Victorian Transport

At the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign, horse-drawn carriages were the main mode of transportation. The Brougham was a popular vehicle for everyday use and was available in two- or four-wheel styles. Upper class families would use a barouche, a fancy four-wheel carriage with a fold-up hood and seats that faced each other. For
those who didn’t own a vehicle, carriages were available for hire.

Country-dwellers relied on open vehicles, such as wagons and drays. These were larger and heavier than carriages, and thus slower. They were useful for moving goods. For longer trips through the country, one could purchase a ticket for a seat in a coach.

Bicycles became popular during the Victorian era. By the 1880s and 1890s, bicycles were widely used both for fun and as a means of transportation. The accessibility of this means of personal transportation contributed to a social uprising as women shed their corsets in favor of attire more compatible with cycling.

With the Industrial Revolution came the widespread use of the steam engine, which, in various forms, was used to drive trains, ships and buses. Railway networks were constructed, providing an efficient means of traveling between urban and rural areas as well as transporting goods. Bus and tram routes were created to connect with the railways, creating an effective and extensive transportation system.

While railways used steam locomotives, the bus system still primarily used horse power. This was due, in large part, to the Red Flag Act of 1865 which prohibited buses and other such vehicles from moving faster than a walking pace of four miles per hour. It also stipulated that a person bearing a red flag must walk in front of the vehicle. This law remained in effect until 1896, at which time motor cars began establishing their place on British roadways.

The steam engine was also the driving force behind the development of the Underground. In 1863, the first underground railway opened in England, and by the 1880s, an extensive underground network allowed passengers to travel between parts of London and beyond.

The use of electricity to power vehicles also grew more sophisticated and useful during the Victorian era. By the early 1880s, some horse- drawn trams were replaced by trolleys powered by electricity through overhead cables. Though slower to take hold than steam powered vehicles, by 1927 an extensive network of electric tramcars laced
through British cities.