Tuesday 21 January 2014

Off my Trolley?

In the town where I spent my formative years. I can just about remember the trams running past our front door. They were later replaced by a trolley bus service. At the same time there was a more usual diesel engined bus service as well.  Because of the need for the overhead cables, many areas around the town were never equipped. There was the added complication of turning the bus around at the terminus. Sometimes the trolley bus pantograph would come off the overhead wire and the bus would come to a stop. Then a long bamboo pole was used by the conductor to reconnect the pantograph back onto the overhead line. The pole was stored in a long tube under the chassis of the bus. 

My abiding memory of the trolley bus was how quiet the buses were and the amazing turn of acceleration that was available. Nowadays the only place left where trolley buses can be seen, is the sea front at Blackpool. Where the trolley service still continues today. Its as much a visitor attraction as anything else.

Powering a trolley bus and the electric trains through overhead lines is one thing. Have you ever given any thought about utilising a canal barge that uses electrical power that gathered from an overhead power line. A system that would work much like the old trolley bus services did. It might seem to be an outlandish idea. But once upon a time it was a tried and tested way of replacing steam and horse drawn motive power.

Low Tech Magazine: 'For many centuries, canal boats were propelled by men, horses or mules on the towpath beside the water. Before diesel power took over, engineers developed several interesting methods powered by electricity: trolley boats, floating funiculars and electric mules. Many of these ecological solutions could be applied today instead of diesel engines. Because of the very low energy requirements, they could easily be powered by renewable energy, generated on the spot by water turbines located at sluices. One trolley boat line is still in use.'

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