted,
instead of steam, petrol, or a combination. Runs of seventy and eighty
miles without recharging are perfectly feasible by using standard
long-distance batteries, and would suffice for the daily journeys of the
omnibus, while the recharging could be effected with little or no
trouble after working-hours.

Motor-omnibuses, besides working on the regular routes, can be run on
the tramway time-table system on tramway sections where there is little
traffic; while for developing scantily-populated districts and
accustoming people to travel, automobile public conveyances are perfect
agencies, the very fact that they can choose their own route
accentuating this great advantage; and on special occasions, for
instance when exhibitions are held in places inaccessible by tramways,
they will be a source of considerable profit.

Our provincial towns (take Eastbourne and Hastings for example) are
beginning to wake up on the subject, and many of them have adopted or
contemplated the starting of some form of horseless omnibus, in several
cases the motive power being electricity. Across the Atlantic automobile
’buses are run by the Fifth Avenue Stage Company of New York City down
Fifth Avenue, and have proved most popular; while in Chicago there are
three lines of electric omnibuses successfully competing with the street
cars for patronage. They are double-decked, seating forty passengers,
and when they are “full-up” express speed is put on, and there are no
more stoppages until the down-town district is reached.

As to four-wheeled cabs, they are hopelessly behind the times, though
excellent ones may be evolved out of the landaulette type of
electromobiles. During sixty-two years of sullen toleration on the part
of the public, the growler has improved but little, and it remains a
mystery why in the streets of the world’s metropolis comfortable and
comely private vehicles cannot be hailed for hire, as in other cities.

New and improved cabs, such as the “Brougham,” the “Clarence,” and the
“Chesterfield,” from time to time appear in our streets, and inspire
hope that a general reformation is about to take place, and that neat
little coupés will be universal. But in some unaccountable manner, after
a brief season they disappear from public view–as did the
lemon-coloured electric broughams of a few years ago–relegated to some
mysterious region where vehicular failures find employment when banished
from Modern Babylon.