1st Trams operate in London

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History on 23rd March

1st Trams operate in London

Bayswater, London The 23rd of March 1861 AD

The appositely named George Francis Train began operating his trams along the Bayswater Road in London, from Notting Hill to Marble Arch , on March 23 1861. Not for the first or last time Liverpool , or more specifically in this case Birkenhead , had got there before London, the American Train having demonstrated the system in that town the previous year.
The tram proved a commercial success, because of the smooth and even rails needing just two horses to pull a nominal 32 passengers, though it is seems more like 50 could crowd on the vehicles. This gave them an advantage over horse drawn omnibuses bumping over cobbles and potholes, and thus able to carry only half the number. The bus operators joined soon with the cabbies also hit by the innovation, and the well-to-do residents along the route who objected to the grinding noise of metal wheel on iron track spoiling their peace and quiet. Add to those problems the design quirk that made the rails stand slightly proud of the road, with resultant problems for other users, and the experiment as it stood was doomed.
Train opened two more lines in 1861, one from Westminster Bridge to Kennington Park, the other along the Victoria Road, but before the year was out he was arrested for ‘breaking and injuring’ the public highway and his business folded.
Some of Train’s other exploits are worthy of mention: he was probably the spark for Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 days, though Train accomplished the feat in just 67; he supported Australian republican revolutionaries, and was imprisoned for his trouble; he was one of the founders of the Union Pacific Railroad; and he made a fortune as a Boston shipping magnate. London’s loss was perhaps the world’s gain.

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