Pioneering Mansfield Services

Enticed by profitable coal haulage, locomotives steamed through Huthwaite from the 1880s.   Rewards came by opening a Woodend station and adding villagers their own Whiteborough passenger platform. Trains certainly revolutionised distant journeys, while upon local roads the horse still reigned. Carrier carts may have ferried station goods and passengers, but still kept up convenient links between towns.

Greater competition facing Huthwaites established carters came through 20th century introduction of an electric tramway. That Mansfield connection is vaguely recalled by eldest residents, who could argue its passenger service was our first motorised road connection directly linking towns. It may therefore surprise most to find pioneering attempts first made inroads years before by this Mansfield Motor Car company.

The Steam Char-a-banc

April 1898 dates when an enterprising group registered their Mansfield Motor Car Company Ltd.   Its founding Chairman was William Chadburn who, with other directors named as George Fish, Frederick Hameyer, John Ward, Frederick Robinson MD and Robert Vallance placed an order from East Cowes on the Isle of Man to commence constructing a magnificent new type of vehicle called an omnibus.

The group planned introducing this form of horseless carriage to extend local carter journeys, 1898 Daimleroffering potential passengers more frequent and reliable daily services.   Manufacturing problems did delay delivering their machine, during which wait a June demonstration allowed inspection of the newly available Daimler Wagonette Car.   That smaller petrol engined carriage attracted agreeable attention for their possible future use. The example shown recognises the advent of privately owned modern motor cars

But later that month in June, on a Thursday afternoon their steam powered omnibus finally arrived. As can be well imagined the unusual sight attracted great attention along lengthy journey from Cowes. Its progress through Sutton-in-Ashfield drew reportedly excited crowds who witnessed this unique machine being driven along the roads.

Design had kept its weight below two ton restrictions, above which would otherwise enforce 5mph speed limits set for all heavier road vehicles Paraffin fueled its high pressure boiler reaching over 200psi.   Seating capacity allowed for 22 passengers, althought that number could easily be doubled if wished by simply pulling a similar sized trailing car.   The only serious concern voiced by owners was the supplied rubber tyres, a choice they described as being too sensitive for our roads.   Thoughts for ordering a second vehicle however did raise future hopes for incorporating an improved wheel design.

Held by Mansfield Museum is the following photograph of that actual omnibus, or as more familiarly called a charabanc. Pioneer the Steam Omnibus Aptly christening their new steam powered vehicle named Pioneer, owners quickly put it into regular working service commencing 1st July 1898.   Fares roughly calculated out a penny per mile along longer daily passenger routes set between Warsop and Huthwaite.

Other journeys exploring Nottingham Road and a longer excursion into the Dukeries also proved successful, according to a report one week later. They described operations faultless and punctual while running some 50 to 60 miles daily without mishap.   Well, at least until returning from a successful Horticulture Show on Saturday 22nd that same month.

Official explanations claimed motor failure had been caused by friction due to an oversight, suggesting tyres possibly even removed had given excessive vibration.   One gentlemens outfitter called Matthews & Sons took this opportunity for humorously placing an advertisement suggesting damage resulted from overloading, because so many of their customers had purchased sales garments.   Their own promotion offered clients payment for return fares, while obviously predicting quick repairs. Eventual rebuild claimed use of stronger replacement parts before the Pioneer recommenced services ending August. Unfortunately, no better rubber tyres ever did materialise, which apparently forced the troubled vehicle out of service soon after.   Last remnants of it found in 1930s, stood behind todays museum.

A fast and somewhat sad ending for this dinosaur among early engineering. Crippled it would seem by the poor condition of our roads that long presented difficulty achieving faster motor carriage.   Pot holed highways and cobbled pedestrian streets carried weight of slow large wheeled wooden carts. This introduction into alternative motor transport quickly proved mechanically devastating without smoother surfaces or pneumatic tyres.   Reasons why public transit swiftly progressed upon rails or tramlines.

Written 26 Oct 02 Revised 15 Jan 12 © by Gary Elliott