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What If Brunel Decided It Would Be Easier To Build Bridges By Becoming A Marriage Guidance Councillor?

It is appropriate that the History Maintenance Commission focuses upon how badly Bristol, the city in England that Brunel transformed through his innovative Great Western Railway, the design for the Clifton Suspension Bridge and the launch of the world’s first luxury liner, the first modern ship, SS Great Britain, will be impacted by investment in the ideas of inferior engineers.

One such concept detailed in the file is the existence of buses that take passengers from one side of the street to the other. It speculates that in a Brunel-less world an article such as this would appear one day in The Western Daily Press ‘celebrating’ their existence with a brief history:


It is now a number of years since Sir Nigel Lambicken delivered to the city of Bristol the forward thinking idea of side to side buses. The former Tennis umpire received backing from several west country investors who were otherwise bereft of any other transport innovations to plough their money into.

The benefits of Lambicken’s idea of taking buses across roads as opposed to up and down them were considered thus:

  1. Passengers could easily see when the next bus was due.
  2. It was easier for bus drivers to memorize routes.
  3. The destination board didn’t ever need changing as ‘To the Other Side’ was appropriate for both journeys (although it did appeal to potential suicides).

The first service started in Whiteladies Road, Clifton in 1889 and journeyed to the other side of the same road via the middle of the road. It was an immediate hit with the public and Lambicken was lauded for having spotted a gap in the market. He was then asked if he could turn his attention to spotting a gap in the traffic as his criss crossing buses brought the roads of Clifton to a virtual standstill.

The Bristol Road Crossing Bus Company proved a very innovative enterprise and ways were always being sought to enhance the duration of the journey, which could sometimes take as long as one minute but usually lasted an average of 22 seconds, for passengers. In 1895, for instance, customers could watch a whole film on the bottom deck of the horse drawn bus, thus was because feature films usually lasted about thirty seconds in the early days of cinema. Although, there was one film in existence at the time of the famous local Gloucestershire and England batsman W.G. Grace having all his cricketing gear stolen, that lasted nearly double the thirty seconds. But the critics had panned it because it contained a lot of padding.

The most notorious incident occurred in 1897 when a man could be seen by three ladies on the top deck of the Park Street Crossing Bus on College Green exposing himself. This became the first case in history of anyone crossing the road while the green man was flashing.

The biggest problem faced by the Street Crossing Buses was the issuing of tickets. With each journey lasting around 22 seconds and about 40 passengers on each ride, the conductor found his ticket machine working at the rate of one ticket per 14 seconds was delaying passengers upon arrival at their destination and was eating into company profits. For this reason, in 1911 the directors of the Street Crossing Buses approached Richard ‘Pop-Pop-Pop’ Adams Britain’s foremost designer of machine guns. They were never seen alive again, for they had approached him from the wrong direction. The following year a new board of directors were appointed and approached him from the right direction (behind). Adams accepted the challenge and modified a machine gun so that it would produce 120 tickets a minute. There were very few problems in issuing tickets after that, except for the fact it seemed to jam whenever any Germans were on board.


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