It is clear from even such an advocate as Henry Ford, as can be read in his biography ‘My Life and Work’, that the most incredible changes brought to the 20th Century by motorised road transport were simply not generally foreseen.
Writing about the period of the 1890s Ford states “Practically no one had the remotest notion of the future of the internal combustion engine” and that electricity had been expected to be the coming thing - much indeed as it is now.
In Great Britain, the 1891 census shows that living in Radford in Nottingham with his family, was a young man of 25, whose occupation was given as ‘Gas engine maker’. He was Thomas Henry Barton.
Tom’s faith in, and knowledge of, the internal combustion engine led him to buy his first motorised vehicle before the turn of the 20th century, making one of the very first British owners of a motor car. He first put this simple, but temperamental, vehicle to use carrying passengers in Mablethorpe on the Lincolnshire coast. What is more, to a timetable – making it what is recognised to be the first English motor bus service. Subsequent ventures of variable success and with improved vehicles followed near Derby, in Weston-super-Mare and then near Derby again. But, presumably because of both the limited passenger carrying capacity of the early vehicles, and their poor reliability, regular services were proving almost impossible to achieve by any operators, although private hire of vehicles was popular.
No doubt, by the end of September 1908, Tom was amongst the most experienced bus operators in the world, but still had only one vehicle - which he then promptly sold.
After what must have been most frank discussions with his eldest son, who worked with him, it was decided that a new bus must be bought. On a train journey to London with the purpose of buying a new vehicle, a ludicrous coincidence occurred. Tom and his eldest son dropped into conversation with the only other occupant of their train carriage, who just happened to be a Director of the company making buses of their preferred manufacturer - Durham, Churchill and Co. of Sheffield. The Director sold them a nearly new vehicle before the train had even reached Luton.
It was decided they would yet again attempt to establish a service route with their newly acquired Char-a-banc, and it was thought that a Long Eaton to Nottingham route, commencing to coincide with the Goose Fair that week, held promise.
Within days permission from the authorities was sought and granted, timetables printed, and the vehicle prepared and stationed ready at Long Eaton the night before for the big day. On the 1st of October, 1908 at 8.00am at The Green in Long Eaton started the Long Eaton, Beeston and Nottingham service route, which, incredibly, still runs bearing his name to this day.