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Whip crack-a-way

D otted about the British landscape are big stone horse troughs. More often than not pressed into service by town councils as flower beds.

Largely these things are ignored, although frequently they have an inscription on the side so those walking by should be able to see what particular group of people were so public spirited to have raised the money for the trough to be put in place. They are nice things somehow and probably remain simply because they are too darn heavy to move easily and robust enough to make other things more easy to vandalise.

All very Ben Hur

These were the filling stations of the day, or at least the water stops as the transportation of choice also needed the odd bail of hay to keep them going. It is a far cry from the political mindfield of transportation policy nowadays. Forget all those electric vehicles (after all how do you think that electricity is actually being generated, it doesn't grow on trees) get back to the vehicles in this set.

In Ogdens, Modes of Conveyance [1927] is a 25 card series which showcases the older styles of transportation. The sort where a coach is hauled along behind some four leg creature. It trots the globe looking for such transport. You get the feeling the transport was in more everyday use in some countries than others. Even the title gives it an old world feel about it. Conveyance, nothing so vulgar as transportation you notice.

That said card one puts you firmly in the time frame when it describes South Africa as a country which has recently seen growth in the rail network but still has vast tracts of land where only ox or mule wagons can be used as reliable transport.

Obviously the design is not built for speed as a team of Oxen could comprise 16 animals yoked together two by two. An arrangement which means a top speed of two miles an hour but the sort of low end grunt which could pull you through just about anything I imagine. Given 16 oxen in front of you it might be just as well they could. Imagine if you got behind two of these things and one was overtaking the other with no way around them. It would certainly appear to be a very long day.

The fact these cards were produced in very different times is underlined by card 5, South Australia. The card explains this form of transport will remain important until the completion of the trans-continental rail network.

This looks like hard slow work.

Oxen and Bullocks are obviously well utilised as power sources in areas of the globe they are found. In Burma for example; although in Rangoon they are rarely used. I am not too sure what to make of the cards comment when it says the carriages the people travel in 'resemble gaily painted dog kennels on wheels.' Whatever I hardly think it is a generous description. In these 'quaint' vehicles the passengers sit on the floor. Mind you the card is good enough to suggest the animals are treated well here (if only by telling us how badly they are treated in other countries).

In Ceylon the some carriages have a thatched roof which seems a rather extravagant overhead but it does not seem to have put the Malay off the same idea (card 20). Again the only seating accommodation being afforded by the floor it seems the passengers need to be a little more robust than the average western type. It does acknowledge the primary purpose of this transport is for moving goods where clearly elaborate seating would hardly be helpful. Again this is a bullock cart and unlikely to set any land speed records.

Card 15 sees the old being replaced by the new in India. The Eckas used to be a pretty basic sort of carriage, no springs and generally cramped and uncomfortable. The card illustrates the male version of the carriage where a chap would ride open to the elements and the female version which was totally covered so the woman could go about the place without being seen. The card is pleased to note some modern design is sneaking in with springs being attached to the carriage and spoked wheels which improves the general ride immensely. Also a shift of pulling power where in the cities country bred ponies are used. However in the provincial areas the bullock is still used. How envious the country cousins must have been when they went to the cities and saw the speeding city folk with their spoked wheels and springs.

Details from Card 12
Great Britain: Chaise and Pair
The name chaise (the French for chair) which originally referred to the sedan-chair, was applied to various wheeled vehicles. Our picture shows the fast-travelling post-chaise of the 18th and 19th centuries, a closed four wheeled carriage drawn by two or four horses. Travel by road in the 17th and 18th centuries was often hazardous. Not only were roads bad, but Highwaymen were a real danger until the beginning of the 19th century, when with improved communications and more efficient police methods the 'Gentleman of the Road' gradually disappeared.

Card 2 seems just right for the speedsters. Alaska and the Reindeer Sledges. Apparently some 16 animals were taken into Alaska in 1891 and the card estimates some 40,000 of them in existence. They seem just about perfect as a method of transport and I would not mind getting some. Capable of pulling a load of 250 lbs (more than enough cigarette cards) they could run for twelve hours at a rate of nine or ten miles and hour. Admittedly hardly speedy but once they knew the routes I took I should be able to catch some sleep as they trotted about.

What is more they provide the inhabitants with milk when alive and meat and clothing when dead. I suspect I would pull into a gas station rather than milk and slaughter my animals by the roadside if I got a bit peckish. A nice mix of old and modern working very well there I think.

That is all well and good but for the real speed freak it seems card 21 is just the ticket. Rome and the chariot race. If the card is anything to go by extreme speed and few rules are the order of the day. All very Ben Hur, looks more like a demolition derby than any organised race but I am sure the Romans knew what they were doing. Certainly the fact that slaves were the drivers gives you an idea they did.

Ruskies having wolf problems

I am not quite sure why but the illustrator must have got bored with illustrating a carriage standing still and really got animated by card 22. Perhaps the excitement of the chariot race. Anyway card 22 shows a Russian Troika. It seems it took some controlling, three or four horses harnessed abreast. Quite how it worked when the central horse was trotting and the outer horses were galloping I am not sure. The card takes its enthusiasm from the final suggestion that wolves and bears are a menace to travellers. Certainly looks that way as out heroes are hurtling through a snow clad forest whip cracking as a pack of wolves attack them. Luckily two men are riding shotgun and are blasting the wolves to oblivion.

Certainly the only card that could compete with such excitement is card 12. It illustrates the Chaise and Pair of Great Britain, and is far more exciting than the stately splendour of card 13, the Royal State Coach (did you know it is 24 feet long, 12 feet in height and weighs 4 tons? Says so on the card, it was built in 1761, doesn't say how wide it is though.) Anyway card 12 shows a high speed Highway robbery taking place and if there are any occupants in the chaise (and I assume there must be) they are having one mighty rough ride by the looks of it.

Although most countries seem to think animals are the best engines for the carriages the Japanese have to do it a bit differently. Illustrated neatly on card 19. The Jinricshas, which the card notes is a method of transportation in use in many an Asian country as well as in South Africa. Basically a carriage pulled by a chap, or perhaps two. The card claims it illustrates two types of carriage, the new and the old. The new (I presume it is the new) has slightly larger wheels with less spokes. The chaps pulling these things must be darn fit as the card claims they can run for 20 miles at a rate of six miles per hour.

These carriages are not just for getting from A to B but there are some illustrated for the purpose of hunting. Card 17 shows the Indian Elephant Howdah, Tiger Hunting. Now we have seen cards on this subject before in the Sports around the world type sets so not a lot of point going into details. Suffice to say if I was to go tiger hunting I suppose I would want to be on the top of an elephant if the option of hoping inside a tank was out of the question. Actually the chances of me tiger hunting are precisely zero which I am might thankful about as the thought of riding about on an elephant does not fill me with enthusiasm either. The grass in India would indeed seem to be as high as an elephants eye with the card claiming it grows up to 10 feet tall. I can quite believe it when I see the grass in my garden.

For some purposes Oxen and the like is clearly a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Card 6 shows the Belgium: Dog Team and Milk-Cart. Although some carts only had one dog power some had as many as five dog power. In the Great War the dogs turned out to be pretty useful in pulling light artillery and stores as well as carrying dispatches. All very brave stuff from man's best friend.

There is only one slight disappointment in the set. The Turkey carriage on card 24 is a vehicle from Turkey rather than one powered by Turkey's which would be great fun as long as you were not in a hurry to get anywhere.