London to Brighton rally – 1995

Posted by jerry on February 3rd, 2009 — Posted in Journal, Steam, Travel

Every year in the first weekend in November as the frost is settling over Hyde Park in London you can see about 200 unique cars dating from the 1890s up to 1904. They drive the 60 miles from London to Brighton to commemorate the repeal of the notorious ‘Red Flag Act’ (Locomotives on Highways Act (1865)) that had restricted motorised vehicles to 4mph in the country and 2mph in towns. The Act stipulated that vehicles needed a crew of three – the driver, a stoker and a man to walk 60 yards in front carrying a red flag or lantern to ensure that traffic (mostly traction engines) were kept to a walking pace. There must have been good money for fast joggers!

The Act was replaced in 1896 with the Locomotives on Highways Act (1896) which became known as the Emancipation Act – which defined a new category of vehicle: ‘light locomotives’, which were less than 3 tons unladen weight. These vehicles were exempt from the 3 crew member rule, and were subject to the higher 14 mph (22 km/h) speed limit. In celebration of this new law, Harry John Lawson – founder of Daimler Motor Company in Coventry – organised the first London to Brighton run on 14 November 1896.

Almost 100 years later, in 1995 I attended the start of the London to Brighton run – the following photos were taken at that time. Some are a bit shy of focus – I had a manual focus pentax K1000 camera and it wasn’t easy to catch these cars on the move!

This 1896 Whitney steam car was driven by Jeff Theobold, of the Steam Car Club of Great Britain – veteran of many runs – who told me the car made the run successfully each time he campaigned it, despite some burner problems near the start – a result of too much waiting around before the start, making parts of the engine too hot or too cold for efficient running, but after a few miles it sorted itself.

1896 Whitney

I also spotted this 1900 Gardner-Serpollet
1900 Gardner-Serpollet steam car

And then a succession of Locomobile/early Stanley steamers from 1900-1903

stanley steam car

stanley steam car

stanley steam car


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