Trams Dolter Stud System 1902.

The Dolter Surface Contact Tramway System.

Exhibited in Hastings.

Interview with the Inventor.

October 1902


“Trams” being the most burning question of the day in local politics, and one of the main issues of the coming Municipal Elections, the exhibition of the new method of electric traction has excited considerable interest among the towns people.  A description of the of the new Dolter surface contact system was printed in past issues, and now it was intended to exhibit a perfect running model of one of the cars in a shop at Bank Buildings, opposite the Post Office.  But unfortunately, however, the car, which is a model of those used in Paris, was damaged on its railway journey, and it was found necessary to return it to London for a replacement motor to be fitted.  It will not be possible, therefore, to show the car in full working condition until next Tuesday.

Yesterday, however, all the lines and apparatus were ready and were inspected by no less than 2,000 visitors, including several members of the Hastings Town Council.

The car on the lines was a neat and by no means unsightly object, and was favourably commented upon by the spectators.

The Inventor and his work.

Monsieur Henri Dolter the inventor of the system is in appearance as such an Englishman as a Frenchman, although his knowledge of the English language is, at present very limited.  In stature he is diminutive and constantly breaks into large smiles, denoting a keen appreciation of humour.  He is renowned in Paris for all the work he has carried out for the French Government in the Pyrenees for the development of water power, which, by the way, has formed the basis of a series of articles in the “Figaro,” from the pen of the well known writer, Mr. Jules Huret.

Mr. Dolter is a Civil Engineer in his own right within France and also in Germany, and he has been engineer in charge of a very large number of industrial concerns.  For a good many years, however, he has devoted himself to tramways, and it is within this connection that he is particularly interested in Hastings at this present moment.

He has laid tramways in America, Russia, Spain, Germany and France, and his latest and most recent invention is the Dolter surface contact system of electric traction, which he is now explaining to the Hastings Authorities (via an interpreter.)

The System and Paris

In the course of a conversation with a reporter, Mr. Dolter gave some information respecting his system which will probably be welcomed by our readers.  It is a system that has already been put to trial, for it has been laid on the Chemin de Fer of the Bois de Boulogne in Paris, and it links that city with the two large Racecourses, Longchamps and St Cloud.  In Paris it has been inspected by engineers of various nationalities, including the greatest electrical authority in Germany, Herr Gisbert Kapp.

Although not yet in use in England, this system has been inspected and reported on by some of the leading engineers of the country.  One of these, Mr. Morder, viewed the line in Paris, and though previously sceptical as to the possibility of having a surface contact system guaranteeing absolute safety, he afterwards pronounced the Dolter system to be the best and most practical he had ever seen.

In his attempt to convince Englishmen of the advantages to be derived from the adoption of his system, Mr. Dolter has already interviewed the of Torquay and their Engineer, who have inspected the system also in Paris; have reported on its superiority to other systems, and have recommended its adoption throughout their town, including the Front Line, which, it may be mentioned, is not wider than that at Hastings and St Leonards.  Swansea and Brighton are also considering the advisability of sending a deputation to Paris; Mr. Dolter accompanied by Mr. Fricker, the Engineer to the Dolter Company, and Mr. Lancaster of Hastings having paid a successful visit to Brighton last week, and there exhibited before the Corporation the model now to be seen at Bank Buildings in Hastings.

Mr. Dolter and Mr Murphy.

Locally, the Dolter Company, which, by the way, is an English Company, have not been idle, for they have given a price to the Hastings Tramway Company to lay the system along the Queens Road to the Alexandra Park.  This quotation following a favourable report from Mr. Wm. M. Murphy’s engineer after he had inspected the line in the French capital.  It is possible that the Hastings Company intend to use the trolley system for a portion of their lines, and in this connection it is worth noting that the Dolter cars can pass from the trolley system to the surface contact without stopping, the change being effected automatically.

Of course, if a smaller car is wanted for the Front-Line, than for any other part of the tramway, a change would be necessary.  The system itself was explained in the “Press” recently, and is now only necessary to add a very few remarks to those then made.

It is a system suitable for heavy traffic, as shown from the fact that on race days in Paris as many as 300 passengers are sent off together in three cars, and are run to the races at a rate of from 25 to 40 miles per hour.  At the same time, it can carry the normal everyday traffic at a very small expense.  In appearance it compares more than favourably with other systems.

The studs which are in the roadway, and from which the current is obtained by means of a skate mounted under the car, are very small, so small indeed that they are hardly visible when laid in the road, while the Torquay Engineers have reported that in some cases he has found it impossible to trace the means of traction save for a slight brightness on the surface of the studs, caused by the friction of the skate.  The studs are fifteen feet apart in the centre of the track, and do not present the least obstruction to traffic, while the road surface can be laid with either macadam, wood-paving, or granite blocks, all three materials being now used in Paris.  “Two special advantages of the system may be mentioned,” remarked Mr. Dolter, to the press.  “One that as the depth of the stud in the road does not exceed eighteen inches, and can be reduced to eleven inches, pipes in the road need not be interfered with; and the other when once laid the cable can be replaced without disturbing the surface of the road, through the agency of screw holes in the top of the studs.”

Safety a Special Feature.

Questioned as to the safety of the system, Mr. Dolter declared that this is one of its most important features.  The sole piece of mechanism in the stud is an ordinary bell crank lever, of which the upper part is drawn to the top of the box, when the magnetised skate passes over the stud, which is under the car.  As this lever is constructed on the balance principle, and is hung in a water-tight hermetically-sealed box, which constitutes a stud it is bound to fall under its own weight.

“But,” added the inventor, “To avoid any risk of danger, the contact skate is followed by a safety-skate three feet long, which, should a stud remain live, would instantaneously blow the fuse in the box and cut it out.  This devise is in reality one of the most striking parts of the Dolter patents and renders the system absolutely safe.


The Dolter Tramway System

Taken directly from a newspaper report

Dated 25th October 1902

This system was partly adopted by Hastings for the Front Line routes only to avoid the so called ugly overhead wires and poles. Major protests by the residents erupted as unsightly and blocking their views out to sea, also to the noise, plus the sparks from the collector shoes on the wires in frosty weather etc., etc!

But much later on the Tramways won their battle against the stud system and reverted back to the overhead wire system, main reason being! That too many studs failed over a period of time and would not submerge back into their pots below ground.  They even employed boys to walk the front-line armed with wooden sticks to knock down the studs that failed to drop, but don’t forget these were energised at between 600-750 volts DC.

Unfortunately, there were a few reported cases over the country that had adopted the Dolter system to where horses with their metal shoes touched the live studs above ground and were electrocuted on the spot.