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Report from the Select Committee on locomotives on roads; together with the proceedings of the committee, minutes of evidence, and appendix.
London, House of Commons, 18 July 1873

In 1861 and 1865, two acts were passed to regulate the use of steam-powered road vehicles, imposing speed limits, specifying weight and size, laying down the amount of men accompanying the engine and (1865) the display of a red warning flag.

Many of these impossibly stringent restrictions were caused by public prejudice against steam power on roads and efforts were made to have some of them lifted, hence the present select committee. It examined a variety of witnesses from engine builders and industrialists to district surveyors, solicitors and clerks of turnpike trusts, and farmers. Chief amongst the engine builders was Thomas Aveling, one of the leading figures in the development of the traction engine.

Also giving useful technical evidence were David Greig, a partner in the Leeds engine manufacturing firm of Fowler & Co., and Edward Sacre, an engineer connected with the Yorkshire Engine Co. near Sheffield. John Forbes White of Aberdeen, mill owner, used steam road vehicles to carry corn to his mills and flour back to the town, while Arthur Carey of Rochford, Essex, and Andrew Chittenden of Bearsted each ran large numbers of steam engines for agricultural use. John Bailey comments on the considerable advantages of steam traction during the Crimean War, before describing the experiments undertaken to test the suitability of R.W. Thomson’s traction engines with their innovative solid india-rubber tyres, introduced in 1868. Together they and others discuss the merits of various types of engine, the spring tyre invented by Bridges Adams, weights and speeds, road surface, fuel, smoke consumption, braking, noise, congestion and so on.

Although the emphasis is on industrial and agricultural vehicles, the committee found time to consider steam passenger carriages, which had been the first steam vehicles on the road, though by now they had almost ceased to exist because of the stringent restrictions. Chief amongst these witnesses was John Scott Russell, who had patented boilers and engines during the 1830s and had successfully run a steam carriage company in Scotland, though not without a serious accident (described by Carrick, another witness). Also of considerable interest is the description by John Grantham, the marine engineer, of his patent steam tramcar.

Despite the presence of a lunatic fringe, as represented by the Rev.W.B.Hurnard, the recommendations of the committee were models of good sense and reason, including as they did the abolition of the red flag clause, increase of speed limits, more freedom for manufacturers and so on. Alas, none of them were accepted. A rare and fascinating item.


Large 4to. xxiv + 215 + (3)pp, incl. docket title. Contemporary quarter roan, spine rubbed. First few leaves browned and spotted.



Catalogue No: 5826