On the Move Living gallery heading 1901: Living at the Time of the Census Living in 1901
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Trams and Trains

Trams and the workers
On 4 April 1901, the London United Tramway Company opened London's first regular electric tram service on a public road. This was the golden age of the electric tram. The first public tramway had opened in Blackpool in 1885, and between 1900 and 1907 the national tramway mileage doubled.

By 1901, encouraged by the Light Railways Act of 1896, tram and rail services were transforming patterns of settlement in Britain's cities and enabling working people to move out to the suburbs. The census returns for 1901 show, for example, that the population of Middlesex and Surrey had grown by over a third since 1891, while that of the county of London had fallen.


London's first electric tramcar - link to an enlarged version


[When I first went to live in Camberwell in 1900] our sole communication with London…was a few erratic horse omnibuses and lines of slow-moving, two-horse trams…[Now] we have fast lines of electric trams, brilliantly lighted, in which reading is a pleasure, hurrying us down from over the bridges at half the time expended under the old conditions…Family after family are evacuating the blocks and crowded tenements for little four-roomed cottages, with little gardens, at Hither Green or Tooting.

(Charles Masterman in circa 1906, from Lucy Masterman's C.F.G. Masterman (1939)).
Hither Green, Camberwell and Tooting are all in south London.

The tram suffered heavy competition from the motor bus, however, and was soon in decline. In contrast, in the late 20th century, tram services reappeared in major British cities, including Manchester, Sheffield and London, as an efficient and environmentally-friendly alternative to the internal combustion engine.


Queen Victoria's funeral train - link to an enlarged version

The railways in 1901
In 1901, the railway network was still the dominant form of long-distance transport for both passengers and goods. Nearly 1,200 million passengers were carried, and the track measured 22,078 miles. Railway companies were among the most important employers in the country in 1901, with

575,834 employees: for many, the railway service provided a secure job for life (albeit at low wages). Labour relations were not always amicable. The acrimonious Taff Vale Railway Company strike ended in 1901 with the defeat of, and the award of a substantial fine against, the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants when the Court of Appeal decided that a trade union could be liable for damages caused by its members during industrial action.

In the course of 1901, 476 passengers were injured in railway accidents. At Malden station on the London & South Western Railway line on 23 November, a passenger train crashed into the back of a goods train, injuring 45 passengers and crew and killing one railwayman. On 23 December, six died when an engine caught fire at Dingle station on the Liverpool Electric Railway.