Ambulances are a relatively new invention, having been created towards the end of the 19th century. Before then, police, firefighters, and taxi drivers would staff their vehicles with wheeled stretchers – or “litters”, as they were known – in case they were called to take an ill or injured person to the nearest hospital or doctor’s surgery- a duty they kept sharing until full-time ambulance service was established around the turn of the 20th century, years after ambulances had been invented.
The horse drawn ambulance at the Dundee Museum of Transport was built in 1884 for around £100, which is over £12,00 in present day money. It carried one “litter”, and it served for almost forty years in Aberfeldy as a fever ambulance until 1920, when it was last used to take an appendix patient to Perth Royal Infirmary.
It then spent the following fifty years as a henhouse before being restored by the Scottish Ambulance Preservation Society, with help from the craft department of Kirkcaldy Technical College. To celebrate its restoration, it was paraded along the harbour front of Kirkcaldy and put on show in the High Street. There were no available horses on the day, so they had to use a Land-Rover to pull it!
The SMT (Scottish Motor Traction) Company held the ambulance in its showroom on Victoria Road, in Kirkcaldy, before moving it to the Grampian Transport Museum in Alford. It was thereafter transferred to Dundee Museum of Transport and has been on permanent display since the museum opened in 2014.
Dundee Museum of Transport members enjoyed an evening reception this week, with new plans and an update on the progress of the former Maryfield Tram Depot development project.
Andrew Black of Andrew Black Design Architects provided an overview and rationale for the new plans. Following consultation with members, residents and interest parties earlier this year, the plans have been adapted to retain the exterior walls of the rear section of the building.
A Q&A was held and comments from members were overwhelmingly positive, with one member noting “this is what we have been waiting for.”
The visualisations are available on the dedicated web-page www.maryfieldtramdepot.org and are on view in the museum. The plans will also be put on display at Arthurstone Library later this month. As always, we welcome your questions, comments and messages of support.
This project is part funded by the European Structural and Investment Funds Programme 2014 – 2020
Now on display for 2019 / early 2020 is the Model A Ford. Launched in December 2nd 1927 after nineteen years in production, the first showing was a complete success, with more than ten million people making their way to see the car within a day and a half of its release, and half a million orders being placed by Christmas to Ford dealers.
The Model A had been a response to the declining sales of the Model T. The search for a modern car that would be able to compete with General Motors and Chrysler lead Ford to such significant improvements as an electric starter, four wheel mechanically activated drum brakes, a simple gearshift, hydraulic shock absorbers, and an astounding 3.3 litre 4 cylinder engine that could out accelerate its rivals and cruise all day at fifty five miles per hour. Some attention had also been given to safety and comfort, leading the Model A to have safety glass windscreen, a higher amount of rubber insulation, so as to make each car ride a quieter and less bumpy affair, and dicky seat, namely an exterior seat which would fold into the rear of the car.
All these improvements, together with a very competitive price, revived Ford’s fortunes and worked out against its main rival Chevrolet, with over 4.5m being produced before finally being replaced in 1932 by the Model B and the V8.
Last week, Dundee Museum of Transport received the generous donation of a smart ebike (2014), manufactured by Mercedes-Benz, from a museum member. The bike was donated with its original documentation and is in excellent condition. The museum plans to display the ebike next to other electric vehicles and bikes in hall 3.
The smart ebike has a 200w electric motor and a maximum assistance speed of 25km/h. It takes around 5 hours to charge.
Ebikes are becoming an increasingly popular method of transport, especially in busy City Centres. A fleet of 350 ebikes are expected to become available for hire in Dundee this year, managed by ebike operator Ride On.
On this day: 18th August 1966, the Tay Road Bridge opened linking Dundee city centre with Fife. Thousands attended the official opening by the Queen Mother. A 50 ft (15 m) tall commemorative obelisk stands at the Newport side, with a smaller memorial obelisk at the Dundee side, to commemorate the six men who died in construction of the bridge. Both of these obelisks are designed as the piers of the bridge, each representing the height of the piers at that end of the bridge. 26,000 vehicles travel the bridge every day and it is also one of the longest road bridges in Europe.
The last passenger and vehicle ferries service (“Fifies”) ran its last voyage on the very day the bridge opened. The Fifies operated across the River Tay between Craig Pier, Dundee and Newport-on-Tay, Fife. Forfarshire (1863 – 1893), PS Dundee (1875 – 1917), Fifeshire (1859 – 1929), Newport (1910 – 1939), Sir William High (1924 – 1951), BL Nairn (1929 – 1966), Abercraig (1939 -1966) and Scotscraig (1951-1969) paddle steamers operated on the river. PS Dolphin (1893-1920) ran from Tayport to Broughty Ferry. The opening of the road bridge would also lead to the closure of the railway line from Tayport to Dundee in 1969.
In more recent times, Bertie the bull escaped from Market Mews in July 2000 (in the vicinity of what later became DMofT) and ran across the road bridge. “They nicknamed it Houdini because it escaped over a six-foot wall,” said Jim McDonald (bridge supervisor for 34 years).
There is a display in hall one of the museum with lots of information and photographs of the Tay Road Bridge.
Strathmartine Mini Coaches (Dundee) was established in 1970 as a privately-owned coach service. Its speciality was in organised tours of Scotland and England; but the firm also had contracts with local authorities, schools, social welfare organisations, travel agents, and industrial/commercial personnel transportation. They also provided travel for airport transfers, dances, nights out, weddings and shows.
Examples of some of the scheduled routes included between Camperdown main gate and Camperdown mansion house (summer 1972 and summer 1973: 4p adults, 2p children), for National Coal Board employees between Ballingry and Solsgirth Milne, and from Downfield to Auchterhouse.
At one point all the mini-buses were painted with a series of dark green stripes to relive the box-van like exterior. The company provided luxury travel as standard. The 12-seater coaches had moquette high-backed seats, luggage boots, and a radio/stereo. The Dormobile 16-seaters had the same, and were further equipped with curtains and more headroom. The Reebur 17-seater also included a public address system, carpet, and luggage rack. The petrol driven engines ran with overdrives to reduce the noise. Caetano and Fiat provided at one time 19-seater buses (with many of the busses/coaches being manufactured by Ford). In 1975, a 29-seat Bedford PKJ Plaxton Supreme coach with a black-and-white television was acquired. A 45-seater coach was added later too. In June 1989 an 18-seater Caetano Optimo with fridge, hot drink machine and colour TV/video was bought.
Bill and Vera Joiner ran the business from its inception: with Vera running the traffic office and clerical duties (though was a driver and mechanic too if required) and Bill being a driver and responsible for maintenance (with the assistance of a part-time mechanic). The painting of coaches and adding of luxuries was undertaken by the couple themselves, as the busses/coaches were bought in fairly standard condition.
The museum has a small archive of items relating to Strathmartine Coaches which can be seen by appointment.
On the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11 (16th July 1969), Dundee Museum of Transport looks at Dundee’s current links to space transport. Most people would be surprised to learn that space technology research based from Dundee is now used in £10 billion worth of spacecraft thanks to the pioneering work being developed at the University of Dundee’s Space Technology Centre.
The SpaceWire team at the UoD Space Technology Centre has been working in the field of space craft data technology for over twenty years, creating what they describe as essentially a spacecraft’s nervous system in that it connects on-board computing technology. Other space research at Dundee includes the PANGU (Planet and Asteroid Natural scene Generation Utility) planetary landing simulation tool – computer software that simulates the realistic surface of planetary bodies, and tests the vision-based guidance systems (cameras, LIDAR, and RADAR) on a lander approaching asteroids, moons and planets.
The adoption of SpaceWire on NASA (America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration), ESA (European Space Agency) and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) missions led to the need for improvements in device interoperability (the exchange of data between computer systems). Supported by international engineers, the University team created The Remote Memory Access Protocol (RMAP) – which became an international standard in 2010 – to successfully tackle device interoperability.
Over 100 spacecraft so far have used SpaceWire and RMAP. The missions include BepiColombo – the joint European and Japanese space mission to explore the planet Mercury, and the ExoMars Rover mission in scientific operations in the orbit and surface of Mars.
Professor Stephen Parkes began work on spacecraft data technology in 1998, winning a technology research contract from ESA. This research laid the foundations for what was to be published in 2003 as the SpaceWire standard. Over the period 1998 to 2013, the success of the £1.6 million research programme led to the establishment of STAR-Dundee, a company which has 16 employees and 400 customers in 50 countries. STAR-Dundee is currently developing SpaceFibre, the next generation of SpaceWire technology, for vision-based navigation systems.
University of Dundee Space Technology also conduct research on chip and software development tools, run the Dundee Satellite Receiving Station and maintain an important archive of images from NOAA, SeaStar, Terra and Aqua polar orbiting satellites. These images are available to view for free at www.sat.dundee.ac.uk.
On a side note, Dundee born scientist and engineer Andrew Abercromby is now Lead of the Human Physiology, Performance, Protection & Operations (H-3PO) Laboratory within the Biomedical Research and Environmental Sciences Division at Johnson Space Centre for NASA. Working on several missions, he undertakes the design and testing of spacesuit systems.
Our small collection of railway-related items has been enhanced thanks to this generous donation of a 1897 North British Railway Timetable and two rail tickets. The tickets appear to date from the 1850s and 1860s and relate to commercial trade between Dundee and London.
We hope to find out more about these items later this year during Neale Elder’s talk on 12th September titled ‘The Dundee to Arbroath Railway: From Pioneering Line to Trunk Route’.
Do you have any local railway items that you would consider donating to the museum? If so, we would love to hear from you!
The museum would like to thank Mr John A. Smith for donating his Audi 80. John received his new 1994 Audi 80 from Lex Retail Group in Dundee on the 3rd of December 1994. He has been the proud owner of the car for 25 years until he donated it to the museum last week. Along with the car John has kindly included various pieces of paperwork about the car including service invoices, instruction manual and DVLA letters. John was also able to supply the museum with two brochures about the Audi 80, both of which are in very good condition.
Back in 1994 Audi 80 Saloon was an impressive and luxurious car for all those who owned one. John’s car has a 1.6 litre engine, was capable of reaching 62 mph (miles per hour) in 13.4 seconds and could achieve a top speed of 111 mph. The Audi 80 came equipped with a 5 speed gear box, 5 forward gears and reverse, and the estate model even boasted a Final Drive Ratio. The base model came with a 4-cylinder engine and this was capable of producing 130 Nm of Torque and 100 bhp (brake horse power). The stats for the Audi 80 were impressive for a saloon car that weighed 1230 kg (the estate model came in at 1270 kg). In the 90s, the Audi 80 was a stylish and comfortable way to travel whether you were cruising around town or clocking up the miles on long drives down the motorway.
We at the Dundee Museum of Transport are very grateful to John for donating his Audi 80 to us and we are happy to give it a new home here.
Single-deckers, double-deckers, open-toppers and coaches – this week you can see them all at Dundee Museum of Transport. The museum is hosting two bus-themed events, the first kicking off on Thursday 13th June at 6pm with an illustrated talk on Dundee Buses: From Green to Blue by transport enthusiast and amateur photographer Derek Simpson.
The talk will focus on Derek’s extensive photographic collection of Dundee’s buses over the decades and promises to be a trip down memory lane with photographs of many scenes that no longer exist in Dundee. Derek said, “in 1975 when Tayside Regional Council took over the running of Dundee’s Corporation buses it wasn’t just the colours that changed. I’m really focusing on the last years of half cabs in Dundee, the move from green to blue and also what the buses would look like as we moved into the brave new world of regionalisation.”
On Sunday the 16th of June from 10:30am – 3pm the Museum will also be hosting its annual Bus and Coach Day, with over ten vintage buses attending the Market Mews premises from across Scotland. There will also be some stalls, the popular tea-on-the-bus and free vintage bus runs for visitors to enjoy.