Stevie Carroll (stevie_carroll) wrote,
Stevie Carroll

Roads and Road Transport History Association at the Museum of Transport: Part One

A couple of weekends ago, I went up to Coventry for the autumn conference of the Roads and Road Transport History Association, held once again at the Museum of Transport, after a slight venue blip last year.

Arriving early due to trains, I had a bit of time to explore before the conference began. Having looked around the War Effort exhibition (photos to come later to tie in with one of the afternoon topics, I managed to get around about a third of the other displays before it was time to head to the conference room.

Vehicles in varying degrees of restoration, including a Humber Saloon (GC 412):
Coventry 191013 (21)

The AA Display:
Coventry 191013 (23)

I used to play with one of these:
Coventry 191013 (27)

Jaguar F1 car:
Coventry 191013 (28)

Once I was settled in the conference room, the first talk was Edwardian Transport: from horse to motor transport by Ian Yearsley

In 1903 Arthur Bevan's Tube, Train, Tram, and Car (see this review in The Spectator) predicted the future but got nearly everything wrong. He believed that by eliminating the horse, there would be no more congestion since vehicles would be only half as long, and no more accidents since all vehicles would be under the control of their drivers.

Ian, however, told us what traffic was actually like in the years 1901 to 1910; photographs of the time indicate that few vehicles were seen outside London until 1913 and horse transport continued for freight up until WWI. This avoided the mass unemployment of all those involved in maintaining horses and horse transport. Conversely there was a huge growth in the use of electric tramcars outside London, with a doubling in numbers seen between 1901 and 1910.

Trams were outlawed in the cities of London and Westminster leading to growth in the use of motor buses although these were slow to reach equivalence in numbers with horse buses; the growth of transport in London was influenced by noise levels, and this had led to the development of woodblock paving by 1884 (as shown on a handy map which I can scan for interested parties). Woodblock paving was also used outside hospitals, etc. in cities such as Manchester, and another common practice was the laying down of straw on hard road surfaces when a member of the household was ill.

Growing industrial unrest in the Edwardian period led to many strikes, and it was around this time that the term 'congestion' began to be used in relation to traffic, having been used in Victorian times to refer to housing. The roads had no signals, only policemen on point duty, many of whom were on horseback. Using Manchester as an example, around 1 in 6 vehicles were trams, with the rest ranging from handcarts to steam-trucks. There was also an abundance of messenger boys, both employed and freelance, one of whose jobs was to hail taxis.

Congestion was further increased by the growth of on-street parking since carriages had been stored off-street but motor vehicles were not. Many Edwardian streets had four lanes. However one factor which led to reduced congestion was the adoption of top covers for double-decker buses in 1903 since fewer buses were needed once people could use all seats whatever the weather.

Full transcript of my notes available if anyone's interested.
Tags: for reference, out and about, photos, real life, rrtha
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