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In the 1890s, trains allowed access/egress at every cabin in a car: this obviated the need for a hallway and saved space.

Why was this eliminated as early as the 1920s?

1890's style car:

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2 Answers 2

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  • Difficulty with ticket checking.
  • Catering / service trolley.
  • Safety of passengers.
  • Doors everywhere!
  • Wheelchair access.

The reasons have probably got little to do with engineering and more to do with the points above.

They were still around when I was a child and great fun. You could pull down the windows and poke your head out. You could even open the exterior door handle if so inclined! A point of interest: the British style door handles were tee-shaped and when fully locked the handles were horizontal. The guard just had to scan the carriages to check that all doors were fully closed before giving the driver permission to proceed.

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It was impossible to close the carriage on a cold morning. There were always some open doors somewhere after each station. And the doors were narrow, which made access difficult or impossible for prams, walkers, and wheelchairs.

But I think, like everything else, it comes down to cost: it was more expensive to put in more doors.

Those multiple doors made entrance and exit much faster for bulk masses of people at major stations. As the number of people taking commuter trains decreased towards the end of the last century, and handicapped access became more important, and automated doors were implemented for safety and control, the sheer speed of dumping hundreds of people all at once became relatively less important, and trains moved to fewer doors.

Something similar happened with trams and busses. Trams and ommni-buses like the San Francisco cable tram, which allowed fast exit, were replaced with single or double-door vehicles which forced the passenger past the operator for single-operator ticket sales and control. If you look at the SF cable tram now, you'll see that although they've kept the old vehicles, entrance and exit is strictly controlled.

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