Edwardian Brake Tests

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Edwardian Brake Tests

THROUGH the thoughtfulness of a Police Officer at New Scotland Yard we have been sent a copy of Clearway, the Traffic Magazine of the Metropolitan Police, which contains an interesting account of some brake tests carried out between horse-drawn and motor vehiclss at the Crystal Palace in June 1905, under the promotion of S. F. Edge. The papers turned up recently in an old Registry docket but the identity of the Police observer is unknown.

S. F. Edge — who else? — was obviously intent on proving the comparative safety of motors compared to horse-drawn vehicles. To do this he caused to be present for the tests shoe variety of wheeled vehicles. There were a 30 h.p. six-cylinder (naturally!) Napier touring-car, a 15 h.p. De Dion Bouton touring-car, a 15 h.p. Napier touring-car and a 90 h.p. Napier racing-car, against which were ranged, respectively. a carrier’s van, a carriage, a hut, hers toot’s hansom cab and a racing sulky. public were permitted to watch the tests but

red flags were waved if anyone invaded the course, such was the confidence placed in the braking systems to be tricd out! Time-keepers were able to check the speed of each vehicle before they gave it the signal to stop. The runs started at 12.30 and the results were soon seen to greatly favour the cars, as Edge may have anticipated. The motor mail-van pulled up in 86. and 9 ft., whereas the horse van took 28 ft. and then 24 ft. 2 in. The 30 h.p. Napier stoppcd in 2 ft. 6 in., 106. and 186. in three tests, vvhereas the horse-carriage required respective distances of 53 ft., 47 ft. 6 in. and 42 ft. 10 in., to render it safely stationary. The De Dion was pitted against the hansom-cab, with results of 1 ft. 6 in. and 7 ft. 9 in. compared to the cab’s 24 ft. 6 in. and 33 ft. The 15 h.p. Napier came to rest when signalled to do to in 9 ft. 3 in. and 14 ft. 3 in., when the butcher’s cart from the same speeds needed 50 ft.

5 in. and 38 ft. 5 in. Finally, the big racing Napier (probably “Samson”) took 246. 3 in. and 26. t. 6 in. in two separate wsts, the sulky 356. and 436.

6 in. On the face of it, convincing proof of either how safe cars were, how unsafe horse-vehicles, or both. One wonders, however, at what speeds the stop-signals were given; for the De Dion to pull up in only 18 in. in one test suggests a mere crawl. In vintage times it took a good car to come to a standstill from 30 m.p.h. in 30 to 40 feet, to in 1905, when all the cars would have had brakes acting on the back wheels only, it seems that the pace was well under 30 m.p.h., especially as the test-surface was soft gravel. This makes sense, as the horses would presumably have been unable to gallop faster.

No doubt S. F. Edge was able to gain much good publicity for the motor-car, and those he was interested in in particular, after these tests. But the Police observer was not to be easily fooled. He noticed, for instance, that Edge had obtained experts to conduct the cars, racing men of the calibre of Cecil Edge, Stocks and Macdonald, etc., whereas the horse-vehicles were driven by “the very ordinary class of man” normally engaged to drive them. The Police observer, while saying that the tests were conducted with perfect impartiality, noted that it would have been more convincing to have had expert horsemen, “such as Winans, Gooch, Butcher, etc.,” which wasn’t the case except for the sulky driver. He also felt that the rnotor mail-van, designed to travel at 12 m.p.h., should have been paired with a fast pair of delivery horses, such as Carter Patterson & Co. used, not a van built to carry 31/2 tons, which rarely went at over 4 m.p.h. even when empty. The Police observer would have liked the chance to see hovv cars performed on macadam, wood and asphalt roads, especially when these were greasy. and when proceeding at their normal speeds — as a policeman he presumabl; meant at up to 20 m.p.h.! However, he felt that the tests promoted by Mr. Edge had shown up the motors in a very favourable light vvhen they were going at the same speed as the horse-vehicles, and thought it a grave reflection on the apathy of coachbuilders that the latter had such inefficient brakes. But he wasn’t fooled; brake power would probably come to the front before long, he said, in his report, and it was very likely that the results of these trials would be quoted as authoritative — he must have known Edge! Sc his comments were regarded as necessary; he One that expert car drivers had been quick to interpret the stop signals; he did tel know what speeds they were going (but expected the motor press to inform him), but threat that stopped dead m 18in. from what looked like seven or eight m.p.h. suggested previous experience of the test procedure! — W.B.