GOING BACK TWENTY-ONE YEARS.
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The Commencement of the Commercial Motor Vehicle Movement Recalled. The Part Played by the Motorbus in the Development of the Movement.
IN THE STRESS Of war time (and as all the authorities most convincingly tell us, of an unprecedentedly stressful wartime), most Of us had overlooked the fact that. we are now well through the twenty-first year of the existence of the commercial motor vehicle. The actual 21st anniversary, signalling the completion of that period of time during which the human entity is attaining manhood, occurs in March next, for in the month of March, 1898, there was completed for despatch to this country a 10 h.p. single-deck omnibus which was destined to be the forerunner of a mighty movement, resulting in the withdrawal of thousands of horses from the streets of our most populous places, and in the acceleration of the traffic therein to such an extent as to present the instantly-acquired advantage of doubled street accommodation. From this point to the conversion of a very large proportion of the vehicular traffic of the country from horse haulage to motor-propelled has been a gradual and logical step. The advantages of the conversion have, of course, mainly rested with the resulting increase of efficiency. Efficiency in any industry always means greater prosperity, and that means greater happiness, mitigated to a greater or lesser degree by the increased anxieties appertaining to the heavier responsibilities. This being an undoubted fact, it is curious and interesting to reflect upon the spirit of opposition and objection to the motor vehicle that prevailed in the last few years of the old century and the first few years of the present, and to compare that 'spirit with -the spirit of encouragement and ready acceptance of -the flying machine by the people of to-day.
This by the way. To return, now, to the vehicle which marked such an epoch in the traffic developments of this country. The bus was built by the German Daimler Co. and was equipped with a twocylinder motor having tube ignition. Some of 'these engines are actually still in existence, and it might even be possible to run across a contemporary vehicle, but so far we have not been fortunate enough to light upon one anywhere. It was the first vehicle imported into England with the honeycomb type Of radiator— now, of course, almost in universal use on private cars. The gearbox had four speeds, the power being transmitted, as can be discerned from our illustration of the vehicle, by the well-known internal rack and pinion, 'which has been employed by the German Daimler Co. in the design of its heavy vehicles up to 1914.
The bus was steered by wheel, quadrant and chain gear, and the road wheels were of the artillery type, fitted with 'iron tyres, being at least 4 ft. 6 ins, in diameter.
The body was of the type known on the Continent as the Diligence, seating 12 passengers with, in addition, two on the locker which was used for the reception of luggage or the storage of tools. The roof seat is not a part of the ordinary design. It was added, we believe, by Mr. Harry Lawson with some idea of testing the stability i of the bus under certain conditions and perhaps n unwitting porpetuati6n of the roof seats of the stage coach.
Behind the driver's seat and immediately forward of the first window is a door in the side of 'the vehicle which gave access to the water and petrol tanks and also to the gearbox.
Facilities were so limited in those dark days of 1898 for handling motor chassis and cars in London that the only point at which delivery could be taken of this vehicle was Tilbury Dock, and., having regard to the present price of petrol, it will interest readers to know that petrol to drive this chassis from Tilbury to London was supplied by the Anglo-American Oil Co. at 5d. per gallon...
Mr. Thompson-Smith brought the' vehicle to London, having a supply of six gallons of petrol in the tank, but, owing to a miscalculation in respect of consumption, when the bus arrived at Stratford Church the engine stopped, and it was discovered that the supply of petrol was exhausted. This was on a. Saturday afternoon about dusk, and as the facilities for a supply of petrol were at that time practically nil, in order to get sufficient fuel it was necessary to • purchase sixpenny bottles of benzine from all the chemists in Stratford Broadway, and sufficient was obtained in this way to get the bus to Holborn Viaduct, where it was stored I This bus was the property of the British Motor Co., Ltd., and was sold by them to the Motor Traction Co., Ltd., who had it fitted with a double-deck body of the same dimensions as the then existing horse buses with a carrying capacity of 12 passengers inside and 14 passengers outside.
The Motor Traction Co., Ltd., through Mr. Sidney Straker, who acted as the company's consulting cngineer at that time, had two chassis based on the same design—with certain improvements of Mr. Straker's—and fitted with 12 h.p. four-cylinder engines. The chassis were built by Straker in 1899, the engines for the vehicles being obtained from Germany. These buses when completed were run by the Motor Traction Co., Ltd., between Regent Street and Kennington Park, under the supervision of 'Mr. Percy Frost-Smith, who was at that time engineer to the • • company.
In 1900 Mr. H. J. Lawson had designed and made by the German company a London bus on the lines shown in the accompanying line drawing, with the engine under the driver's seat, and with outside seating accommodation. This vehicle ran for a period between Lee and Eltham, in Kent, the route being adopted; because it was considered to be a paying one. . The bus was fitted with rubber tyres by the Continental tyre concern, and was the first large bus to be 'fitted with rubber tyres. The wheels shown in the illustration in no way represent the actual wheels emp eyed, as the drawing does not show the driving rack ;. this is probably due to the practice of the German company in those days never to provide working drawings. In 1902 Milhes-Daimler received an order from Mr. Claude Browne for a two-ton standard chassis, and, by accident, it was found that a chassis of that length if employed for omnibus work would take a body long enough to seat 16 persons inside and 18 outside, and this has since remained the seating capacity of the standard body. Mr. Browne had the body built by Brown, Ifughes ad Co., and it adommodatecl the 34 passengers n described. The bus was built with the intention of plying between the Bank and Victoria, but was never used in London, being sold to a, firm of the name (we believe) of Skinner and Co., of Hastings, and was such a success that they obtained a further twelve buses and amplified the service.
In. 1902-3 the buses on these lines commenced to be built in considerable quantities, whilst from 1903 onwards it was demonstrated that motorbuses could be Worked successfully from a commercial point of view, and many services were established, notably by Till
, ings, the Great Western Railway Co., the London and North Western Railway Co., etc.
The Vanguard Co. was floated and became a. success. Its buses were Milnes-DaimIer only. In 1906 the success of this company was such that an inroad was being made upon the income of the London General Omnibus Co., the buses of which were then horse-drawn. The L.G.O.C. then entered the field for motor vehicles, and they had to buy them where they could, as under the contract between the Vanguard 'Co. and the British agents for the buses the London General Omnibus Co. could not be supplied with them. The L.G.O.C. started principally with De Dions. Eventually it absorbed the Vanguard Co., and then faced the difficulty of excessive noise, the " B " type entirely overcoming it, and commercially proving a very great success. Such briefly is the 'history of the motorbus developments following upon the introduction of the first vehicle nearly twenty-one years ago.