A small but intriguing discovery during the restoration has been the sight of a British Standard ‘Kitemark’ found on the rear wheels. The recognised symbol that something is ‘up to standard’ has existed since the beginning of the twentieth century. On 22 January 1901, Sir John Wolfe-Barry, who designed London’s Tower Bridge, persuaded the Council of the Institution of Civil Engineers to form a committee to discuss standardising iron and steel sections. This led to the creation of the British Standard Mark in 1903, which later become known as the Kitemark. Today it can be seen displayed on a variety of products, traditionally those which require a high level of safety.
Tramway rails were the first item to be standardised, with the introduction of the Kitemark reducing the number of Tramway gauges from 75 to 5. From April 1929, the British Engineering Standards Association was granted a royal charter.
The Kitemark on our B-type suggests the sort of quality that led to its reputation for reliability. It would have certified the construction methods and materials necessary to build a safe and effective wheel. Unfortunately, after further research we have been unable to locate the record for BS850 in the British Standards Institution archive. It possible that being such an early Kitemark, the record was simply lost as the technology evolved or became redundant. It is worth noting wheels with solid rubber tyres had almost completely vanished by the early 1930s whilst the only record found relating to BS number BS850 dates from 1939, and is completely unrelated to tyres.
Employees of the London General Omnibus Company were constantly advised to put ‘Safety First’ and the doctrine ran through to the design and construction of the vehicles used by the company. This small but important sign acknowledges this early emphasis on safety in transport.