When all is done, the help of good counsel is that which setteth business straight

Nearly fifty years ago there arrived in this country an enterprising
citizen of the United States bearing the name of George Francis Train,
with whom will always be associated the first attempt to introduce
tramways into Great Britain.

Like many other innovators, Train was ahead of his time, and after
vainly struggling against indifference, and, in London, against the
strongest opposition voiced by the Chief Commissioner of Works, he
returned home a wiser and a sadder man, having failed to launch his
great enterprise.

Not unreasonably he complained that his system had not been given a fair
trial, and that his nationality was against him, pointing out that in
Ireland he had, on the contrary, received sympathy and encouragement
from the fact that he was an American.

The truth was, his ideas were immature, and his tram-lines utterly
unsuited to the street traffic of great cities.

His first attempt was at Birkenhead, in 1860; and three years later he
laid down a line, four miles long, from Hanley to Burslem, in
Staffordshire, and also a short one at Darlington. In the year 1861 he
constructed a line from the Marble Arch along the Uxbridge Road, and
another from Westminster Bridge to Kennington Park. The track was
ballasted, not paved, and the macadam very soon “rutted” on each side of
the rail; but the worst feature was that the tread of the rail being an
inch below the road surface, the wheels of vehicles were seriously
injured and sometimes wrenched clean off as they endeavoured to leave
the lines.

A tremendous agitation ensued against the tramway system. Train’s rails
were compulsorily taken up, and his ideas were dismissed as

Yet the bread had been cast upon the waters, destined to be found much
later on, but not by George Francis Train. For ten years after the
Birkenhead line was laid down, tramways remained in a very primitive
condition, the sole aim being to obtain a smooth track, and so lessen
the wear and tear caused by the uneven macadam. The rolling-stock was
crude in the extreme, and the rails were fastened down to longitudinal
sleepers, so that the spikes invariably worked up, but this defect was
remedied when steel girders came into use. The trams were, of course,
drawn by horses, for until 1880 no better means of traction appears to
have been thought of. Nobody was a bit interested in the tramways, and
carriage-folk detested them, so they were banished to the outskirts of
the City and “over the water.”

The West End recognised them not, except to sign petitions against their
introduction. The “poor man’s street railway,” it affirmed, must keep
its proper place in the south, the far north, and the far east of

It was left to private enterprise to run the lines, and practically
four companies–the North Metropolitan, the London Street Tramways, the
South London Company, and the London Tramways Company–monopolised the
business, there being no enterprising London County Council to compete


For a decade–up to 1890–all kinds of improved methods of haulage were
tried: compressed air, coiled springs, underground cables (a well-known
example of which was the Highgate line, which was always breaking down),
and, lastly, gas traction and steam traction.

To all these methods there are serious objections. Horse traction is
expensive, besides being distressingly trying to the animals themselves.
It is necessary to keep up a large stud for each car, and the horses
when idle are eating their heads off. Their fullest speed with the heavy
cars is necessarily low. Starting is a slow process, and at the best the
rate of progress (including stoppages) does not exceed four miles an

Compressed air and coiled springs may both be consigned to pigeon-holes,
labelled respectively “doubtful” and “impossible,” there being of the
former scarcely half a dozen examples in Great Britain, though in
America it is said to have worked well and on an extensive scale.

Cable traction has many advantages, and for a long time was successfully
adopted in America, but is now abandoned. With the funicular system, in
vogue in Edinburgh, Birmingham, Paris, and Melbourne, travellers have
long been familiar. Where a large number of cars are employed, it has
the advantage of cheapness in working, and the machinery does not easily
get out of order. But the initial cost is very heavy, and it is not
suitable for complicated lines, or for tramways with several branches;
and therefore extensions, unless straight, are almost impracticable,
though it is superior to all others, save that of electricity, for very
severe gradients. As the cable moves at a uniform rate, a car can
neither vary its speed nor reverse its course. Then there is a
difficulty in dealing with the gas and water-pipes during construction
(that is, if they are near the surface), and the conduit forms a
receptacle for street refuse, and becomes insanitary. But the chief
defect is that three-fourths of the total power required to haul the
cars is absorbed in driving the cable.

On a small scale, and with but little success, gas traction has been
recently tried. There is a difficulty in starting the engines, therefore
they have to work continuously, which causes the unpleasant noise
familiarised to us by petrol-driven motor-cars when standing still.
There is a decided smell from the “exhaust” of the engine; the vibration
is considerable; and, as at present designed, the cars cannot mount a
moderately steep hill.

Steam traction has been in use for some time, but has not improved, and
is not popular. Great wear and tear of the track is caused by the weight
of the locomotive, and the public object to the long intervals of
service, consequent upon the necessity, for economical reasons, of using
large cars. Steam involves sulphurous gases and general dirtiness,
besides the apprehension, fanciful or real, of an occasional “blow up.”


Dismissing all these systems, we turn to electricity, as admittedly the
best agent for tramway traction, and, until some marvellous discovery
displaces it as a force, likely to remain and to become universally

Blackpool was first in the field with an electric tramway in 1883.
Several other provincial districts followed suit, including Bristol and
Stockton-on-Tees. London, in 1900, welcomed the completion of Mr. J.
Clifton Robinson’s great scheme for electrifying that portion of the
London United Tramways running between Hammersmith and Kew.

The year 1903 sees metropolitan and suburban electric trams in every
direction; while in the provinces they will soon cover the face of the
land, so extraordinarily rapid has been their acceptance. On every hand
signs are evinced of the direct influence upon the general prosperity,
comfort, and pleasure of all classes of people by a cheap and rapid
electric tramway service.

The electric system admits of an easy extension of routes, and is of all
systems the simplest to work. The cars can be readily backed or diverted
in any direction. They are roomy, clean, well lighted and ventilated,
and, if necessary, can be heated; the seats are comfortable; and the
speed is double that of horses, while, without any fuss, gradients of 1
in 8 can be tackled. Of its popularity none can doubt, especially in hot
weather, when exhausted town-dwellers swarm on the roof of the cars for
a breath of fresh air as they travel merrily along at the rate of twelve
miles an hour.

Existing tramways can be adapted to this system with rapidity, and all
experts bear testimony to the fact that electric haulage is
comparatively so cheap, and the development of traffic on its adoption
so great, that horse traction has no chance against it.

There are four kinds of electric-tramway traction which, though
apparently rather puzzling, are readily explained. These are the
Conduit; the Surface Contact; the Overhead (or trolley); in each of
which the current is conveyed to the line–as in an electric
railway–from a power house; and the Accumulator, or Self-contained Car,
the motive power being obtained from storage batteries carried on the
car itself, and these supply the current direct to the motor on the car.


_By permission of the_ _Dolter Electric Traction Co., Ltd., London_]

In the conduit system the main conductors (or feed-wire), always in this
country placed underground, are carried in a conduit or tube under the
track, which has a narrow longitudinal slit on its upper surface level
with the road. Through this slit passes a bracket carried by the car in
such a manner as to make contact with the two conduit-conductors. The
objections to this system are the heavy cost of construction, its
liability to derangement from floods, the expense of cleaning the
conduits, and its tendency to accumulate filth.

The closed conduit, or surface contact system, consists of a series of
plates or studs placed along the track a few feet apart and flush with
the road, and insulated from each other. Under ordinary circumstances
these are disconnected with the conductor, which is laid entirely below
the surface, but when a car passes over them they become, by means of
switches, automatically connected with it, so that the current can be
conveyed through them to the car motors. In other words, the studs are
“alive” while the car is over them, and “dead” as soon as it has passed.
This is a very practicable method, and in certain cases is preferable to
the open conduit. Defects, however, there are, but the Dolter apparatus
claims to have overcome them, and it is greatly in its favour that the
system has been successfully worked in Paris for more than two years. It
has the merit of readily lending itself to a combination with the
overhead trolley system.

Of all systems, by far the best known to the public is that of
“overhead,” recognised immediately by the tall iron poles inseparable
from its adoption. Ninety-five per cent. of the world’s electric
tramways are worked on the overhead principle. The distribution of
electric energy is by means of a wire, called the trolley wire, upheld
by insulated brackets on poles twenty feet above the ground, along the
entire track, which is divided into sections, each section taking its
current from the main conductor-wire, which is laid underground, through
the iron poles. Should any one section of the trolley wires meet with
mishap, only the cars working on that section are stopped; those on the
remaining divisions, having an independent source of current, continue
to run


_By permission of_ _Geo. Hill & Co., Manchester_]

without interruption. At the upper end is a small deeply grooved wheel
which, by means of springs at the base of the trolley pole, is pressed
against the under side of the trolley wire overhead, and in that
position remains as the car proceeds. From the wire the electric current
passes through the grooved wheel and down the trolley pole to the
motors, of which there is one at each end of the car.

In all three systems the motor itself is suspended from the axle, which
it turns; and the armature of the motor is parallel to the axle and
nearest to the centre of the car. On the end of the armature is a small
cogwheel which gears into the teeth of a larger wheel keyed to the axle,
and this turns round the wheels of the car. A coiled spring supports the
field-magnet of the motor, and when the driver turns the lever on to the
top of the controller (which is a high box in front of each platform
containing a series of wires connected with the motor), and switches on
the current, the motor is lifted up on the first revolution of the
armature, the coiled spring takes up the motion of the motor, and
prevents the car starting with a jerk. The current, when done with,
returns to the source of supply by the ordinary tram rails, which are
specially connected at the joints for this purpose. It is maintained
that for cheapness of construction, simplicity of operation, reliability
in action, and flexibility in adaptation, this method is superior to all

There was at one time a certain objection to it on æsthetic grounds. The
earlier examples, when clumsy wooden posts and festoons of wire
obstructed the view and seemed to choke up the street, undoubtedly
justified the protest against the “overhead”; but now that slender iron
poles, ornamental rather than otherwise, and, in some cases, rosettes
attached to the houses, are used for the suspension of the trolley wire,
people have become reconciled to the appearance of the thoroughfares,
and no longer object to the apparatus.

One more system, an ideal one, remains to be considered. It is that of
the “Self-contained Car,” which carries a battery of secondary cells,
whence the current for working the motors is taken as required. But, for
the present, there are serious obstacles against its general
application. The great weight of the accumulators leads to a
disproportionate consumption of power, and involves heavy expenditure on
the permanent way and in rolling-stock. The batteries must be recharged
at frequent intervals, and must either be removed from the car–a
troublesome process–or the car must be kept idle while the cells are
revivified. Accumulators as a rule do not live long, and have to be

Thus the working expenses are so heavy that, ideal as the system is, and
delightful the smooth running of the cars, it does not pay commercially
to adopt it, and we must wait patiently in the hope that one day a
perfect and practical secondary battery will appear on the scenes. Great
improvements in lightness and durability are in the air.

Tramcars have become luxurious compared with the makeshifts that did
duty in George Francis Train’s day, and each new line endeavours to make
its rolling-stock superior to the others. Some cars are double-decked,
_i.e._ have seats outside; some are single-decked, _i.e._ have no
outside seats. They are roomy and comfortably upholstered, and the
windows are curtained, or provided with louvre shutters to keep the sun
out. Those of the London United Tramways are models of comfort, and
people who recollect only the early examples, mostly of foreign
construction, would be surprised at the advance made. They seat thirty
inside and thirty-nine outside passengers, have spring cushions covered
with plush moquette, and ceilings panelled in bird’s-eye maple. There
are electric push-buttons for signalling the motor-man; electric light
is provided, and ventilators extend the whole length of the car,
ensuring an abundant supply of fresh air.

No cars, however, in Great Britain have reached the pitch of perfection
attained in America by the palace and parlour tramcars; the former
fitted up like a Pullman, with little tables and easy-chairs, and
windows prettily curtained. Of this type, perhaps the most superb is in
Buenos Ayres. Decorated in early French style, it is beautifully
finished; while inside it resembles a drawing-room, with windows
separated by carved pilasters and draperies of white silk and gold
damask. A fine Wilton carpet covers the parquetry floor, whereon stand
woven cane fauteuils with gold plush seats. At each end of the car is a
buffet, and one of the platforms is provided with an ice chest, while an
electric heater produces tea and coffee when required.

I cannot close this chapter introducing the subject of tramways, without
reference to the “Rush for the Trams” that attracted so much attention
last year. The rushes in the Blackfriars Bridge Road began shortly after
five o’clock and continued until seven p.m., and were described in the
daily journals as follows: “South London, thanks to the L.C.C., rejoices
in an excellent tram service. There are many trams going everywhere
within a reasonable distance–Streatham, Greenwich, Tooting, New Cross.
Now, however hard or however fast you rush at a tram, it is not to be
bullied into holding more than a certain number. If, however, you rush
sufficiently fiercely and with sufficient violence, you may either
knock or frighten out of the way a girl who has been waiting longer than
you. Some genius discovered this and rushed; others, not to be beaten,
rushed also. The result is that every evening the Blackfriars Road is
the scene of a savage fight for the incoming trams, where men and women
meet in unequal strife…. All notions of chivalry, of ‘ladies first,’
are thrown to the winds, apparently, on these occasions, with the result
that many young girls, weak women and children, rather than share in the
unequal strife, are content to walk all the way home…. Long before the
trams arrive at the starting-point, they are boarded at either end, and
a jovial crowd, knocking off one another’s hats, poking out one
another’s eyes, swarms on to them. As an entertainment, this is not
without merit; as an exhibition of the passions, it is undoubtedly
interesting. But if you happen to be weak or a woman and want to get on
one of these cars, it is possible you will fail to consider these
things. Only a day or two ago a fatal accident occurred in the rush for
the trams. Such a serious case is, no doubt, rare, but small injuries
must be of frequent occurrence, torn clothes and bruises part of the
daily round, the common talk of those who struggle for the trams. It is
unpleasantly common to see women knocked off their feet and dragged in
the road. Nor is the Blackfriars terminus the only battlefield. The
Westminster Bridge Road is no whit better, and there, with a roadway
somewhat narrower and a somewhat larger quantity of quick traffic, the
danger is even greater.”

The remedy for this state of affairs was thus significantly pointed

“When electricity is fully adopted the service will be able to deal with
a larger traffic, for, although the same number of cars will be
running, they will run faster, and each will carry 50 per cent. more
passengers, so that the carrying capacity of the line will be much
increased. Till then there is no hope of improvement. It is impossible
with horse traction to run more cars, or run them faster.”

All tramways within the boundaries of the County of London–an area of
some 16½ by 12 miles–will eventually be controlled and worked by the
London County Council, who, under the Tramways Act of 1870, have the
power of purchasing, either compulsorily at the expiration of twenty-one
years from the passing of the Act, or by agreement, any tramway
undertaking within their official territory. A heavy responsibility
truly; but whether for good or for evil, municipal trading has come to
stay, and the principle as applied to tramways seems to be particularly
appropriate in this, our great metropolis, with whose locomotive system
none but a very powerful and experienced governing body can ever hope to
successfully cope.

Mr. J. Allen-Baker, the vice-chairman of the L.C.C.’s Highways
Committee, reporting on the subject of our congested highways, said:
“Even though there should be no future increase in street traffic, I
believe it to be the imperative duty of the Council to seek a remedy,
and how much more when we feel assured that London will keep growing,
and that within the next thirty years both a water and locomotive
service will have to be provided for an estimated population (in Greater
London) of probably not less than ten or twelve million people; and
whatever the growth _outwards_ may be, the best system of rapid transit
for the central districts will always become more and more essential.
If, therefore, we are to cope with either our present or our future
requirements, and prevent our streets from becoming really impassable,
it is, in my judgment, our duty to take up the subject at once, and seek
from His Majesty’s Government those additional powers and amendments to
existing Acts of Parliament that will enable the Council, as the central
authority, to carry out these improvements in the interests of the whole

I doubt if anybody realises the gigantic scale of Greater London’s
street traffic, so much of it being hidden away. It is estimated that in
one year travellers by cabs and omnibuses number 580,000,000, and by
tramways 400,000,000. By Underground, Tube, and suburban railways
890,000,000 travel; and should the metropolis increase at the rate
expected by Mr. J. Allen-Baker, in thirty years’ time there will be
something like 4,000,000,000, or 11,000,000 human beings per diem,
moving about on wheels or on foot.

All these facts will doubtless be carefully considered, and, if
possible, the problem of London’s traffic solved, by the Royal
Commission–Sir David Miller Barbour, K.C.S.I., K.C.M.G., in the
chair–appointed in February last to deal with the subject. (_vide_
Chapter IX.). It is authorised to report:–

(1) As to the measures which they deem most effectual for the
improvement of the same (the street traffic) by the development and
interconnection of railways and tramways on or below the surface, by
increasing the facilities for other forms of mechanical locomotion, by
better provision for the organisation and regulation of vehicular and
pedestrian traffic or otherwise; and

(2) As to the desirability of establishing some authority or tribunal to
which all schemes of railway or tramway construction of a local
character should be referred, and the powers which it would be advisable
to confer upon such a body.


The tramway policy of the L.C.C. is so connected with the housing, or,
rather, with the rehousing question, that although this book is purely
on the subject of electrical traction, I cannot avoid making some
reference to it.

For fifteen years, since, under the Local Government Act of 1888, the
Council was constituted, it has slowly been winning the confidence of
Londoners. Aggressive at first, it has relinquished the altruistic
theories of youth, and it now realises the fact that it is a body of
trustees acting not for one class only, but that it must administer its
heritage in the interests of the community at large. Jealousy of its
powers is dying out, and by comprehensive and energetic action it
justifies itself as the one central privileged body able to deal with
the highway, and with the housing problem of Modern Babylon.

One of its provinces, in fact its statutory obligation, is to provide
new accommodation–not necessarily in the same locality–in place of all
houses destroyed as unfit for human habitation. It also takes upon
itself voluntarily (where no such legal obligation exists) in certain
instances to provide for rehousing, and, wherever possible, this is
effected in the same districts. But this cannot as a rule be done when
rehousing is compulsory, and to meet the difficulty, estates have been
acquired, and blocks of houses and cottages erected at Croydon, Wood
Green, Brixton Hill, Holloway, Hammersmith, and other more or less
suburban spots. The Model Dwellings built on the site of Millbank
Prison, and inspected by the King and Queen on February 18th last,
accommodate 4,500 men, women, and children. At Tooting, the L.C.C.
scheme provides for 8,600 people; at Norbury, for 5,800; while at
Tottenham there will be quite a new town of 40,000 artisan inhabitants.

Encouragement is given by the Council to the idea that working-men and
women–since they cannot, in so many cases, live chock-a-block with
their employment–should be provided with homes upon, or a little
beyond, the Council’s boundaries, and be brought backwards and forwards
by train, for the popular 1_d._ Being practical men, the Councillors
know that any transference on a large scale of London factories to the
country, however desirable, cannot be effected yet awhile. And even if
they could acquire sites in the centres of industry, and erect gigantic
lodging-houses, the cost would be prohibitive. They have to deal with
the present necessity. Their ideal is probably the workshop as it exists
in London, with the heads of firms at Belsize Park, Bayswater, and
Dulwich, the clerks at Wandsworth, Chelsea, and Fulham, and the workmen
at Tottenham, Wood Green, and Hammersmith.

On the other hand, figures quoted by Mr. Troupe, of the Home Office,[5]
show to what a large extent it might be possible to relieve congestion
by the removal of factories to the country. He said that there were 748
factories in London classified, in the following proportions, viz. 50
for machine-making, 30 for bread and biscuit-baking, 14 for
cabinet-making, 11 for turning out fruit preserves, 16 breweries, 47
book-binding establishments, 72 printing houses (not including
newspapers), and 19 saw-mills. In these 748 factories close upon 200,000
people were employed, representing with their families some 600,000
human beings, and if, following the recent example of the largest
cabinet-makers in London, the bulk of these removed into the country,
which they might do if suitable railway arrangements could be made, a
considerable number of the 600,000 men, women, and children would be
rehoused amidst “fresh woods and pastures new,” greatly to their

This is a dream at present, as factories cannot without great loss be
summarily transferred from suitable urban quarters where water-frontages
and locomotive facilities exist. They have grown up with, and in many
cases created the district in which they are situated. Bermondsey has
for years been the home of the leather trade, Lambeth of the pottery
industry, and although Mr. Justice Grantham instances Doulton’s as an
awful example of an uneconomical delinquent London manufactory–their
clay in Dorsetshire, their coal in the Midlands, their salt in Cheshire,
and their works on the banks of the Thames–it is no light matter to
break with long business ties and take up with fresh ones, not so easy
to leave the old love and take up with the new.

It will be granted, however, that Mr. William L. Magden was right when
he maintained that “no manufacturer about to commence business at the
present day would fix upon London as a suitable position. He would
choose rather a district in which land was cheap, and in which he could
obtain cheap power for his machinery and transport for his goods. He
should not in future be limited to the colliery districts or to the main
lines of railway. Light railways serving as feeders to the main lines,
and the supply of electrical energy over large areas from main power
stations, could provide for both these requirements, giving the
manufacturer ample assurance that his works could be run cheaply, and
that the raw material and manufactured products could be efficiently
handled. By such means electrical science is capable of opening up
thousands of square miles in England for manufacturing purposes, the
native population of which has been languishing under the chronic
complaint of agricultural depression.”


Whether, as regards tramways, the L.C.C. will be the central authority
recommended by the Royal Commissioners, time will show; but meanwhile it
has already established its tramway system, which can be seen at work in
our midst. In order to understand it the more easily, it should be
assumed that all the lines, including those of the London United
Tramways Company, are in the hands of the Council, that they are more or
less linked together, that powers for new lines have been granted, and
that electrical traction in some form has been adopted throughout.

On studying a tramway map, one is struck by the fact that, starting from
the central area of London, all the tram-lines meander towards the
Council’s boundaries, where they will eventually no doubt join and
interchange through traffic with the vast light railway or rural tramway
systems of various companies in the direction of north and south,
north-east, south-east, north-west, and south-west; but that “through”
(or cross-country) communication from west to east, practically does
not exist.

In the north-west there are huge areas of brick and mortar as destitute
of tram-lines as Central Australia, so that anyone living in the
Regent’s Park districts has to “train” it eastward, or, if he be bent on
“tramming” it, has to go by an inconvenient and awkward route to Hackney
or Bow.

Another notable feature of the map is that, although there are almost as
many tramways on the south as on the north side of the river, there is
no access from one to the other, the bridges being looked upon as sacred
thoroughfares, along which tramcars–certainly not as unæsthetic as
omnibuses, or waggons laden with vegetables–may not pass, although
Westminster is the widest bridge in the world, 85 feet; Blackfriars, 80
feet; and Vauxhall and Lambeth will be equally wide, and broad enough to
accommodate the trams without inconvenience.

At present the lines are painfully disunited, without starting-point or
terminus. The gaps in the lines require to be filled up, and where this
is impracticable, shallow underground tracks should be made use of. The
great defect, however, would at once disappear if the lines could cross
the Thames at Westminster and Blackfriars; but if this be persistently
refused, light bridges or tubes ought to be specially provided at
convenient points with four tracks for the use of tramways only.

The history of the London County Council’s work towards the improvement
of metropolitan highways dates back to the early nineties, when the
Council began to acquire tramway companies. A most important step was
taken in 1897, when the whole of the lines and depôts belonging to the
North Metropolitan and London Street Tramways Companies in the County of
London were purchased, the purchase-money being £800,000. In 1899 the
Council acquired the South London Tramways at a cost of £882,043, and
still more recently the control of the South Eastern Metropolitan
Tramways Company and the South London Company has been effected.
Negotiations for other acquisitions are pending, and, as a matter of
fact, there are now not a dozen miles of tramway lines within the county
which the Council has not already purchased.

The North Metropolitan lines have been leased by the Council to the
Company for fourteen years from 1896. The South London lines are worked
directly by the Council, and in the year 1901-2 no fewer than
119,880,559 passengers were carried over the system, 53,639,489 being at
halfpenny fares and 50,913,036 at penny ones. The traffic receipts for
the year amounted to over £439,000, and the mileage run was over
10,000,000. About 4,500,000 workmen’s tickets were issued during the

Thus our metropolitan Councillors have, after due deliberation and much
searching of hearts, launched a prodigious undertaking. Whether it will
or will not prove too costly is another matter. Dr. Alexander B. W.
Kennedy, their consulting engineer, in his report, said: “I hope,
therefore, that the Committee will find themselves able to believe that
the enterprise in which they are about to embark is one which will not
only be for the benefit of Londoners generally, but one also which will
pay its way, and on which, therefore, there would seem to be no reason
for grudging such expenditure as to make the whole scheme one of a kind
suitable for and worthy of the greatest city in the world.”

Not long ago the Council decided to adopt electrical traction on all
their lines, involving an ultimate cost of £9,000,000 which will
include the necessary generating stations, rolling-stock, purchase of
smaller undertakings, and extensions. The result attained will be a
splendid system, equivalent in length to two hundred miles of single
track, though not larger than that of some big provincial cities.
Wherever possible the system will be that of the conduit underground;
more expensive than the trolley method, but in the crowded streets of
London–where every inch of space is valuable–advantageous, and from a
severely æsthetic point of view, preferable, because it dispenses with
poles and wires. But on lines acquired by the Council where already
exists the overhead principle, there will be no difficulty in arranging
the cars so that they can be run from one system to the other, either
with no stopping at all at the point of change, or with a delay of but a
second or two. The cars, except the trucks, will be made in England by
British firms, and are to be double-decked, double-bogied, and
thirty-two feet long; they are to hold twenty-eight passengers inside,
and forty-two on the roof, and will be in two compartments. They will
resemble the Liverpool cars, described in Chapter XIII, and will be
painted a chocolate colour. The speed will be a maximum of twelve miles
an hour, with an average of about seven.

Supposing, therefore, that all the L.C.C. parliamentary Bills are
carried through, and that all the disunited lines are properly and
harmoniously linked together, and through communication established in
every direction, it will be feasible to take some such day’s business
journey within the Council’s boundaries as that of Benjamin Short which
I am about to relate. But before doing so I think the very important
decision of the Lord Chancellor in an appeal case, November 27th, 1902,
on the subject of the maintenance of tramway tracks should be


On March 4th, 1900, Mr. Fitzgerald was driving a horse and Ralli car in
Grafton Street, Dublin, when the horse stumbled and fell, and the
respondent was flung out of the cart and sustained serious injuries. On
the ground that the surface of the paving at the place where he was
driving was unsafe for horses and in a condition which was a danger and
annoyance to the ordinary traffic, he brought an action against the
tramway company, and was awarded £1,000 damages, the jury holding that
the part of the roadway for which the company was responsible was at the
time slippery and unsafe, and that this was the cause of the horse
falling. They, at the same time, found that the misfortune was not
caused by the fabric of the pavement being improperly constructed or

The Lord Chancellor, at the conclusion of the arguments, moved that the
appeal should be dismissed. The tramway company had been permitted the
use of the public highway subject to certain obligations, which
practically meant that while they were to use it they must take care
that the safety and convenience of the public were consulted. They were
not to have a monopoly of the highway, and it was their duty to take
care of the public convenience in respect to that part of the roadway
over which they were permitted to exercise a kind of subordinate
dominion. It was not denied that the surface of the roadway became, in
certain states of the weather, a danger and a nuisance to the public,
and it was a strong contention to say that, having received
instructions from the road authority to do that which would have
prevented the accident, there should be no liability upon them. The
obligation, as he read the statute, was to keep the pavement in a fit
and proper condition for public traffic. How that was to be done was a
question of mechanical engineering, and neither the Legislature nor the
Court was called upon to enter into the question as to how it could best
be done. All the judges without exception seemed to agree that the best
and most proper mode of doing it was to do what the road authority
directed them to do, and that they had deliberately disobeyed.


Benjamin Short was born and brought up in London, and if any man living
knew its ins and outs he did. He was a jovial-looking little man, always
called Ben, for, said his father, “We christened him Benjamin for long,
but as he grew so slowly, we called him Ben for short; for _short_ he
is, and short he always will be–except of cash!”

Short the elder was a small tobacconist in the days when the fragrant
weed was first put up and sold in packets–a paying idea, as he soon
discovered–and to effectually put it into practice, he used a
fast-trotting mare and a roomy, comfortable trap.

Ben, as he grew up, was allowed to accompany his father on these
journeys, and having abundant powers of observation and natural
quickness, he came to know more about Greater London than most men of
double his age. He was cut out for a commercial traveller’s career, and
a traveller, in due course, he became, inheriting from his father a snug
bit of capital.

At the time of which I am writing, Ben lived at Stamford Hill, close to
the London County Council boundary, in a well-built house with a bit of
land at the back, in which he had invested his inheritance. He called it
“The Watchmaker’s Rest,” and it faced the tramway line. Its front garden
was the envy and admiration of the neighbours. There appeared in their
season the choicest bulbous flowers, lovely annuals, herbaceous plants,
chrysanthemums, and asters, all of irreproachable quality, for Short,
being a sober and steady man, devoted his spare time to horticulture, at
which he was an adept.

Ben Short travelled for a large wholesale firm of watchmakers and
jewellers in Clerkenwell, whose ware-house was not far from the
junction of Goswell Road and Old Street. Thither Short went to business
every day at eight o’clock from Stamford Hill, not by a Tube (“Toob” he
called it), but by the tram which passed his door. He was a first-rate
salesman, working on salary and commission, as active and enduring as a
bee, but as no travelling expenses within the London district were
allowed him, he had to get about as cheaply as possible.

Hitherto he had been in the habit of working a single section of town
until it was exhausted, and then taking up another. But one July morning
the head of the firm asked him if he could vary the plan and take the
pick of several districts in one day as an experiment. This was done to
test Short’s capacity as against that of an English-speaking German
traveller, a protégé of his partner, who had already tried his best by
train and ’bus to cover a large area in one day, but had blundered over
the job. Ben Short, who had noticed a “foreigner” hanging about the
place a good deal, drew his own conclusions therefrom, and promptly
acquiesced in the proposition, and replied that he was quite willing to
show how much could be done in twelve hours by one who knew his London
well and how best to make use of its locomotive facilities. Ben intended
to make a record!

To save time he took home with him from the sample-room his bag, an
inconspicuous, well-worn old companion. It was easily carried, as the
contents, though valuable, were light. Next morning at 7.30 to the
minute he was at breakfast, clean as a new pin, thoroughly well groomed,
a man of peace, but if you had put your hand into the side pocket of his
coat you would have found a smooth ivory handle, suspiciously like that
of a neat six-shooter–in case of accidents! At eight o’clock he was in
a comfortable electric tram bound on his first stage to far-off

The route was _viâ_ Stamford Hill, High Street, Stoke Newington Road,
and Kingsland Road, and, branching off at Hackney Road, by way of Old
Street and Clerkenwell Road, to the western end of Theobald’s Road.
Thence, a long stretch by way of Hart Street, Bloomsbury, along part of
New Oxford Street, into Oxford Street, past the Marble Arch, along the
Uxbridge Road, past Notting Hill Gate, and down the beautifully paved,
broad incline towards Shepherd’s Bush, then to the left through Brook
Green, and so to the Broadway, Hammersmith–one of the most interesting
rides in London, and but recently added to the London County Council
system, after tremendous agitation and opposition on the part of the
“Tube” and others, but absolutely necessary to complete the linking of
other and disjointed sections.

Here, at Hammersmith, Ben Short transacted some very satisfactory
business in King Street. It was early; his “clients” had just finished
their breakfasts, their shops had been but a few minutes opened, and
they had leisure to attend to his persuasive arguments. He was a
favourite wherever he went, and as he carried exactly the kind of goods
to attract, he quickly booked orders and was free to proceed.

On board once more, at good speed Ben was rolled along Fulham Road,
leaving on the right the big convent jealously guarded by high walls,
which made Ben fall to wondering how any sane young woman could
voluntarily cut herself off from a world about which she probably knew
practically nothing. On went the tram, past the big buildings of the
Fulham Workhouse, past the entrance to Fulham Palace and the Bishop’s
Park, along the widened High Street of Fulham, over Putney Bridge, and
by way of Putney Bridge Road and West Hill, Wandsworth (a new route), to
Lower Tooting–altogether a pleasant trip at that time of the year, for
gardens, at which he critically and eagerly gazed, greeted Ben in every

Wasting no time, Short called upon all the most likely customers, and
again he was in luck, for whether they wanted watches and jewellery or
not, orders were booked.

Now the energetic little man had to get to the “Elephant and Castle.”
Along the Balham Hill Road, with its pleasant shops and lively
pedestrians, was plain sailing enough, past umbrageous Clapham Common on
the left, edged with sedate and comfortable mansions recalling the old
days when prosperous Evangelicism dwelt exclusively in Clapham; then by
way of Clapham Road and Kennington Park Road to the far-famed “Elephant
and Castle.” Here a less sharp-witted man than Short might well be
bewildered by the wonderful concentration of tram lines converging from
Walworth Road, New Kent Road, Newington Causeway, London Road, St.
George’s Road, and the road he had come by. Here, if anywhere, as at the
Mansion House, well-arranged passenger subways are needed.

Our “commercial” did much business round about, for it was one of his
best districts for cheap goods, and then he thought it was time to
refresh the inner man. In a neighbouring cool, clean little crib–“a
close borough of his own,” he called it–he rested, and made intimate
acquaintance with a noble piece of silver-side, some crisp lettuces, and
any amount of piccalilli–he was a lover of cold meat and pickles–but,
in accordance with a rule he never broke in business hours, he
restricted himself to coffee as a beverage.

Short, braced up by his luncheon, was now ready to set out for the wilds
of Plumstead–a somewhat long journey. He started by train from the
“Elephant and Castle” _viâ_ the New and the Old Kent Roads, New Cross
Road, Greenwich Road, Trafalgar Road, Greenwich and Woolwich Lower Roads
to Woolwich, and by the Plumstead Road to Plumstead itself. He worked
the two districts together, but his luck had deserted him, and orders
were fewer and farther between than he altogether liked; but he was not
going to “chuck the thing up” yet. He would do a bit of the East End,
and thus complete the circuit of London.

He took the same route back from Plumstead as far as Blackwall Lane,
then _viâ_ the Blackwall Tunnel to East India Dock Road, Burdett Road,
and Mile End Road to its junction with Cambridge Road. In this
neighbourhood he did his only extensive bit of walking. The district,
though poor, was large, and he did a fair amount of business, but as
time was getting on he decided to return home; so by Cambridge Road,
along Cambridge Heath, Mare Street, Lower and Upper Clapton Roads, he
got back to Stamford Hill, and was put down almost at his own house.

He had travelled by electric tramway some fifty miles at a cost of about
2_s._ 1_d._ (or a halfpenny a mile). He had done a lot of business, and
had been absent just twelve hours!

In the bosom of his family he found ample compensation for his
exertions. A hearty welcome and a savoury supper, accompanied by
something that was _not_ coffee, awaited him, and the following day the
firm received him with acclamation. The Teuton was not “in it,” and Ben
Short reigned supreme as its chief and highly appreciated traveller.


Want of space forbids more than the mere mention of the South
Metropolitan and the London Southern, the Woolwich and South Eastern,
the West Ham, and the Northern Middlesex Tramways. But this chapter
would be incomplete without some reference to the useful and popular
organisation, the London United Tramways Company, that takes up the
running at the London County Council’s boundary.

Forty million passengers were conveyed last year over its original route
of twenty-two miles, extending from Shepherds Bush and Hammersmith to
Southall, Hounslow, and Twickenham. In one week alone over a million
were carried.

Last April an important extension was inaugurated from Twickenham, which
brought the trams through Teddington and Hampton Wick right to the gates


_By permission of T. and T. Vicars_, _Earlstown, Lancashire_]

Hampton Court Palace, and from Richmond Bridge to Hampton Court. In the
near future these extensions will be connected with new lines running to
Uxbridge, Thames Ditton, Surbiton, Hook, Kingston, New Malden,
Wimbledon, and Tooting; while eventually these western and southern
tracks will, by the system of tubes, rejuvenated underground railways,
and the L.C.C.’s electric tramways, be joined to those of northern and
eastern London. In three years’ time, when its extensions are completed,
the London United will have 100 miles of tram lines in operation.

The gauge is the standard 4 feet 8½ inches. Throughout the route the
overhead trolley system has been adopted. At Chiswick is the power
house, and the mains convey the electricity to sub-stations, six miles
apart, where rotary converters change the alternating into direct
current, and transform down the high voltage of 5,000 into the Board of
Trade limit of 500. In the fine boiler-room T. and T. Vicars’ automatic
stokers are used, and very interesting it is to watch the machines
continually pushing small charges of coal into the furnaces without any
direct human agency.

Mounted on two four-wheeled bogie trucks, with two 25 horse-power
motors, the handsome cars seat thirty-nine passengers outside and thirty
inside. On the Sunday after the opening of the extension no fewer than
200,000 people journeyed from Hammersmith, Shepherd’s Bush, and
Richmond, to Kew, Twickenham, Teddington, and Hampton Court; and on Whit
Monday, 1903, the number reached 400,000, thus establishing a record. So
great was the rush during some part of those days that a two minutes’
service of cars had to be provided.

The extension from Twickenham to Hampton Court was opened by Mr. C. T.
Yerkes, the Chairman, and author of the happy alliance of train, tube,
and tram, which may possibly enable many toilers in the East End to live
in the country. At the least, it will give them the chance, when
possessed of a little leisure and a few pence, to quickly exchange their
sordid environment for one of the numerous sylvan spots which surround
London, especially in the west.


_By permission of the_ _London United Tramways Co., Ltd._]

Alluding to this, Mr. C. T. Yerkes, at the inauguration, significantly
remarked that it was a strange fact that London was particularly behind
in transportation, being the most backward of all cities. Though during
the last twenty years in London, 900 miles of streets had been made, and
340,000 houses had been built, it was only within the past few years
that intramural transportation had been even spoken of. The London
United Tramway Company, he said, expected to join very intimately with
the Metropolitan District, forming a continuous line to Hampton Court
from the City; and they anticipated connecting with the Great Northern,
Brompton, and Piccadilly Circus Railway. People would be carried very
cheaply, and when the District was electrified the mileage rates would
be abolished in favour of uniform fares, which were far the best. Poor
people who were living in an unenviable condition should have the chance
of getting into the country.

On the much-debated question of American capital and American enterprise
in Great Britain,[6] Mr. Speyer spoke no less to the point. He said that
those who undertook to provide the metropolis with an up-to-date system
of locomotion should be encouraged, for they performed a task that
should have been done twenty years ago. English capital had had every
opportunity of investment in underground lines, and if only half of the
five millions had been subscribed in this country it was not the fault
of the promoters. They would have preferred that the Underground Company
should have English shareholders only, but unfortunately they had had to
allot half of the shares of the Company to Americans and foreigners. One
would have thought, he said, that there would have been more keenness in
London to build its own underground railways, which would so materially
add to the well-being of the masses. If either of the proposed lines
were situated in South Africa, Australia, or Klondyke, London investors
would have been tumbling over each other to subscribe. But the fault of
these lines was that they were at our own doors. It was a fact,
incredible though it might seem, that the richest city in the world did
not appear able or willing to provide the funds for what was really a
public necessity–_quicker transit_. So let them hear nothing more of
American invasion, if people here stood with folded arms and allowed
others to do the work which they ought to have done themselves; for
while they persisted in this _non possumus_ attitude, no one could blame
the Company if they went elsewhere.