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Sherlock Holmes Transportation History

Sherlock Holmes Transportation

Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes in a Hansom Cab

Sherlock Holmes Transportation History

We can look at the various modes of transportation used by Sherlock Holmes by taking a look at the favored modes of transportation used in that time period. In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s transportation was evolving at a rapid pace in England. In the late nineteenth century London was a thriving, bustling city teeming with people and goods, all of which need to be transported somehow.

There were various forms of carriages, trains (including the underground), and of course bicycles. All of which were used by Holmes and Watson in the Sherlock Holmes stories.

Sherlock Holmes Transportation with Bicycles

Frequently Holmes and Watson would use bicycles. In the late 1890’s there was a huge craze to use bicycles because they were cheap and relatively safe. In 1869, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote for Scientific American:

When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.

Most likely it was then quite easy for Doyle to incorporate the bicycle into the Sherlock Holmes adventures. In the “Solitary Cyclist” and the “Priory School” adventures, bicycles play a prominent part in the way Watson, Sherlock and others get around.

Sherlock Holmes Transportation with Cabs and Carriages

In the various Sherlock Holmes stories there are a variety of cabs or carriages used. Popular at the time were a type of carriage called “growlers” which were four wheeled cabs.  These were best suited to groups of people. The cabs that were favored by Holmes were the two wheeled Hansom cabs. The advantage of the two wheeled cab was that there was easy viewing of the masses through the two side windows, something that would have been important to Sherlock. Another advantage of the Hansom cab for Watson and Holmes was that it was quick and easily maneuvered through the bustling streets of London.

Of interest is how either Watson or Holmes would hail a cab. Typically Watson preferred the popular cab whistle whereas Holmes used his voice except for any time he thought criminals such as Moriarty’s gang might be close at hand. One whistle would summon a four wheeler (growler) and two whistles would get a Hansom cab. “The Sign of Four”, “A Study in Scarlet”, “The Adventure of The Creeping Man” and many more all involve Holmes and Watson riding in cabs to help solve a mystery.

Sherlock Holmes Transportation Hansom Cab

Sherlock Holmes Transportation – Trains

The cabs would allow Sherlock and Watson to leave 221B Baker St to get to a crime scene quickly but sometimes the distances would require a train. Trains (or other words referencing trains) played a very large role in thirty nine of Sherlock Holmes adventures. Train routes crisscrossed England,  enabling Holmes, Watson and the occasional police detective to travel to Dartmoor (The Hound of the Baskervilles), Cambridge (The Missing Three Quarter), Surrey (The Retired Colourman) or perhaps the most interesting of all being “The Final Problem” where a train chase ensues eventually leading to the continent.
Sometimes being on a train would involve danger, made more palpable with the claustrophobic nature of this type of transportation.  This train fight scene from 2011 Sherlock Holmes movie Game of Shadows was listed as one of the top 10 movie Train scenes by WatchMojo.com.

Sherlock Holmes Transportation – Train Scene from Game of Shadows

Charing Cross Station (close to 221 B Bakers St) and Victoria Station (four different train lines) are two of the more frequently used by Holmes. Other railway stations would have included Paddington, Euston, Waterloo and London Bridge, all of which are featured in many of the  Sherlock Holmes stories.

These were the ways Sherlock Holmes and John Watson would have traveled. Times have changed and the modern Sherlock’s (Benedict Cumberbatch or Jonny Lee Millar) are of course using transportation available to us today. There are many scenes in the BBC Sherlock series with Watson on the subway. Sherlock prefers the Yellow cabs and one of my favorite scenes was where he took a cab and left Watson behind to get his own cab because he needed quiet time to think.

Whether you are a fan of Sherlock of old or the modern Sherlock, check out our favorite picks for Sherlock fans!

Limited Edition Gift Set (The Complete Seasons 1-3 Blu-ray/DVD Combo)Limited Edition Gift Set (The Complete Seasons 1-3 Blu-ray/DVD Combo)Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Granada Television SeriesSherlock Holmes: The Complete Granada Television SeriesCollection (Sherlock Holmes / Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows)Collection (Sherlock Holmes / Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows)Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories, Vol. 1Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories, Vol. 1Elementary : Complete Seasons 1 - 3 Collection (18-Disc, DVD, 2015)Elementary : Complete Seasons 1 – 3 Collection (18-Disc, DVD, 2015)


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