We take the car for granted. The majority of Australian families have one, if not two or three cars; for many teenagers, learning to drive a car is almost a right of passage; and step into any street in town and you’re likely to be run over by one! We hardly even notice the cars around us nowadays but just over one hundred years ago the appearance of a “motor” in the vicinity was newsworthy.
A Steam-Powered Car
One of the very first appearances of a car in Wagga was on 4 May 1900.
Built by the Thomson Motor Company Syndicate in Melbourne, it had recently been exhibited at the Bathurst Show and was travelling home to Victora when it passed through Wagga. The £200 car was propelled by steam generated by kerosene and took five days to travel from Bathurst to Wagga.
The local doctors could certainly see the benefits of the motor car.
Late in 1905, Dr Burgess bought himself an £450, eight-horsepower De Dion-Bouton car, powered by petrol. It was delivered to him in parts and was assembled by the Speedwell Cycle Depot. The car had space for two passengers (plus the driver), had three speeds – 8 mph, 15 mph and 35 mph, and, amazingly, could also travel in reverse.
Less than a year later, Dr Stoker had also bought a car; a two cylinder, twelve-horsepower Astor which could travel up to 40 mph with space for four passengers.
While collisions involving motor cars were not uncommon in the early years, the majority of accidents occurred because they frightened the horses they were sharing the road with.
In September 1909, it was reported that an incident had occurred in Baylis Street involving Mr Higgins’ motor. While passing the Advance Australia Hotel (approximately located where Myer is now), the horse driven by Mr Cameron of Smith’s Terrace (down the other end of Baylis Street), took fright at Mr Higgins’ car.
The sudden rearing of the horse threw Mrs Cameron into the body of the sulky and the baby she had been holding was flung into the street. Amazingly, Mrs Cameron was the more hurt of the two.