First electric trams begin running in London
The Victorian era was one of industrial and engineering innovation in a climate of social conservatism. In transport this was the golden age of the railway, and the surge of the steamship. Urban transport too was revolutionised with the rapid growth of the tram system, initially horse-drawn but eventually powered. And though the first full electric tram service would not be established in London (actually Croydon ) until the last year of Victoria ’s reign, 1901, the first trial of an electric tram took place there as early as 1883, when the West Metropolitan Tramway Line which ran between Acton and Kew saw tests on a revolutionary vehicle.
This first London electric tram was perhaps an opportunity missed: it was powered by storage batteries, a technology very much in its infancy in 1883. Had the company persevered and perfected the system much might have changed. In local terms it was resistance by Kew residents to the installation of ugly overhead electric cables for the trams that was the final nail in the coffin of the line that served that suburb, a line already losing money. But more significantly the cityscapes worldwide spoiled by overhead wires might have been entirely different had the West Metropolitan set the trend with battery powered vehicles. And we may wonder if transport technology had taken that route would the internal combustion engine have dominated the 20th century as it did, with the serious consequences we are becoming more aware of in the 21st.
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From Seydi on 10th March 2010
Well written! Good & informative little article.
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