Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Boston 1906 video and an alternative history

Intriguing video:  8 minutes of riding through traffic on the front of an electric streetcar in 1906 Boston:

More info here.

Besides being a scene from a different world, I'm amazed by the number of electric streetcars you see - we'd love to have that kind of public transit coverage in modern American cities.

I've been interested in an alternative history where the Golden Age of electric vehicles in the 1910's prevailed and how it could have affected climate change, but this video shows another possibility of urban life based on electric street cars. Obviously electricity wasn't very clean back then, but it still had a lot more possibility to clean up.

Anyway, cool video.


Hank Roberts said...

I read somewhere that gasoline was a waste product from the production of kerosene (widely used for lighting, replacing whale oil). So at the crucial time, internal combustion engines could run on gasoline cheaper than they could run steam engines (external combustion, presumably burning kerosene) or electric on batteries.

Too bad nobody had a lightweight motor-generator to offer.

Russell Seitz said...

You want cheesy biofuel news

Jeffrey Davis said...

It's a pretty slow way to move around. People walk in front of the camera a lot and none of them seem particularly harried. But at the same time, awhile back I scoped out some pages of 1905 death records -- doing genealogy on my 2nd great grandfather -- and death from a streetcar accident was a pretty common way to go. Misjudging the speed of the oncoming tram or falling down while attempting it.

There were lots and lots of horses in 1908, but I remember horse-drawn farm wagons in our neighborhood in the early 1950s. Watermelons. Strawberries. In the 1950s, they came to you. But our neighborhood was so rural in the early 50s that the rest of suburbia didn't catch up for 20 years.

EliRabett said...

Grandpa Bunny was a trolley motorman, handsome devil, and the guys with the horse drawn wagons came around in the middle of Brooklyn well into the 1950s. Speed was not an issue for them.

Brian said...

Hank - in my alternate history, no one invents an electric starter for gas engines, something else happens to make electricity cheaper, and some other social or technological change makes high-rises cheaper/more feasible. All that could keep electric streetcars as the dominant transit.

Or electric cars could be dominant with some version of the above plus a system of switching out batteries to deal with range issues.

Jeffrey - you're right they're slow. Other than drive mostly on the right, there doesn't seem to have been much in the way of road rules.

Maybe if horse traffic were kept off of street car lanes then they could've gone faster.

Jim Eager said...

Where I live riding a streetcar is something plenty of people do all day long because we never ripped them all out. They still go slow where they have to share the road with cars, but not at all slow where they have their own right of way down the middle of the street. Oh, and some people still try to cross the street in front of them, and some of them still get hit.