The first horse drawn tram ran along Victoria Street in London on rails. It was popular with its passengers, but not with officialdom, so inevitably it ran into trouble.

It was the brainchild of an amazing American entrepreneur, George Francis Train. George organised the first clipper to sail around the Horne, was involved in setting up the Union Pacific Railway, as well as the Trans Continental Railway. He came to England during the American Civil War where he came up with the idea of the Horse Tramway Company.

This guy was amazing. It is believed he was the inspiration of Jules Verne’s book Around the World in 80 days, as in 1870 he made the first of his three trips around the world, he did it in 80 days. Amazingly, this included two weeks in a French jail. He got mixed up in the French Commune!

So, why did the horse drawn tram fail? Well, it was the rails that did it. As they stood proud of the road, which from George’s point of view made them easy to lay, and, of course, it was cheaper. However, they made the roads dangerous by causing havoc to horse driven coaches if they got to close. The inevitable result, George was arrested for breaking and injuring the road!

The result was obvious, the tram lines had to be sunk into the road. Eventually Parliament passed legislation allowing tram lines, provided they were sunk, and that the Tram Company agreed to pay for their installation and the upkeep of the whole road into which they were sunk.

What happened to George Train? Well, after returning to the States, standing unsuccessfully for President, in 1890 he learnt that Nellie Bly had been around the world in 72 days, so he set off again. (see “The incredible Nellie Bly” ) This time he went round in 67 days, a world record.  Then, to publicise itself, the town of Whatcom in Washington State financed him to go again and see if he could do it quicker.  This time he did it in 60 days, setting another new world record!

Isn’t history fun!