MOTOR TRANSPORT IN BRITISH CENTRAL AFRICA.
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"Every Description of Motor Tractor is in Use There," says the Managing Director of a Leading African Trading Concern, who Predicts a Big Future for the Industry in the Heart of the Dark Continent.
4 6 HERE IS, undoubtedly, a big future for motor
transport in British Central Africa," de
elated Mr. E. C. A. Sharrer, managing director of the British Central Africa Co., Ltd., in the course of an interview he was good enough to grant the other day to a representative of The Commercial Motor. British manufacturers who are looking for a good overseas market will be interested to hear that motor transport has caught on in British Central Africa with no uncertain catch.
I-reminded Mr. Sharrer (writes our re presentative) that 17 years had elapsed since I first had the pleasure of interviewing him on the transport question in .B.C.A., the said interview appearing. in African Commerce, a monthly journal then under my editorship. At the time in question, Mr. Sharrer (as I recalled to him) had spoken in somewhat enthusiastic terms about the exceeding usefulness in Nyassaland of Carnet's monorail, which had just been established on the company's property ostensibly for the purpose of conveying material for the construction of the BlantyreChiromo railway.
At that time, I remembered, it was claimed for the portable monorail that it was the cheapest system of rail transport, and that, up to a certain point, it was without a rival for utility and general efficiency. Another great advantage was that the monorail could he laid to follow the undulations of the ground, and could, indeed, be negotiated. with ease in a •fairly difficult country.
Well, it was pleasant to learn from Mr. Sharrer the other day, that the monorail is still doing valuable work on his company's property, chiefly in the plantations ; but it was even more interesting to be informed by the gentleman in question that as regards the heavier forms of transport, the monorail had now been superseded by the commercial motor. Motor wagons for transport and also oil motors for agricultural purposes, are, according to Mr. Sharrer, well in evidence in British Central Africa to-day.
" We are using a good many lorries," he said, and mentioned among others the Packard, about 6,000 lb. capacity, and the Bev, about 3,300 lb. capacity. "Every description of road tractor, ' added Mr. Sharrer, "is in use there, and one of the very best and most powerful is the Marshall. The Maclaren is also a very good vehicle."
I gathered that American as well as British types of tractor are in use in British Central Africa, and Mr. Sharrer spoke in a general way of the merits of the Ivel. the Titan, the Martin, the Boon and the Ford, as all being in everyday running in districts which are far removed from the local railways. And just now, it appears, experimental trials are being made with the Pedrail, of which Mr. Sharrer seems to think very highly.
Mr. Sharrer, it may be remarked, shared the opinion of Sir William Hoy, general manager of railways and harbours in the Union of South Africa —vide p. 516 of The Commercial Motor for February 6th last—that motor transport will help to solve many a problem if worked in conjunction with and as an auxiliary to an African railway system.
Of course, the roads in B.C.A. are no better than they are in other parts of the Dark Continent, and there is much difficult country .to be negotiated in the regions which are not directly covered by the
Central African Railway, the Shire Highland Railway—the latter the property of the Endala Central Africa Co,, which also has a very large holding in the former. And the ox wagon, as Mr. Sharrer reminded me, is still a method of transport in B.C.A., just as i
it s in the somewhat more civilized regions "down sputh.'4
Questioned about fuel, Mr. Sharrer said that that, of course, had to be imported, and a very costly item it was too ; but he added the very important information that traces qf oil had been found somewhere in British Central Africa—he very discreetly omitted to particularize the locality—and that further inte,stigations in regard to the discovery are now being made. If oil is found in any quantity, it will necessarily prove an immense boon to the users of commercial motdr vehicles in British Central Africa.
Railway extension forms part of the programme of the board of the British Central Africa Co., and Sir J. D. Rees, the chairman gave some interesting information thereanent at the annual meeting a fewmonths ago, when he related to the shareholders what the board proposed to do to. develop the country, and make it attractive to settlers.
Briefly, the idea is to open up the entire district by extending the existing railway system to the coast port of Beira in the south, and to Lake Nyassa in the north. Incidentally it was mentioned that among the articles"recently introduced into the heart of Central Africa" were 150 motorcars for military purposes."
Sir J. D. Rees admitted, in concluding his address to the shareholders, that the future of Nyasaland is a transport problem, and there is not much doubt, I think, that in the solution of that problem the commercial motor will find prominent place.
It is a foregone conclusion that the construction of the Beira-Zambesi railway is assured, and that at no very distant date, with, of course, the inevitable result that trade in that region will increase by leaps and bounds, and an extended use of the commercial motor is bound to follow. Whether petrol, paraffin or steam-driven must depend, largely upon whichever fuel is the easiest and cheapest to secure.
So vast, indeed, is the region in question that a perfect network of railways would be needed to cover it as it should be covered, and as that, on the score of expense alone would be impracticable, it f lovv3, I think, that, as time goes on, there will be an increasing need for the employment of motor vellicles.
At the last annual meeting of the North Charterland Exploration Co (l910), Ltd., reference was made to the " light motor road" which is being conatructed by the Portuguese authorities from a point near the Nyassaland border to Furankungo and also to the possible realization "for the first stages of the existing wagon transport between Fort Jameson and Furankungo.". At my request, Sir Henry Wilson, the chairman of the company, has very courteously furnished me with further details.
Ile construction of the road from Villa Continhu and llelissale to Furankungo and thence to Tete have not yet been completed, he tells me. The existing transport between Fort Jameson and Tete has, for a number of years past, been performed by a fleet of ox wagons belonging to the North Charterland Exploration Co. The question of establishing motor transport to Tete or Blantyre has been under consideration by the board of the company and " for various reasons, the directors lean to the establishment of the motor transport on the Blantyre road."
The company's manager at Fort Jameson is now, it appears, endeavouring to obtain, in Africa, suitable motor lorries which could be run between Dedza and Blantyre, the sections of the road between Dedza and Fort Jameson being worked by the fleet of ox wagon transport. Permission has already been obtained from the Nya,ssaland Government to utilize the motor road between Dedza and Blantyre for the company's light motor lorries when obtained.