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Modelling Edwardian/Victorian Roads

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I have been looking at the Getty Images pages that go with the first image.  On the third page there is a picture of a road in Brixton with the tramway in the middle with setts and Macadam outside that.  The date is 1912.

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Tramways were normally responsible for the maintenance of the road surface of the part of the road they used.  I believe that this was first a requirement in Liverpool as a part of the permission to build a tramway.

 

Setts were hardwearing and needed less maintenece than other surfaces available at the time.  They could also be lifted and replaced when the track needed repair.

 

I canot remember my original source of the informaton, but there are a number of references on the web.

 

David

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Setts provided the road surface around a tramway but served no role in holding the track in pace - the rails were substantial pieces of steel held to gauge by cross-bars. 

 

Going back to the OP photo at Poplar, what convinces me more than anything that the roadway is surfaced with something other than setts is the clear demarcation of the end of the setts on the road or yard access on the right. If the main road was surfaced with setts coated with muck, the latter would have spread over the side road in an irregular fashion.

 

Setts are certainly noisy - especially with pneumatic-tyred motor cars tearing past, as living in Paris for a couple of years taught me. Tearing is the word - it's a noise like the ripping of large sheets of paper. The noises would have been different with horse-drawn traffic - the constant striking if iron horseshoes on stone.

Edited by Compound2632
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Road Surfaces outside London probably need to be viewed on old photo sites, like Francis Firth, (Bala 1908), or Old UK Photos, (Baldock Hertfordshire 1930).  Both helpful, when they have the right photo and frustrationg when they do not.

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On the subject of road surfacing, some years ago, I noticed end grain timber "setts" appeared when the asphalt road surface was taken up for repair at the south end of Putney bridge and I recalled my grandfather describing a motorcycle accident he'd had in the early 1900s in just this spot, resulting from a slippery road surface, so I was greatly interested to see the cause of this long remembered incident. There is a fascinating and informative article at this web reference  http://www.endgrain.org.uk/history/ which describes the use, extent of use and advantages of end grain cobbles – good for horses apparently, quiet (particularly for railway stations) and hardwearing.  

Kit PW

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Thanks for that link, Kit. It confirms what is said in the article by the London Industrial Archaelogical Society about the widespread use of wood until a much later date than I would have thought. It also seems to suggest that it was used extensively outside London.

 

I.e. the page in your link says:

 

Quote

London boasted wood-block streets as early as 1840. By 1915, wood-block paving was in general use in cities and large towns across Britain.

 

[...]  London’s most famous streets were still covered in wood blocks until the 1920s and a few into the 1930s. ‘Bartholomew’s Road Surface Map of London’ from 1922, shows most of London’s roads surfaced with wooden blocks. A copy is held by the National Library of Scotland. However, by 1925, wood paving was finished as a road material and was replaced with tarmacadam.

 

 

Interesting stuff!

 

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Putting Setts around tram rails was probably to give a hard wearing surface adjoining the rail.

This would ensure that you wouldnt end up with a pothole with a rail stood proud of the worn surface resulting in a potentially dangerous hazard.

 

Pete

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On 07/01/2020 at 23:38, Compound2632 said:

Setts provided the road surface around a tramway but served no role in holding the track in pace - the rails were substantial pieces of steel held to gauge by cross-bars. 

 

 

 

Yes, I was well aware of the heavy cross-bracing, but if the track were to become slewed, it is this cross bracing that would put it out of gauge.  To be clearer I should have written to keep track in place and hence in gauge.

 

I have no idea whether a tramway in a Macadam surface could be slewed sideways but I would not discount it absolutely.

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As a counter-example to tramways in setts, here's a tramway in what looks like a typically horse-manured surface - but what lies below?

 

Northampton_Trams.jpg.4f4e9aafc6bdc8e55c4dd8e28e6920c4.jpg

 

Northampton Corporation trams outside the Cock Hotel, Kingsthorpe, Northampton, circa 1905, from Wikipedia.

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Posted (edited)

The more I look at that Northampton road the more interesting it gets. Working from outside in, we have: smooth paving slabs; a rougher area possibly intended to be grass; kerb; a further grassy area with trodden pathway; the roadway itself with its surface dirt. The kerb in the left foreground shows a hint of a gutter, possibly laid with setts. 

 

It's winter, so the supposedly grassy areas are turning to mud and are unlikely to recover completely in spring - so will be very dusty by summer. A very familiar situation...

 

The 1899 OS 25" map shows the topography, including the tram passing place. 

Edited by Compound2632
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Here is the Tramways Act 1870 as enacted. (It is still current but amended by later acts.)  It would appear that the local authority could specify what surface it should be where the tramway was, so perhaps it was the local councils who insisted on the setts

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18 hours ago, Compound2632 said:

Working from outside in, we have: smooth paving slabs; a rougher area possibly intended to be grass; kerb; a further grassy area with trodden pathway; the roadway itself with its surface dirt. The kerb in the left foreground shows a hint of a gutter, possibly laid with setts. 

 

Yes, and one of the modelling challenges here is that all this is counter-intuitive from a modern perspective.  E.g. smooth paving slabs next to a 'dirt' road. Or a muddy public road alongside a goods yard neatly paved with setts, as per the OP.

 

As I'm experiencing right now, that easily comes to look 'not right' and confusing on a model, because we expect the world to be arranged in a certain way. 

 

Edited by Mikkel
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When I was involved with some work on Tower Bridge I came across a large pile of wooden plugs, slightly larger than bottle corks, and was told that they were used to surface the bridge roadway, being set upright in bitumen, and intended to keep the noise down as the bridge deck itself was metal. This was in the eighties, but I don't know when, or even if, the practice stopped.

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1 hour ago, Mikkel said:

 

As I'm experiencing right now, that easily comes to look 'not right' and confusing on a model, because we expect the world to be arranged in a certain way. 

 

 

This exact sentiment is something I was talking about (to myself) the other day while trying to explain my choice of railway era. As a simile, you can talk to your parents about their trials and tribulations, hopes and dreams. Hopefully you can talk to your grandparents about it too. But when you get to your great grandparents, you're really diverging from any common ground beyond the basest of human emotion/feeling because their life context was so different - and your great-great grandparents may as well be aliens from another planet. This is why, IMO, it's very hard to attract people to 'early railways' beyond a superficial level because the conventions we associate with railways (such as the rough shape of carriages, locomotives, the speed at which things happen, the size and shape of platforms and signals, etc. have been so thoroughly ingrained in us that to diverge - even with the tacit acceptance that this is a whole new kettle of fish - looks very jarring.

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Rather earlier than the Victorian period but a good example of how complex a stone road surface can be.

Cobbles at either side and in the middle in order for the horses to get some grip. Flags for the wheels to give a quieter and smoother ride. Cross strips for smaller carts to access buildings on either side of the main road way. 

Almost as complicated as laying railway track.

Further to the right there is some inset railway track, narrow gauge, but not in an easy location to photograph from a public area.

Bernard

 

1-DSC_0434.JPG.dc277065b5f2ecb8b0250f835e31f1f4.JPG

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I came across some wooden cobbles in Clapham High Street, on a manhole cover, presumably for weight reasons. In the Ulster Transport Museum, they said that they were also commonplace outside hospitals for reasons of noise, which I guess was the usual reason they showed up.

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Whatever the proper name for wooden blocks used as a road surface, they were fairly common for noise control - don’t know if they might also have been cheap - always laid ‘end on’ so that the grain runs up/down, rather than across.

 

The use of high quality, expensive, surfaces around street tramways was a source of lots of arguments - the highway authorities prescribed it at great cost to the tramways, even where the rest of the road was ‘rubbish’, and these costs are often cited as having seriously held back tramway deployment in Britain.

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On 10/01/2020 at 17:27, Nearholmer said:

Whatever the proper name for wooden blocks used as a road surface, they were fairly common for noise control - don’t know if they might also have been cheap -

Doubt they were particularly cheap. the only ones I have seen (usual caveat) have been lignum vitae, a very hard tropical wood and therefore a more expensive import rather than the more readily available native wood. from Wikipedia: "On the Janka scale of hardness, which measures hardness of woods, lignum vitae ranks highest of the trade woods, with a Janka hardness of 4500 lbf (compared with Olneya at 3260 lbf, African blackwood at 2940 lbf, hickory at 1820 lbf, red oak at 1290 lbf, yellow pine at 690 lbf, and Balsa at 100 lbf."

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The article linked to in Kit PW's post above  discusses the different types used, including:

 

Quote

The first examples of endgrain cobbles in London were round or hexagonal and some still remain today. The first cobbles were made from imported Swedish softwoods, which were later replaced by Australian hardwoods, including Jarrah and Kari Eucalyptus. Other British cities opted for Jarrah cobbles

 

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Yes, wooden setts around tram tracks were commonplace outside hospitals and in some cases churches.   Interesting to note that 'granite tramways' were laid on Vauxhall Bridge in London when it was built and had to be removed to lay the conduit tramway.

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