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The World War II Photo of the Week
for 7 January 2002

GAS BUS (37 K)

All Aboard the Gas Bus ...

   A coal-gas-powered bus on the streets of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England, 1944. Owing to petrol rationing, bus companies throughout Britain fell back on compressed-coal-gas systems (which were pioneered in the 1890s) to run their fleets. A hundredweight of burning coal gave a bus a range of about 100 miles. It was smelly and smoky, but it allowed the transport companies to stay in business. Some buses pulled a large trailer that featured large burners to produce the gas that was stored in tanks. Others carried a large balloon-like bag on top (like the Newcastle bus above) — the gas was usually generated as the bus went along and stored in the bag. There was a considerable loss in power by using gas, so if a bus had to go up a hill, the passengers had to get out and walk up while the lighter, empty bus preceded them and waited at the top. Some cars also had a small balloon-type gas bag on the roof, but these only gave the car a range of about 20 miles before having to be refilled. Photo from the Webmaster's collection.

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