The title is not strictly accurate, as there are digressions into the design of Hansom Cabs, Mail Coaches and Omnibuses, promoting some of the author’s inventions. This book could be described as the “Top Gear” of the 1830’s, as apart from the examples mentioned above it is devoted to the speedy light weight carriages popular with the “Boy Racers” of the day – the equivalent of modern high performance sports cars, and to expensive family carriages, perhaps the equivalent of a Bentley saloon. There are no Minis (pony and trap) or pick- up trucks (dog carts) in these pages. If you have ever wondered what the difference is between a Barouche and a Britzschka the answer is here. Among his tips for maintenance, the author suggests that the carriage owner take the same care of his vehicle, as of his wardrobe – keep in warm dry conditions and protect from vermin!
William Bridges Adams was born at Madeley in Staffordshire in 1797. After being sent to Chile for health reasons and returning to Britain he became an independent inventor and only moderately successful entrepreneur, He acquired some repute as the author of English Pleasure Carriages, his father being a noted coachbuilder. In England he began to design and manufacture steam railcars, with some success, for branch-line services of various railways and even for light express services. These light locomotives were employed on the impoverished ECR. He was an advocate of light steam carriages (railcars) which he developed with Samuel of the Eastern Counties Railway. Another vehicle was supplied to the broad gauge Bristol & Exeter Railway.
Adams held 32 patents and was joint patentee of the rail fish-joint, and in 1863 his radial axle-box was used for the first time. Although this had no controlling springs or inclined planes, its general principle allowing sideplay, was the foundation of subsequent improved radial axle designs. Webb’s radial axle design appears to have been a direct derivative of Adams’s invention. He died at Broadstairs on 23 July 1872.
This book describes the pinnacle of horse drawn vehicle design in England, at a time when elegance had been achieved without being spoiled by over-elaborate detailing.