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Report from the select committee on tramways (use of mechanical power); together with the proceedings of the committee, minutes of evidence, appendix and index. [And] Report from the select committee on tramways (use of mechanical power) bills; together with the proceedings of the committee, minutes of evidence, and appendix.
London, House of Commons, 16 April 1877, 7th June 1878

Throughout the 1870s, as the horse-drawn tramway network spread in London and in other cities, increasing consideration was given to finding an alternative form of motive power.

In 1876, the first application to use steam on a tram line was requested from the Board of Trade by the Wantage Tramways Co., shortly followed by the Vale of Clyde Tramway Co. in Glasgow. Permission was granted to both companies and as a result, this Select Committee was convened. They looked not only at steam power but also at compressed air as a possible motive power.

Chief amongst those questioned on this subject was W.D.Scott-Moncrieff, who had designed and run a compressed air tramcar, and Arthur Greenwood of the Leeds firm, Greenwood & Batley, who described a high-pressure compressed air engine running at Woolwich.

On the steam side were Henry Merryweather, who had provided many steam trams for the Paris network, and Edward Woods, who had worked with John Grantham on Grantham’s patent steam tram, where the power source was contained in the passenger car, thus dispensing with a leading engine.

There is also much information on the Edinburgh tramway and a long report from a Danish engineer on the advantages of steam power. Other witnesses include Sir Joseph Bazalgette, who was questioned on his views on the possible effects of widespread steam trams in London, and A.G.Church, General Manager of the London General Omnibus Co. A notable witness is the great Edwin Chadwick, social reformer, who had a lot of knowledge about road construction, gleaned from his years with the Metropolitan Sanitary Commission. He urges the use of asphalt wheel tracks as against granite.

From all this and more, the Select Committee decided that mechanical power on tramways should be permitted and laid down a list of points to be included in any future bill. Interestingly, the members felt that one of the strongest arguments in favour of mechanical traction was the question of cruelty to horses.

This new committee was asked to reconsider the use of mechanical power and also came down in its favour. The committee drew upon the report of the 1877 committee and examined a number of fresh witnesses, notably William Lyster Holt, engineer in chief of the Paris steam tramway, Dr. James Barras, a frequent user of the pioneering Vale of Clyde line, and Dillwyn Parrish who was a tramway contractor. However, they also re-examined some of the witnesses from the previous enquiry, in particular General C.S.Hutchinson, Royal Engineer and Board of Trade inspector, who in the interim had visited the tramway systems of Portsmouth, Batley, Edinburgh, Paris, Rouen and Liege, and was thus able to speak authoratively on their working.

The committee recommended that licenses for the experimental use of steam or other motive power should be granted by the Board of Trade, and proposed a set of bye-laws.


4to. 2 items in 1. xiv + 219 + (1)pp, 1 litho plate ; xiv + 88pp. Quarter calf, a little rubbed and marked.



Catalogue No: 5662