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The Horse-bus: charming photos look back at the time when people went to work with the horse drawn omnibus

Neil Patrick

A horse-bus or horse-drawn omnibus was a large, enclosed and sprung horse-drawn vehicle used for passenger transport before the introduction of motor vehicles.

It was mainly used in the late 19th century in both the United States and Europe, and was one of the most common means of transportation in cities.

In a typical arrangement, two wooden benches along the sides of the passenger cabin held several sitting passengers facing each other.

The driver sat on a separate, front-facing bench, typically in an elevated position outside the passengers’ enclosed cabin. In the main age of horse buses, many of them were double-decker buses.

On the upper deck, which was uncovered, the longitudinal benches were arranged back to back.

A horse bus outside Redfern railway station in Sydney in 1895. Redfern station is now Central Railway Station. Source Aussie mobs

A horse bus outside Redfern railway station in Sydney in 1895. Redfern station is now Central Railway Station. Source Aussie mobs

 

 

Corner Upplandsgatan Observatoriegatan , in May 1902. The Stockholm General Omnibus AB's carriage on the line Odenplan - Riddarhustorget .Source

Corner Upplandsgatan Observatoriegatan , in May 1902. The Stockholm General Omnibus AB’s carriage on the line Odenplan – Riddarhustorget .Source

 

 

The Federal Customhouse under construction, 18 November, 1860. Horse drawn omnibuses seen lined on Canal Street.Source

The Federal Customhouse under construction, 18 November, 1860. Horse drawn omnibuses seen lined on Canal Street. Source

 

The Paris omnibus was started in 1828 by a businessman named Stanislas Baudry, who had begun the first French omnibus line in Nantes in 1826, using two spring-suspended carriages, each for 16 passengers.

The name was said to come from the station of the first line in Nantes, in front of the store of a hat-maker named Omnes, who had a large sign on his building saying “Omnes Omnibus” (“All for all” in Latin).

Following success in Nantes, Baudry moved to Paris and founded the Enterprise des Omnibus on rue de Lancre, with workshops on the quai de Jemmapes. In 1827 he commissioned an English coach-maker, George Shillibeer, to design a vehicle that could be stable and carry a large number of passengers.

Shillibeer’s design worked. On 28 April, 1828, the first Paris omnibus began service, running every fifteen minutes between La Madeleine and la Bastille.

Before long, there were one hundred omnibuses in service, with eighteen different itineraries. A journey cost twenty-five centimes.

The omnibuses circulated between seven in the morning and seven in the evening; each omnibus could carry between twelve and eighteen passengers.

The busiest line was that along the Grand Boulevards; it ran from eight in the morning until midnight.

Horse-drawn omnibus in Milan before 1890Source

Horse-drawn omnibus in Milan before 1890 Source

 

 

Horsebus in England.Source Library of Congress

Horsebus in England. Source: Library of Congress

 

Buses have been used on the streets of London since 1829, when George Shillibeer started operating his horse-drawn omnibus service from Paddington to the City of London.

In 1850 Thomas Tilling started horse bus services, and in 1855 the London General Omnibus Company or LGOC was founded to amalgamate and regulate the horse-drawn omnibus services then operating in London.

old postcard - Rue Saint -Lazare Source

Old postcard – Rue Saint -Lazare Source

Old Sydney Railway Station, c.1895 Source State Records NSW

Old Sydney Railway Station, c.1895 Source State Records NSW

 

Omnibus in Stockholm tram museum Source

Omnibus in Stockholm tram museum Source

 

The horse-drawn omnibus Saint- Ouen - Bastille Opera Square parade in the procession of the Mi-Carême in Paris in 1928 Source.

The horse-drawn omnibus Saint- Ouen – Bastille Opera Square parade in the procession of the Mi-Carême in Paris in 1928 Source.

 

The Ice House, Bridgetown, Barbados Source

The Ice House, Bridgetown, Barbados Source

 

Tilling's four-horse 'Times' Source

Tilling’s four-horse ‘Times’ Source

 

Views of England in the Photochrom print collection.Source

Views of England in the Photochrom print collection.Source

 

From the end of the 1820s, the first horse-drawn omnibuses ran in the streets of New York City.

Horses pulling buses could only work for limited hours per day, had to be housed, groomed, fed and cared for every day, and produced large amounts of manure, which the omnibus company had to store and dispose of.

Since a typical horse pulled a bus for four or five hours per day, covering about a dozen miles, many systems needed ten or more horses in stable for each bus.

With the advent of mass-produced steel (at around 1860), horse-buses were put on rails as the same horse could then move 3 to 10 times as many people. This was not only more efficient, but faster and produced, in an age of unpaved streets, a far superior ride.