Transport has evolved through many centuries….from the use of a wheel on a cart to the launch of a moon rocket. The past 100 years has seen the introduction of many innovative ways to travel, some of which have fallen by the wayside.
My lifetime spans 78 years, so please forgive my indulgence by including the airship, whose future was destroyed by a crash in 1937, two years before I was born.
The first airship was built in 1898/99 by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in a floating hangar on Lake Constance with its first flight taking place on July 12th 1900.
During WW1 airships were used around fifty times to bomb London.
The popularity of airships reached its peak in May 1936 when the Hindenberg carried 50 passengers from Germany to the United States in two and a half days.
Sadly the golden era of the airship came to an abrupt halt in May 1937 when the Hindenberg crashed at Lakehurst, New Jersey, killing 36 people.
Old Fashioned Trams
The world’s first electric tram operated in a town near St Petersburg, Russia in 1880.
Five years later trams came to the UK with the opening of the Blackpool tramway in September, 1885.
The rapid increase in ownership of motor cars after WW2 and improvements to buses led to the abandonment of tramway systems in most Western and Asian Countries by the early 1950s.
For example the last tram ran in London on 6 July 1952.
In 1825 the first steam locomotive carried passengers on a public railway line between Stockton and Darlington in the North East of England. Electric and diesel locomotives gradually replaced steam during the first part of the 20th Century.
The last steam hauled service on the British Railways network ran in 1968.
Charabancs, which originated in France, were four wheeled carriages pulled by up to six horses. They had several rows of forward facing seats and were used to convey guests on excursions.
With the advent of motorised vehicles the charabanc had many more seats and was entered from the rear.
In the North of England mill owners used charabancs to transport their workers on annual day trips to the seaside or races. They had a reputation for being very comfortable and dangerous.
Here is a modernised version of the charabanc.
Three Wheeled Car…..The Reliant Robin
There have been many three wheeled vehicles manufactured over the years, but the one I remember most is the Reliant Robin.
The first Robin (Mk1) rolled off the production line of the Reliant Company in Tamworth, Staffordshire in 1973. A revamped version (Mk2) was launched in 1989, followed by a further facelift (Mk3) in 1999, but production finally stopped in 2002.
The Sinclair C5
Sir Clive Sinclair developed the very successful Sinclair Research range of home computers in the early 1980s.
Following in depth research of electric vehicles, he launched an electrically powered tricycle in January 1985.
It never caught the public’s imagination, mainly because of its short range, low speed and lack of weatherproofing. 14,000 C5s were manufacturted in South Wales, but only 5,000 were sold.
Production was halted in August 1985.
Passenger Carrying Hovercraft
The first person to design a commercial hovercraft was Sir Christopher Cockroft, who built several models in the early 1950s. He tried to sell the concept to the armed forces without success.
Cockcroft finally persuaded The National Research Development Corporation in the UK to fund the construction of a full scale prototype. This hovercraft, built by Saunders Roe, made its first flight in June 1959 and in the following month it flew across the Channel.
Two companies, Hoverlloyd and Seaspeed, began running services across the Channel. The first service, launched by Hoverlloyd, started in Pegwell Bay near Ramsgate in 1966. Eventually the two companies merged to become Hoverspeed in 1975.
The cross channel hovercraft service was phased out 1992 and replaced by SeaCats, which are high speed catamarans.
Most bubble cars were manufactured by Messerschmitt and Heinkel in Germany during the 1950s and ’60s.
The term bubble car originated from the aircraft style bubble canopies.
After the Second World War there was a demand for cheap personal transport with low fuel consumption.
The introduction of the BMC Mini in 1959, followed by the Citroen CV5, proved to be the death knell for the bubble car.
I have included the Vespa as it has a nostalgic appeal to me. I owned one during the 1960s, so I thought that I’d include it on my list, even though it is still available today.
Piaggio, who design and manufacture the Vespa (wasp in Italian), had been building fighter aircraft during WW2. The first Vespa was launched in April, 1946 (see photo below) and soon became a huge success with 2,500 being sold in 1947, 10,000 in 1948 and 60,000 in 1950.
The latest 2017 Vespa, SEI Giorni (£5,500)
If you know of a means of transport that has disappeared in your lifetime please let us know in the comments.
PS We would be most grateful if you would leave a comment or were to share this post. Many thanks. Val and Ian