The final seminar in this year’s Institute of Historical Research Transport & Mobility History series is on Thursday 24 June, and is a ‘Meet the Archivist’ session:
Philip Kirk: the Bus Archive Thursday 24 June, 5.30pm BST
As ever, the ‘Meet the Archivist’ session allows you the chance to find out more about what a particular archive holds, and to quiz the archivist. Come along to this session to find out more about the extensive collections held across the Bus Archive’s locations.
I’m pleased to let you know that the John Scholes Transport History Prize competition for 2021 is open, with a deadline for submissions of 31 July 2021.
The prize, consisting of £150 of vouchers to spend with SAGE, is awarded annually to the writer of a publishable paper based on original research into any aspect of the history of transport and mobility. The prize is intended to recognise budding transport historians. It may be awarded to the writer of one outstanding article, or be divided between two or more entrants. Typically, the prize is awarded for research completed as part of a PhD.
Publication in the Journal of Transport History will be at the discretion of the Editor and subject to the normal refereeing process.
The prize is named in memory of John Scholes, the first Curator of Historical Relics at the British Transport Commission. The prize is supported by SAGE, publishers of the Journal of Transport History.
Entry is limited to researchers who, at the time of submission, are not yet in or have just commenced a permanent / tenured academic (or equivalent) position, and who are just starting to publish research.
Essays (in English, double-spaced) should not exceed 8,000 words (including footnotes). Sources must be documented fully. Entries must be submitted electronically, to arrive no later than 31 July 2021.
They must not bear any reference to the author or institutional affiliation. Senior scholars will judge entries against criteria of originality, thoroughness and excellence of argument, source use, composition and illustration. The process is ‘double-blind’. The judges will not enter into correspondence.
A cover letter and a one-page CV must demonstrate eligibility for the prize. Entries for the prize should be sent to the JTH Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. The subject line of the message must read ‘John Scholes Prize entry 2021’. In the body of the message please indicate how you found out about the prize.
Electric buses built by Arrival, the UK-based manufacturer, will be tested on British roads for the first time later this year in a trial with the transport company First Group.
The tests will begin in the autumn of this year, starting with four of the first production vehicles produced at Arrival’s research and development facility in Banbury, Oxfordshire. Discussions are under way about further trials with other companies.
Jet-powered snow plow once deployed on B.C. highways
Powerful truck was fitted with a Pratt and Whitney ST6A turbine turboprop engine.
It might sound like a harebrained Homer Simpson creation, but a jet-powered snow plow once existed and was temporarily put to work on B.C. highways.
According to a bit of local highways maintenance history, recently re-shared by the B.C. Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure on its Facebook page, in the early 1960s, the province experimentally fitted a 285-lb ST6A turbine turboprop engine, manufactured by Pratt and Whitney Canada, into a snow plow. The result was a 31,100-lb (unloaded) truck that ran on diesel (but could also run on furnace oil and gasoline), and put out 320 horsepower.
By comparison, the typical truck used weighed 2,000 lbs and put out 250 horsepower.
Hope you’re keeping well, especially under present conditions.
Next week sees the first of this term’s seminars in the Institute of Historical Research ‘Transport & Mobility History’ series – all are welcome, though you will need to book in advance.
The seminar (and all others for this term) will take place via Zoom. Once registered, you will be sent an email containing the link to the seminar ahead of the session. All are welcome.
Thursday 14 January 2021, 5.30pm
Georgina Lockton (Science Museum Group/ University of Leicester)
The Driverless Car in 1960s Britain
This paper examines the origins of the driverless car in Britain by taking an object-centred approach. I use the Road Research Laboratory’s Citroen DS19 as a case study, modified in the 1960s to run in a driverless mode. I discuss the method I devised for using objects as historical sources and apply it to the example of the DS19, which currently rests in the collections of the Science Museum, London. What can be learnt about the history of vehicle automation from looking directly at the car as an artefact and what can documentary sources add to the story? The paper answers these questions by providing a history of the driverless car, including how it worked and why vehicle automation was researched in Britain during the 1960s.
Necessity is the mother of invention, so goes the oft-used cliché.
The old adage proves true in Saskatchewan.
With bitter cold, sweltering sun and winds strong enough to tear through sturdy brick churches, the climate here demands invention.
A lengthy research project from the Western Development Museum (WDM) documents part of the province’s history with patents and their inventors’ gadgets. At almost 600 pages and comprising more than 3,200 patents, it serves as a kind of tinkerer-toiling snapshot of how people made a go of it on the Prairies.
Called Made in Saskatchewan: A Story of Invention, the patents index covers 1905 to 1979, and lists patent holders’ name, location, object name and patent date.
Some of the first items patented here in 1905, when Saskatchewan gained status as a province, include things typical of early settlement: A track laying machine by John Oliver in Battleford; a mower and reaper by Jules Gagne in Jackfish Lake; a twine holder, held jointly by Otto and C. Krienkie in Lemburg.
“In the time before mass-produced goods, Saskatchewan came up with solutions that are really rooted in the place. In that way it’s a really interesting document — just to read through to kind of see what people [were] inventing,” said Elizabeth Scott, the curator at the WDM and a historian.
You can easily see the agrarian demands Saskatchewan’s settlers faced. There are 30 different patents for threshers or some additional piece to go with them. Hay movement yielded 11 different patents, like ones for stacking, racking, bailing and loading the gold stuff.
There are plenty more mundane items, stuff you’d likely find in drawers or sitting in a dusty corner in your storage closet: Clothes hangers, wrenches, a screwdriver, a screw clamp to be used with a screwdriver, a hammer, a wash basin holder, two toy guns.
In April 1933 James Langford received his patent for a self-cleaning comb in Saskatoon.
“(It) was a period of great ingenuity … People had to find made-in-Saskatchewan solutions to the problems they faced with their work,” Scott said.
There’s also an inadvertent reference to events abroad.
In November 1939, shortly after the Second World War started, Wilfred McLean and Lewis Sunderland in Congress received their patents for an anti-aircraft shell. The battle of the Atlantic was underway by then.
The index itself also represents a kind of ingenuity.
Headed by Louise Jones, the compilation-documentation project lasted for about a year from 1978 to 1979, finished without the aid of computers.
WDM staff and volunteers had to comb through 400 volumes of Canadian patents, marking down, all by hand, those with Saskatchewan origins.
“It was a big investment for the museum at the time,” Scott said. “They did go through all of the patent records manually.”
In the late 1970s “everything was done by hand-written research. As computers became more normalized … they did transfer the data to computers,” she said.
It’s unlikely such a document could be compiled today. On March 31, 1976, the Canadian Patent Office stopped recording patentees’ addresses, making it all the more tricky to find where an inventor lived. From then until the end of 1979, Jones and her team could only get a partial list of Saskatchewan-based patentees from the national office, making the index technically incomplete.
Aside from its day-to-day items, you can also find its more iconic ones, like the Fudge Snowplane and the Lorch Snowplane, both on display at the museum’s Moose Jaw branch.
The two vehicles give emphatic nods to an oft-cited irritant on the Prairies: snow.
Despite their names, neither one is made to leave the ground. They look like big, curvy, metal bubbles, mounted on wide wooden skis, with huge plane propellers fastened to their rears.
Both painted red, they’re designed for efficient transport over the snow-covered plains, akin to a winterized hovercraft.
Robert Fudge built his first one in 1929 in Moosomin. His patent for it came 29 years later in 1958.
Karl Lorch got the patent for his Lorch Snowplane in Spy Hill in 1935. A chance visit to a nearby airport sparked his imagination, leading him to mount a five-foot long birch propeller on the back.
Nowadays in Indian Head, Greg Miller is like a 21st-century inventor, though his business Film Rescue International is firmly rooted in the past.
He restores, processes and develops decades-old, sometimes damaged, film (still- and moving-image). His clients want images out of stuff that’s been long buried and expired — in closets, under water and elsewhere.
He first developed his processes in Toronto in the 1970s and 80s, but he’s from Saskatchewan, and returned here in 1999.
“For what we do, we are [pioneers in the film industry], which often surprises me, because I’m not a photo-chemist,” Miller, 56, said.
Though necessity to survive wasn’t his main driver, passion and focus keep him going, like the inventors from decades gone by.
“It was always a lot more fun, the work, because you’re dealing with lost and found film, stuff that people have found in cleaning out estates after someone in the family dies,” he said. “It’s more interesting work.”
This has been a record-breaking year for the Royal Automobile Club Motoring Book of the Year Awards. The six judges have read, scrutinised and discussed no fewer than 32 high-quality submissions before agreeing the six final nominees in both the General and Specialised categories.
In past years, the shortlisted authors, publishers, book trade and personalities from the motoring and publishing world would have gathered at Pall Mall for the traditional event during the Club’s London Motor Week for the awards presentation.
This year, given the restrictions, the winners will be announced in a virtual event which will go on-line at 5pm on Wednesday 28th October.
This year’s nominees were books of remarkable quality and standing, and each of them will be featured during the presentation. The presentation will remain on the Club’s website and on Youtube to continue to honour each of the short-listed titles.
Enjoy the presentation and good luck to the nominees.
In the summer of 1968, a group of friends adapted a double-decker bus and took it on a journey to Eastern Europe. Sponsored by two Scotch whisky-makers, they encountered Soviet tanks, a Romanian beer shortage and a perilous Yugoslavian mountain pass.