Match-day travel was an altogether different experience in the 1890’s. The motor car was in its infancy and well beyond the means of anybody but the very rich. The first sighting in Bradford may have been a 3˝ hp Arnold-Benz in 1896. In the 19th century Yorkshire, the road was still very much the province of horse-drawn vehicles.
A rudimentary horse bus service had started in Bradford in 1864 and a network of services developed as the 19th century progressed. However fares were expensive, seating capacity limited and services infrequent. Horse-drawn stage coaches ploughed long-distance routes passing through turnpike gates and stopping at coaching inns. But stage coaches were not for the working man. Normally he would walk to work and to sporting fixtures.
Public transport came of age in the 19th century because of the development of the railways. Bradford (Market Street) station was opened by the Midland Railway in 1846 closely followed by the L&Y who opened Bradford (Drake Street) in 1850. By 1895 there was a good network of routes in place. Park Avenue was well served by Horton Park station which opened in 1880 to serve the rugby and cricket grounds. This was on the opposite side of the road to the ground and is now the site of a half-built mosque. The station was served by Great Northern services from Bradford Exchange to Halifax and Keighley stopping at such places as Great Horton, Clayton, Queensbury and Thornton. These spectacular lines sadly closed to passengers in 1955 and to goods a few years later.
From 1898, supporters could also reach Park Avenue by means of the new electric tram service which ran from Victoria Square to Horton Bank Top via Morley Street, Easby Road, Dirkhill Road, All Saints Road and Great Horton Road. By the end of that year, tracks had also been laid along Laisteridge Lane and Horton Park Avenue to cope with match-day traffic, and the service was also extended to Tyrell Street in the city centre.
This was the first electric tram route in Bradford. Supporters from other parts of the city still had to rely on the old steam trams with lines running to Shelf, Wyke, Tong Cemetery, Thornbury, Undercliffe and Saltaire. New electric routes and extensions soon followed but most came too late for followers of Bradford FC’s association section.
In the absence of motorized coaches, football teams would have had to travel to away matches by train. Sides often experienced difficulties getting to fixtures in time as most people worked on Saturday mornings. The problem was worse in the winter months as games had to kick off early due to fading light. There were no floodlights in regular use although, perhaps surprisingly, experiments had taken place as early as 1878. Clubs travelling long distances would thus have to make “lost-time” payments to players, an issue which split the rugby word in 1895.
Other forms of communication were also very different in the late 19th century. There was of course no internet and very few people had telephones. There was a postal service but telegraphs were the only means of rapid communication. Telegraph offices were to be found at major railway stations with wires typically running alongside railway lines transmitting messages in Morse code. We can only speculate on the details of how club secretaries communicated when arranging fixtures, assembling teams and informing the opposition about postponements.