26 August 2009

An Old Train of Thought

An analogy I and others frequently use in discussing the media industries' refusal to consider new business models is that of the transition to the motor car, particularly with reference to obsolete accoutrements for horse carriages. But I've just read an article from TorrentFreak that links to a rather interesting Wikipedia page about the Locomotive Act - the one that required a person to walk in front of a car with a red flag. It had this interesting paragraph:

Under pressure from motor car enthusiasts, including Coventry manufacturer Harry J. Lawson, the government introduced the Locomotives on Highways Act 1896, which became known as The Emancipation Act, which defined a new category of vehicle light locomotives, which were vehicles under 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.[5] In celebration of the Emancipation Act Lawson organised the first London to Brighton run.

The relaxation of usage restrictions eased the way for the development of the British motor industry.

Nearly one and a half centuries later the motoring journalist and author L. J. K. Setright speculated that the Locomotive Acts were put in place to suppress motor car development in the United Kingdom, because of the financial interests that some members of government and other establishment personalities had in the development and viability of the railway industry.

So maybe a better analogy is motor cars and railways....

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patrickf said...

Something else interesting about the development of the British railway network: I understand that there was a requirement that revenues had to be in proportion to infrastructure. That's why there is far more railway track that was, or is needed, and so many stations with very infrequent services.

Similar requirements in Latin America meant that railway lines frequently circumnavigated mountains rather than tunneling through them.

Glyn Moody said...

Fascinating stuff - thanks.