The Story of Road Transport

by Bernard Taylor

Recently, I was very fortunate to be loaned bound copies of “The Midland Red Magazine” dated 1933/5. The company itself has very fond memories and indeed the garage at Bearwood has strong family connections. Iris’s first job was in the offices of the Midland Red and her dad, Ivor Davies, was one of the first motorway coach drivers and later driving instructor at Bearwood. Iris’s uncle, Frederick Austin, was an Inspector and my uncle Ernie Smith was a chief mechanic there after doing his training in the Army. So, as you can imagine, I perused the magazines with delight.

Alec G Jenson wrote one of the articles that was serialised in the second and third book. I would imagine that Alec is no longer with us, given that he would be about 40 when the article was published in 1934. However, I am sure that he or is family wouldn’t mind me sharing his knowledge with you.


Hackney Coach introduced, representing the first provision of public transport, as these vehicles could be hired by anyone desirous of using them. Charles I endeavoured unsuccessfully to restrict their numbers to overcome traffic congestion in London.


“Carrosses a cinq sous,” introduced by Blaise Pascal in Paris.


Replacement of wood beam "tram"' by cast iron rails at the Coalbrookdale Iron Works in Shropshire.


Hackney Coach introduced into Birmingham


Trevithick and Vinian built a steam carriage, which ran at 8 m.p.h. in London.


Four-wheeled cab introduced, later known as the “growler."


Tramway or Horse Railway opened between Gloucester and Cheltenham for conveyance of passengers and goods.


Omnibus service between Nantes and Richebourg Bathing Establishment commenced by the proprietor of the latter, M. Baudry, a retired French Army Officer, Baudry invented the term omnibus


Omnibus service between the “White Swan,” Snow Hill and the "Sun," Bristol Road, Birmingham by John Doughty, a fishmonger.


George Shillibeer started the first regular London bus service (4th July) between " The Yorkshire Stingo" near Paddington and the Bank, via Islington.


Street tramway laid between New York and Harlem, U.S.A


Steam Coach successfully run by Dr. Church on the London Road from Birmingham as far as Stonebridge. A speed of 10 miles per hour was attained and the coach seated forty.


Joseph Aloysius Hansom, a Birmingham architect patented the two-wheeled cab known as the "Hansom.



Stockton and Darlington railway opened.


London and Birmingham railway opened.


Double-deck horse omnibus first operated in Birmingham on the Bristol Road by Joseph Brookes.


Roof seats provided on London buses. These were of the so called "knifeboard" or back to back longitudinal pattern and were adopted generally in London, Birmingham and elsewhere as standard for about thirty years.


First street tramway for passenger transport in this country laid along the line of Liverpool Docks by W. J. Curtis.


George Francis Train opened his tramway at Birkenhead with much ceremony and negotiated an agreement to lay a tramway in Birmingham, which agreement fell through.


Birmingham “Improvement Act” granting the Corporation powers to lay tramways themselves



General Omnibus Company of Birmingham formed and introduced a standard pattern omnibus.


"Tramways Act" passed controlling the laying of tramways.


First tramway in the Birmingham district opened from Hockley Brook to Dudley Port with horse cars to a 4ft. 81/2in. gauge and operated by the Birmingham & District Tramways Co., Ltd. First steam tram in England designed by John Grantham as a combined engine and carriage and tried in London using a body from the Oldbury Carriage & Wagon Works.


First tramway in the Borough of Birmingham opened from Hockley Brook to Monmouth Street (Colmore Row), afterwards extended and operated as a through service from Handsworth to Bristol Road.


Birmingham Tramways and Omnibus Co., Ltd. formed to take over the Birmingham & District Tramway Co. Ltd. Downes steam tram locomotive constructed by Messrs. Hughes & Company of Loughborough tried on the Handsworth line where it pulled four loaded cars.


Allsop's Birmingham General Omnibus co., Ltd. Registered.


Leamington & Warwick Tramways & Omnibus Co. Ltd. commenced operating horse trams between Leamington and Warwick.


First regular steam trams service opened in Birmingham between Birmingham and Aston by the Birmingham & Aston Tramways Co., Ltd. Worcester horse tramways opened.


Coventry and District Tramways commenced operating steam trams in Coventry.


Transverse or Garden seats" introduced on upper decks of omnibuses. Penny fares introduced on Birmingham Tramways.


Birmingham raised to status of "City". Cable trams commenced operating on the Handsworth route in Birmingham.


Accumulator electric trams commenced operation on the Bristol Road route in Birmingham.


London General Omnibus Co., Ltd. introduced roll ticket check system, thereby causing a strike, which only lasted a week. First overhead electric trolley tramway opened in England at Leeds.


Overhead electric trolley tramway opened in Walsall by the South Staffordshire Tramways Company, the second in England.


London General Omnibus Co., Ltd. introduced the Bell Punch Ticket system.


British Electric Traction (Pioneer) Co., Ltd. registered to develop electric tramways, name subsequently changed to the British Electric Traction Co., Ltd. The Coventry & District Tramways Co., Ltd. tramways electrified.


A number of Birmingham independent omnibus proprietors amalgamated and formed the Birmingham and District Omnibus Co., Ltd. Abolition of the archaic legislation restricting the speed of mechanically propelled road vehicles to five miles per hour and compelling them to be preceded by a man with a red flag.

City of Birmingham Tramways Co., Ltd. formed by Messrs. William MacKenzie and James Ross, the President and Vice-President of the Toronto and Montreal Street Railway Co. of Canada to take over the Birmingham Central Tramways Ltd. and subsequently other tramways and omnibus operators.


Birmingham General Omnibus Co., Ltd. formed to take over the Birmingham & District Omnibus Co. Ltd. First motor omnibus in London licensed by Scotland Yard and operated between Charing Cross and Victoria.


British Electric Traction Co., Ltd. (B.E.T.) commenced development of its interests in the Birmingham District by obtaining on interest in the Dudley & Stourbridge and District Electric Traction Co., Ltd., which electrified the Dudley-Stourbridge route.

B.E.T. subsidiary, the Kidderminster and Stourport Electric Tramway Co., Ltd. opened the Kidderminster-Stourport Electric Tramway.


B.E.T. acquire control of and operate the Birmingham General Omnibus Co., Ltd., and the shares of the Birmingham and Midland Tramways Ltd. were also acquired.


Wolverhampton Corporation purchased tramways within the Borough with a view to operating. Walsall Corporation purchased tramways within the Borough (already electrified) and released them to the South Staffordshire Tramways Co.


Overhead electric trolley trams adopted on the Bristol Road route, Birmingham.


West Bromwich Corporation purchased tramways within the Borough with a view to electrification releasing to the Companies. Birmingham General Omnibus Co., Ltd. transferred by the B.E.T. to the Birmingham & Midland Tramways Ltd. for operation.

Wolverhampton Corporation opened first section of the Lorain surface contact electric system.


Birmingham Corporation obtained powers to operate the tramways upon the expiry of the various leases. Birmingham Motor Express Co., Ltd. commenced operation of the first motor omnibuses on the Hagley Road and Harborne routes.

Burton-on-Trent electric tramways opened.

Last Steam Tram


Birmingham Corporation commenced operation of the first section of the tramways electrically from Steelhouse Lane to Aston Cross. Birmingham & Midland Motor Omnibus Co., Ltd. registered to take over and operate the horse omnibus departments of Birmingham & Midland Tramways Ltd. (B.G.O. Dept.) and City of Birmingham Tramways Co., Ltd.

Aston Manor Corporation electrified tramways and released to the City of Birmingham Tramways Co, Ltd. Walsall Corporation commenced operation of the electric tramways. Worcester and Leicester tramways electrified.

Stables in Bearwood


Leamington and Warwick tramways electrified. Leamington Motor Omnibus Co., Ltd. commenced operation of motor omnibuses.

British Automobile Traction Go. Ltd. registered to operate motor omnibuses in various parts of the country.

Birmingham & Midland Motor Omnibus Co., Ltd. bought up the Birmingham Motor Express Co., Ltd., this being the first acquisition in the history of the Midland "Red. "


Burton and Ashby electric light railway opened. Last service steam trams leased in Birmingham ceased to operate. Last horse tram ceased to operate in Birmingham.


Birmingham Corporation commenced electric operation of majority of old steam tram routes in the City with certain workings outside the boundary.


Birmingham & Midland Motor Omnibus Co., Ltd abandoned motor omnibus operation in Birmingham and reverted to horse operation. A number of motor omnibuses transferred to Deal and operated there by the Birmingham & Midland Motor Omnibus Co., Ltd. as the Deal & District Services.


Dudley Corporation purchased the tramways in the Borough and released them to the various Companies.


London General Omnibus Co., Ltd. introduced the famous ‘W’ type of bus, the first standardised motor omnibus after experimenting with over thirty different chassis. Similar types subsequently operated in the provincial towns.


Greater Birmingham Bill passed, incorporating Aston Manor, Erdington, Handsworth, King's Norton and Northfield, and Yardley within the extended boundary. The Birmingham & Midland Motor Omnibus Co., Ltd., experimented with a Daimler petrol electric bus.

© QLHS - Bernard Taylor 2006

Ed’s comment-I thought this was an appropriate article considering the March meeting will be “Tramways Old & New”. I do hope you enjoy the adverts, I think they are terrific and evoke such lovely memories. I apologise about the picture quality which was after all a news cutting from the past.

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