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GWR horse-drawn station bus


Mikkel

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I’ve built a GWR horse-drawn station bus using a modified and detailed P&D Marsh kit.

 

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A colourized postcard showing omnibuses in the station forecourt at Minehead. A perusal of period photos suggests that the outside seating wasn’t necessarily the last choice option – on sunny days at least!

 

 

 

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The forecourt at Teignmouth. Lettering on the door shows the fare and “A. Harvey (?), Proprietor”. Many horse-drawn station bus services were operated by individual entrepreneurs, nearby fashionable hotels, or local agents for the railway companies. Actual GWR-owned station buses certainly existed but were, I suspect, a minority.

 

 

 

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Old and new at Helston. The GWR’s first motor-driven road service was introduced at Helston in 1903, signalling the beginning of the end for horsedrawn omnibuses. The horse-drawn bus on the right served a local hotel.

 

 

 

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Phillip Kelley’s two volumes on GWR road vehicles feature a small but useful selection of photo and drawings of GWR horsedrawn buses. Online, a couple of rather interesting GWR omnibuses can be found here (scroll down). An agent-operated GWR service can be seen on the Fairford pages here. For non-GWR omnibuses, Gail Thornton’s website is interesting.

 

 

 

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The P&D Marsh kit is a fairly simple affair but does represent an actual prototype built by the GWR in 1894. There's a Swindon drawing of it in Kelley’s “Great Western Road Vehicles Appendix”. Towards the end of the build I realised that I had overlooked an actual photo of the vehicle in Kelley’s main volume (“Great Western Road Vehicles” p.29). 

 

 

 

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Assembly of the body leaves you with somewhat unsightly corners, as Mike also commented in his build back in 2013.

 

 

 

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Repeated applications of filler and sanding helped, followed by primer.

 

 

 

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The basic components result in a reasonable overall representation of the original vehicle. 

 

 


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Bringing it to this stage was a fairly quick exercise, but I decided to add some detailing.

 

 

 

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First step was some simple seating and glazing. The interior may or may not have been more lavish, but with the roof on very little is visible. 

 

 

 

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The kit’s roof casting is rather thick and does not reflect the pattern on the prototype. A replacement was made by laminating two layers of thin styrene, the top layer being a grid pattern drawn up in Inkscape and printed on my Silhouette.

 

 

 

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This was fixed with superglue, with temporary holes to allow the fumes to escape so they don’t frost the glazing.

 

 

 

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Luggage rails were fitted using 0.5 mm straight brass wire. Later I removed the front rail, as I discovered that the prototype didn’t have it. Same thing can be seen on some other omnibuses. Forward-sliding luggage not a problem on slow-breaking vehicles?

 

 

 

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The drawing and photo show what initially looks like a ladder at the rear. Closer inspection shows it to be three vertical rails with no apparent rungs. My best guess is that they are guard-/guiderails for raising and lowering heavy luggage to and from the roof without damaging the sides. Unless anyone knows better? Anyway, I fitted them using more brass wire. Also seen is the rear passenger step. The one provided in the kit is rather crude and doesn't match the drawing, so I made a simple replacement. The step could be folded down and away for stowage during transport.

 

 


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Discovery of the prototype photo led to some unpleasant surprises. I had overlooked horisontal bolections along the sides and ends, so they were retrofitted using thin wire. There are also what looks like ventilation louvres above the windows (or rainstrips?), these were indicated using thin strips of styrene. 

 

 


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I fashioned a pair of coach lamps using old loco lamps from the scrap box, fitted with bits from my tin of watchmakers’ spares. No particular prototype, just a nod to a certain type seen in some photos.

 

 

 

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Lettering and insignia will have to wait. The prototype photo shows the vehicle in factory finish in 1894, with sans-serif “Great Western Railway” below the windows in quite a small font size (smaller than on goods cartage vehicles), and a simplified garter behind the wheels. My printer can’t do such small lettering to a satisfying standard, so I’ll leave it unlettered until I find one that can.

 

 

 

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The bus will be parked in the station forecourt at Farthing, with passengers outside. So I decided to add some luggage. The prototype photo shows leather straps (or similar) fitted to the luggage rails, so I painted some thin masking tape to imitate this. 

 

 

 

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I'm not sure about the principles for how luggage was packed on omnibus rooves. Photos suggest pragmatic solutions.

 

 

 

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I replaced the horse in the kit. I first painted up the mare on the left, but decided it was more of a goods type. So an exchange was made with the pretentious type on the right. Both are from Dart Castings.

 

 

 

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I normally go with matt varnish for my horse-drawn vehicles, but couldn't resist a satin finish in this case. 

 

 

 

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I'm pondering my choice of driver. Current offerings aren't that good, so will probably modify a seated passenger. No reins, too impractical with my current layout arrangements.

 

 

 

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So that's yet another horse-drawn vehicle for Farthing. Good thing I've got a big stable block! There are plans afoot for an early motor bus, but that's another story.

 

 

Edited by Mikkel

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  • RMweb Gold

HNY Mikkel!
 

A very engaging and enjoyable read with your usual detailed process and tenacity of great storytelling. 
 

The result looks superb, especially the detailed luggage on top. Great tip on the fumes being able to escape from the roof too :good:

 

Look forward to some more pics when it get’s positioned on Farthing. Bring on the motor bus :D

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Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for the detailed build description, really interesting. Looking forward to seeing it in place too.

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You've done a splendid job with the additional detailing Mikkel  I never got beyond the basic kit and, as you found, those interlocking corners were a bit of a pain.  Your enhancements have created a lot of extra 'magic' :)

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You've managed to pull another one out of the bag Mikkel, nicely written description of your work and excellent model.

 

Although you mention not wishing to add reins have you considered using a glue gun to produce some ?

 

Simply place a drop onto any surface and then slowly pull away to produce the stringing effect ( you know, the one which is a nuisance in normal use ). Cheap, easy and can be replaced at virtually no cost if broken.

Once set cut to length.

Or maybe some EZ Line which will give enough when you move the model with just enough slack in it.

 

G

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As ever Mikkel, well researched and a lovely model. 

 

An interesting basis for a cameo scene perhaps ? 

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Lovely model. I must do something with a similar kit stashed away somewhere.  Just a thought though, highlighted by the excellent close-up photos; most pictures of similar vehicles seem to show a polished metal (brass?) circular cover plate in the centre of the hub, which I think would set your model off a treat.

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11 hours ago, bcnPete said:

HNY Mikkel!
 

A very engaging and enjoyable read with your usual detailed process and tenacity of great storytelling. 
 

The result looks superb, especially the detailed luggage on top. Great tip on the fumes being able to escape from the roof too :good:

 

Look forward to some more pics when it get’s positioned on Farthing. Bring on the motor bus :D

 

Thanks Pete. Regarding holes for the fumes, the extent to which superglue frosts glazing seems to depend a lot on the particular products in question. I use Loctite Gel a lot, and it doesn't seem to affect the glazing I use that much (can't remember the name of the glazing, it's a German product which is very good and I'm running out of it - uh oh).

 

So the holes may or may not have made a difference. (Or both, I wonder what Schrödinger would have said :D).

 

11 hours ago, 5&9Models said:

Absolutely beautiful. Thank you for the detailed build description, really interesting. Looking forward to seeing it in place too.

 

Many thanks Chris. I think you'd like some of the earlier GWR omnibuses even more, some of them had that distinctively Victorian stage coach look of your period.

 

 

10 hours ago, Miss Prism said:

Lovely work.

 

I think this was originally a Monmouth Models kit.

 

Thanks Miss P. Yes I believe so. Despite the corner assembly method, the basic components of the kit aren't that bad really for an ageing low cost kit. I wonder when it was originally made.

 

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10 hours ago, MikeOxon said:

You've done a splendid job with the additional detailing Mikkel  I never got beyond the basic kit and, as you found, those interlocking corners were a bit of a pain.  Your enhancements have created a lot of extra 'magic' :)

 

Thank you Mike. Perhaps the designer was looking for a way to avoid the joins showing too clearly. Incidentally, there's a superb large scale model of this vehicle:

 

Hotlink to photo of the model: http://www.guildofmodelwheelwrights.org/GOMW_vehicles_files/GWR.jpg

From this page of wonders: http://www.guildofmodelwheelwrights.org/GOMW_vehicles.htm

 

Ironically the livery on that model is fictional and some details are wrong  (e.g. the small windows at the front should not be "framed"). I think the builder has worked from the drawings and not seen the prototype photo. Extraordinary craftmanship though.

 

 

10 hours ago, Ian Major said:

Mikkel,

 

Fabulous work, as per your normal standard.:)

 

Ian.  

 

Many thanks Ian. One of those "quick builds" that ended up becoming more involved. It learnt a bit about horse-drawn omnibuses on the way, or rather I scratched the surface a bit!

 

 

9 hours ago, bgman said:

You've managed to pull another one out of the bag Mikkel, nicely written description of your work and excellent model.

 

Although you mention not wishing to add reins have you considered using a glue gun to produce some ?

 

Simply place a drop onto any surface and then slowly pull away to produce the stringing effect ( you know, the one which is a nuisance in normal use ). Cheap, easy and can be replaced at virtually no cost if broken.

Once set cut to length.

Or maybe some EZ Line which will give enough when you move the model with just enough slack in it.

 

G

 

Thanks Grahame, I hadn't heard that one before. Will put it on the list of possible options. But the challenge is that the horses and vehicles are separate, and are stored as such when they aren't being used. It would be easier if they were joined and made up one rigid item. The reins could then be fixed permanently. That requires a seriously strong join between horse and shafts though, and again between shafts and the main vehicle.

 

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10 hours ago, Dave John said:

As ever Mikkel, well researched and a lovely model. 

 

An interesting basis for a cameo scene perhaps ? 

 

Thanks Dave. Yes the plan is to do a cameo in the station forecourt, á la the postcards above with passengers and drivers milling about.

 

Station buses weren't just a rural thing. Although many were operated to connect outlying stations with nearby stations/villages/hotels, some companies also operated services in the big cities. The LNWR  had some very stylish London services (apart from the one below there are photos of LNWR omnibuses branded Euston-Waterloo and Euston-Charing Cross).

 

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Caption: Horse bus with solid rubber tyres, Cardington Street, Euston, London, 14 September 1904. The London & North Western Railway horse-drawn bus was used to carry passengers to and from the station. Source: Getty images, embedding permitted.

 

 

1 hour ago, Nick Holliday said:

Lovely model. I must do something with a similar kit stashed away somewhere.  Just a thought though, highlighted by the excellent close-up photos; most pictures of similar vehicles seem to show a polished metal (brass?) circular cover plate in the centre of the hub, which I think would set your model off a treat.

 

Thank you Nick. I look forward to seeing your build. Good point about the metal centers, they don't feature in the kit but really should be there, as can be seen in this crop of the prototype photo: 

 

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I think it would require quite a bit of work to the wheel centers to produce this, so it may be too late in this case. But thanks for pointing it out. I must pay more attention to wheels. I do have some nice wheels made by Chris, but they did not fit here.

 

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Another excellent model. I have been thinking about making the slightly larger two-horse version, which ran between Highbridge GWR station and Burnham around 1890, that I have seen in a book of old photographs of Burnham and Highbridge, using Scale Model Scenery wheels and wagon springs. That one has GWR on the panels on either side of the windows. The lamp is in front of the main cabin. Between the ribs on the side is what appears to be 'Highbridge Station via Burnham', which makes me think that this was on a changeable destination board, with perhaps 'Berrow (or Brean) via Burnham' on the back.

On the subject of drivers there are a number of military drivers that could be used, with a bit of fettling of pockets, puttees and headgear, from this one-man manufacturer - http://www.wdmodels.com/page3.html . That's the figures page. There is a separate page for horse-drawn vehicles. I like his horses. I am not sure whether the harnesses are suitable for civilian use but they look ok to me. His products are very detailed. He uses a mixture of white metal and resin - not in the same model as a rule. His motorcycles have even got tiny etched parts. I have a pack of these which I am plucking up courage put together. Edit March 2023 - regrettably this firm now seems to be out of business.

Edited by phil_sutters
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1 hour ago, Mikkel said:

Thank you for that link, Mikkel.  After recent visits to the splendid Reading Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), I bought the book 'The English Farm Wagon' by J.G.Jenkins.  Plenty of food for modelling thoughts!

 

I've also built the 'Scale Link' etched brass kit of the horse bus, which brought its own problems but did include the luggage rails and horizontal beading on the sides.  A combination of the two kits might make a good solution.  The roof laths run in the opposite direction on the 'Scale Link' kit.  It had never occurred to me that the real solution might be a cross lattice.

 

Mike

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3 hours ago, Miss Prism said:

The luggage is very eye-catching. I want to know more.

 

That's not eye-catching. This is eye-catching:

 

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Postcard posted in 1906. Location not clear, but seems to be Seaton. Vehicle quite similar to the one discussed here, but not identical and not GWR. Source: http://www.gail-thornton.co.uk/public-vehicles/omnibus.php

 

Or did you mean the 4mm luggage? The trunk and suitcases are painted Dart Castings items (ref L109). The bigger wicker baskets are Hornby, the smaller ones Piko. More about the baskets in this post:  

 

 

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3 hours ago, phil_sutters said:

Another excellent model. I have been thinking about making the slightly larger two-horse version, which ran between Highbridge GWR station and Burnham around 1890, that I have seen in a book of old photographs of Burnham and Highbridge, using Scale Model Scenery wheels and wagon springs. That one has GWR on the panels on either side of the windows. The lamp is in front of the main cabin. Between the ribs on the side is what appears to be 'Highbridge Station via Burnham', which makes me think that this was on a changeable destination board, with perhaps 'Berrow (or Brean) via Burnham' on the back.

On the subject of drivers there are a number of military drivers that could be used, with a bit of fettling of pockets, puttees and headgear, from this one-man manufacturer - http://www.wdmodels.com/page3.html . That's the figures page. There is a separate page for horse-drawn vehicles. I like his horses. I am not sure whether the harnesses are suitable for civilian use but they look ok to me. His products are very detailed. He uses a mixture of white metal and resin - not in the same model as a rule. His motorcycles have even got tiny etched parts. I have a pack of these which I am plucking up courage put together.

 

Thanks Phil. That two-horse version sounds fascinating. The few photos in Kelley's volumes are either ex-works, or taken by the GWR at a time when the vehicles were phased out and the company was considering whether to preserve some of them (sadly I don't think they did).

 

So there are not - as far as I can see - all that many known photos showing GWR labelled horse-drawn omnibuses in actual everyday service. Finding them will probably require browsing through local photo collections to see if a GWR vehicle happens to have been captured, as in your case. 

 

Regarding liveries, photos suggest quite a variety of different fonts and positions around the turn of the century, including some seemingly experimental styles that I haven't seen before.

 

The WD kits are excellent. I have a couple of the lorries stashed away for a "some day" 1919 layout, as the GWR bought some of them after WW1.

 

 

2 hours ago, MikeOxon said:

Thank you for that link, Mikkel.  After recent visits to the splendid Reading Museum of English Rural Life (MERL), I bought the book 'The English Farm Wagon' by J.G.Jenkins.  Plenty of food for modelling thoughts!

 

I've also built the 'Scale Link' etched brass kit of the horse bus, which brought its own problems but did include the luggage rails and horizontal beading on the sides.  A combination of the two kits might make a good solution.  The roof laths run in the opposite direction on the 'Scale Link' kit.  It had never occurred to me that the real solution might be a cross lattice.

 

Mike

 

Thanks Mike, the Jenkins book does sound good. A new challenge for your 3D printer?

 

I had forgotten that you built the Scale Link version also. As you say both kits seem to have their drawbacks. One thing neither seems to have incorporated is the extra sloping seat for the driver. This can be seen on some other omnibuses too. Perhaps it allows a semi-standing position so as not to be pulled forward and lose control if the horse does unexpected things?

 

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31 minutes ago, Mikkel said:

That's not eye-catching. This is eye-catching

...or bridge catching (I think there's a current thread about that on RMweb).

 

Lovely model of a period piece: horse, luggage, the lot.  The drivers quite commonly had a lap cover (blanket/ macintosh?) which may help in converting some other body to the joys of "driving". Nosebag for the horse hanging on the back?

 

Kit PW

Swan Hill - https://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/blogs/blog/2502-swan-hill/

 

 

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Hmm. Goods horses and passenger horses. Presumably a different tractive effort formula applied. Your high-stepping passenger horse certainly looks the thing!

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Mikkel,

What a lovely vehicle.  I can think of one or two seated Stadden figures who might do for a driver, or will you have him standing on his seat checking the luggage?

 

I need to think about Cambrian Omnibuses, if that is not over kill for the short ride to the hotels.  Umm........

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Absolutely beautiful work! I had been toying with the idea of a horse bus for Nampara and now I’m convinced. I’ll have to do some research into 1890 prototypes and whether to have a company or private example.

Duncan

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17 hours ago, kitpw said:

...or bridge catching (I think there's a current thread about that on RMweb).

 

Lovely model of a period piece: horse, luggage, the lot.  The drivers quite commonly had a lap cover (blanket/ macintosh?) which may help in converting some other body to the joys of "driving". Nosebag for the horse hanging on the back?

 

Kit PW

Swan Hill - https://www.rmweb.co.uk/community/index.php?/blogs/blog/2502-swan-hill/

 

 

 

Thank you Kit.  A lap cover is a good idea for a figure conversion. Several photos also show omnibus drivers with bowlers - even on GWR vehicles, see for example this photo:

 

https://dartmoorexplorations.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/7-c-1-1536x1006.jpg

 

I have bene wondering whether such photos are misleading though, i.e. they could be staged and showing a customer holding the reins for the sake of the photo. For example, I wonder who is the actual driver in this photo:

 

https://photographs.museumofcornishlife.co.uk/Search/Detail/1273/?referrer=%2FThemes%2F%3FTransport

 

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10 minutes ago, Mikkel said:

For example, I wonder who is the actual driver in this photo:

 

https://photographs.museumofcornishlife.co.uk/Search/Detail/1273/?referrer=%2FThemes%2F%3FTransport

 

 

Driver is still in the taproom. The portly yokel is just there to hold the ladder and give the young ladies a firm friendly push-up when the young gents aren't looking.

Edited by Compound2632
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16 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

Hmm. Goods horses and passenger horses. Presumably a different tractive effort formula applied. Your high-stepping passenger horse certainly looks the thing!

 

Here's an earlier attempt  at a Farthing horsepower classification system :rolleyes:. All figures are Dart Castings. I have used and modified the 1:87 one for other vehicles, as the larger ones can be visually overpowering. 

 

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On the subject of omnibus horses, we may turn to chapter 1 in W.J. Gordon's "The Horse World of London" which deals with omnibus nags. It's an amusing read, e.g.:

 

"Most of these mares are English, some of them are Irish, only a few of them are foreign - that is, according to the dealer, if he can be trusted in his verbal guarantee of nationality. [...]

 

Let us be off to some typical yard to see how these horses live and how they are cared for; and let the yard be one of the newest, say, that at Chelverton Road. Here are the 375 horses working the 'white bus' line from Putney to Liverpool Street. The white 'buses are well known for their trimness. Their colour precludes their being carelessly looked after, but they are no better kept than the others. Like the rest, they are cleaned and overhauled every morning, their locks looked to, their tires examined, their wheels tapped, just as if they were railway carriages, the minor repairs being done on the spot, the more serious being executed at Highbury.

 

Each of these omnibuses has its driver, its conductor, and its stud of ten or eleven horses, the eleven being required when the vehicle does its four full trips and a short one in a day. The full trip averages three hours and a half, and the day's work thus employs eight horses, giving each pair in turn a day's rest, but the extra short trip means an extra horse and a different system of relief, which we can deal with later on.

 

The horses are of all colours, bay, roan, brown, chestnut, grey, and that most promising of all colours, flea-bitten grey, which is seldom worn by a bad horse. All over the country, at the fairs and the provincial stables, buyers are at work for the company, picking out the peculiar class of horse which will best bear the constant stopping and starting of the London omnibus traffic.

 

When an omnibus is full it weighs three and a quarter tons, a considerable weight for a pair to start. Think of it, ye exigent women, who rather than walk a yard will stop an omnibus twice in a minute; the sudden stopping and starting, so often unnecessary, taking more out of a horse than an hour's steady tramp on the level, and being the chief cause of the London horse's poor expectation of life."

 

Etc. The rest is here: https://www.victorianlondon.org/publications6/horse-01.htm

 

Edited by Mikkel
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"The London General Omnibus Company are the greatest users of living horse power in London. They have, in round numbers, ten thousand horses, working a thousand omnibuses."

 

Now there's an interesting confirmatory statement. I have been looking at the Midland Railway's annual returns of working stock, which includes horses, carts etc., and motor vehicles. At its peak, before the Great War, the Midland had a little over 5,000 horses, all but 160 of which were for cartage and omnibus work. (The 160 were for shunting.) From about 1916, there was a steady acquisition of motor vehicles; first electric, then, after the war, petrol. (This wartime change may have been stimulated by the army's demand for horses.) It's clear from the figures that one motor vehicle replaced ten horses, more or less. 

 

On the other hand, the number of carts, drays, and other horse-drawn vehicles remained constant, at around 7,000, which suggests rather low utilisation - a lot of time spent standing around at depots waiting o be loaded or unloaded.

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Incidentally, I've noticed the spelling "tire" here and also in Ahron's The British Steam Locomotive 1825-1925, published in to twenties, rather than the preferred modern British English spelling "tyre".

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