Roads, steam and the alleviation of poverty

I mentioned here Sir James Anderson‘s contract with the Irish Post Office for carrying the mails at 12 mph in steam-powered road-going coaches. I don’t know how that worked out [anyone who observed the coaches between Howth and Dublin is encouraged to leave a Comment below] but in 1841 Sir James was back with a new idea for the use of steam power on Irish roads.

He was joined this time by Jasper W Rogers CE. They produced a pamphlet outlining their idea: Jasper W Rogers Plan proposed by Sir James C Anderson Bart and Jasper W Rogers CE for establishing Steam Carriages for the conveyance of goods and passengers on the mail coach roads of Ireland; also a proposed system for repair of the roads by means of a Road Police, and for telegraphing [Nicholas Walsh, Dublin 1841], which pretty well says it all. The pamphlet is only fifteen pages, so it’s not much longer than its title, and [thanks to Messrs Google] you can read the whole thing here, free of charge.

Essentially, they thought railways would never pay, but that Locomotive Steam Carriages, capable of carrying twenty people, could be used on the roads. They also suggest the use of  “drags” (tractor units): as far as I can gather, they were to be an interim measure until the roads had reached the required standard. The roads would be divided in two: one section for steam and the other for “the general purposes of the country”.

At every mile, a “convenient lodge or cottage” would be built to house three “road police”, with a “chief officer” every ten miles. Their main function would be to repair the roads but they could keep order in their spare time. The cottages would be furnished with [non-electric] telegraphs, each using a “ten-sided hollow revolving figure”.

My favourite bit is this:

In order to give every facility for repair of roads, and at the same time to benefit the labouring population — particularly the aged, decrepid and young, who at all times find difficulty in obtaining occupation — we would recommend that the peasantry be invited to supply broken stone in accordance to sample; delivering same in any quantity not less than 1 cwt at any station on the line.

That could help to solve this problem.

Here is a longer piece about Anderson’s Steam Carriage and Waggon Company of Ireland.

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