Another network I like. This is the London hydraulic power network (source), which formed in 1877 and peaked in 1939. It was started by the Wharves and Warehouses Steam Power and Hydraulic Pressure Company, in 1871 (then the London Hydraulic Power Company).

Any time somebody needed mechanical power, they could tap into the network. It powered lifts, carrying packets around stores, that kind of thing. It opened the curtain at the Royal Opera House.

What happened to this network: The pipes were sold to Mercury, if you remember them, in 1985, and Cable & Wireless bought them later. So they’re full of optic fibres now. That’s a great part of the story.

But it has a sad ending. I’m trying to find a reference for this, but I remember reading that the end came about when electric lifts were invented. The new electric lifts didn’t sell because everyone had perfectly good hydraulic ones. So the electric lift company bought the hydraulic power plant, and shut it down. After that, they had a very good trade indeed.

Matt Webb, S&W, posted 2006-04-06 (talk on 2006-02-23)