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OT road conditions and driving speeds yesterday vs today

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Old 05-11-2016, 10:48 AM
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OT road conditions and driving speeds yesterday vs today

Funny the question came up about the wipers moving around at high speeds, just yesterday I was cruising the highway at 70 MPH in my 47 caddy (it will cruise faster, but limit is 65 and I cant afford the insurance hike from a ticket!) and I was wondering just how fast were these old cars and trucks driven regularly in the 1930s-40s-50s?
With a lot of the stock older trucks really not comfortable cruising over 50mph when did the roads get good enough to do higher speeds for long distances?
What did the speed limits used to be?
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Old 05-11-2016, 12:41 PM
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There were nicely paved roads back in the 1920's, but they were few and far between, depending on what part of the country you're from. US highways were generally decent, and 50 mph was probably fairly common in many places. County and local roads, sometimes not so much. During WWII, due to fuel rationing, the national speed limit was 25mph. It wasn't until after the war that roads really started to be straighter, wider and safer for faster traffic, which was about the time cars had more power, better brakes and tires to keep up. In the mid-50's the interstate highway program was begun, and we know how that turned out.

I like to collect old road maps, and that gives you a really nice indication of what the roads were like. Reading the legend you'll see just how many were unimproved or gravel compared to today.
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Old 05-11-2016, 01:07 PM
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I googled the PA Turnpike. It opened in Oct 1940. The superintendent requested in a newspaper clipping that drivers should drive safely and be accident free so the state legislature will vote to increase the speed limit above the statewide 50 mph. Later Wikipedia said, the speed limit was unlimited, except for the tunnels where it was 35 mph. The tunnels in those days were two lane with opposing traffic.
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Old 05-11-2016, 01:48 PM
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Some states had no actual speed limit, just "reasonable and prudent" at least during daylight hours. Nightime, and trucks were limited to 50 or somesuch. Iowa was one such. It's a good law, a good way to do things but it might not work today for a few reasons, none of them very good.

Roads were sometimes pretty bad from an engineering standpoint. They weren't banked correctly, or had blind curves, or a 4 way uncontrolled intersection just past the crest of a hill. Yeesh.

For years HR Gross was our House of Representatives guy. He was well known as a real budget hawk. Couldn't get any nonsense past him. Well the rumor has it though, when Interstate highway funds were being doled out in those years, our area was somehow ... neglected ... somehow passed by. We didn't get the Interstate till relatively late, after he was dead I'm pretty sure.

So anyway, even a road trip of say, 60 or 90 miles was kind of an ordeal. Each town has several intersections - 4 way stops, uncontrolled access, the funky, reverse bank curves. Get behind semis, trying to pass. Remember?

Driving to Cedar Rapids or Iowa City from Waterloo, took a long time, traffic would get backed up, and it was basically dangerous, especially at night.

Now with the I-380, it's a straight shot, and people commute back and forth to work and home no sweat.
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Old 05-11-2016, 01:56 PM
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Anybody care to guess why Clinton, Indiana has a 29 mph speed limit?
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Old 05-11-2016, 01:59 PM
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Anybody care to guess why Clinton, Indiana has a 29 mph speed limit?
Because doing 30 will get you caught in the speed trap?
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Old 05-11-2016, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by 52 Merc View Post
...

I like to collect old road maps, and that gives you a really nice indication of what the roads were like. Reading the legend you'll see just how many were unimproved or gravel compared to today.
One of the older guys in the local EFV8 Club told me his family went on a vacation to the East in the early 60's. They were driving a '41 Ford sedan he still owns. He said they didn't hit a paved road until they got to the Mississippi. Not sure exactly why that is, since Route 66 was well established, and nearby, but I'm sure it was possible to stick to dirt and gravel roads all the way across the panhandle, hell you can still do it.

I too like the old maps. There are many associations dedicated to preserving the old highways; the Lincoln Highway (US 30/50), the Santa Fe Trail (US 56), and US 36 for instance. Lots of interesting history, I always use US highways any chance I can.




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Old 05-11-2016, 02:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tedster9 View Post
Some states had no actual speed limit, just "reasonable and prudent" at least during daylight hours. Nightime, and trucks were limited to 50 or somesuch. Iowa was one such. It's a good law, a good way to do things but it might not work today for a few reasons, none of them very good.

Roads were sometimes pretty bad from an engineering standpoint. They weren't banked correctly, or had blind curves, or a 4 way uncontrolled intersection just past the crest of a hill. Yeesh
Speaking of uncontrolled intersections with no stop signs.... my uncle was driving my grandfather's truck, now my 54, when he went through an intersection in the country with no stop sign and got hit in the left front. That explains how my truck had a 56 hood and a left 56 air deflector which didn't fit properly.
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Old 05-11-2016, 02:58 PM
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MT was one of those states with no posted highway speed limit. Basic Rule they called it......careful and prudent. The 55 mph limit hit during the gas crunch, then in the 90's they went back to basic rule. Fatalities went up, so they posted limits again.
I have run my F-1 at 70-75 on decent roads, but it likes about 65 on the highway. Most cars/trucks back when weren't geared for high speed and the brakes and tires then weren't made for it....
Also people weren't in such a big hurry all of the time.
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Old 05-11-2016, 04:56 PM
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The federales dangled highway money in front of states, no dinero if they don't comply with the federal 55 mph speed limit. Pretty scurvy but that's another issue. Montana took a novel approach, however. Exceeding the speed limit would garner a payable on the spot, $5 fine, for "wasting energy" and that was the end of it. It was a good compromise.

"Reasonable and Prudent" didn't work for them because all the strap ons would make a special trip there in their Mazda or whatever to open 'er up. At the time I recall seeing the shredded remains of a vehicle just a mile or two inside the MT border on 212 iirc. Oops.

The 29 sign is interesting, Indiana sez any fines for speeding in excess of 30 MPH go to the state. Anything less, goes to the municipality. Pretty clever, huh?

I think an arbitrary number is a little silly in some respects. "Reasonable and Prudent" gives law enforcement some discretion too. Speed limits are technically, afaik, stated for clear, dry road in good weather, daylight hours, no rain or ice, snow, fog etc, with a safe well maintained car, good tires, etc.

Anybody who has driven out west knows a 55 mph "one size fits all" policy was dumb, made lots of people criminals for no good reason.
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Old 05-11-2016, 05:59 PM
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M37 north of Grand Rapids was built in 1958. that work included 4 lane concrete divided but not limited access as far north as Sparta Ave. and then 2 lane north of Sparta to where it turns north at Newaygo Road. The 2 lane is concrete with plenty of shoulder and good visibility (because it is graded for 4 lane) and ran a straight line diagonally across section line roads. As a young man dad drove the old M37 from west of Casnovia to GR in a 1940 Ford coupe. My mom lived in GR. The old "highway" followed section line roads, up and down hills, across narrow bridges, through towns, and hard corners every few miles where it would zig zag to follow the section line roads. When I was a young driver you could still see the old grade at the corner of Alpine Ave. and 10 mile where the old highway swept around the corner but of course that left an awkward and dangerous intersection with the other 2 directions. This sweep was removed when the new highway was built but the corner remained dangerous even with a flashing red traffic control light. Before the energy crisis the posted speed limit on the new highway was 65 daytime, 55 night. In Michigan at that time the limited access highways were posted 70 and many 4 lane unlimited access and 2 lane highways often had the 65 daytime signs that would change to read 55 at night. I got my drivers license about 1 week before they started changing all the signs to 55. Now days the 4 lane section of M-37 (Alpine Ave.) has been equipped with the infamous Michigan left turn at most intersections. I'm not sure if any other state uses these as much as Michigan does. It takes some getting used to.
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Old 05-11-2016, 06:02 PM
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Have any of you read American Road by Peter Davies? It is a fascinating look at road conditions 100 years ago. It is the story of the First Transcontinental Motor Train as it made it's way across the US on the Lincoln Highway during July - September 1919. Lt. Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower was part of this historic trek and by some accounts was ready to resign his commission just after WW1 to join a friend in the private sector had this opportunity from the War Department not come his way. It was a military expedition that well documents road conditions in each state, the trucks and such they took with them, and Davies does a great job articulating the push for good roads and initiatives such as the Townsend Act. It really is a rich history of the automobile and the impact it had on America but from more of where the rubber hits the road (sorry, couldn't resist) than some of the other automotive accounts that have more of a manufacturing theme. I'm sure there are some of you on here that would really enjoy it.

You can probably find a used copy pretty cheap at bookfinder.com.
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Old 05-11-2016, 06:28 PM
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The Pa. Turnpike, the first super highway was started in late October 1938 and was opened to traffic on October 1, 1940. Very slightly less than 2 years. That was for the first 160 mile section. Here, in Delaware, it took 20 years to build State Rt. 1, which runs about 55 miles from South of New Castle to Dover. Kinda makes one ask what the heck the problem is. History and pictures of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and tunnels
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Old 05-11-2016, 07:59 PM
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My Uncle Joe born in 1902 and as a young man, drove a Model T with a friend from St. Louis, Mo. to the mountains near Denver Colorado. My Dad b. 1905 told of all dirt roads. Uncle had to drive through miles and miles of mud with the T. It would wear out the bands in low so they were told to let the pedal up for high. This caused it to slip in high gear for mile after mile and it made it.
Ok, my Dad had 2 Model Ts and talked about them a lot but I have no experience with them so I may not remember the pedal functions in a T.


Dad courting Mom, I think in 1928 when Dad had his new 1928 Model A on order.<br/>His T was knocking and he broke out the windows for fun. But then the A was delayed and it got cold. kids.<br/>
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Old 05-11-2016, 08:00 PM
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I grew up in the 1950"s in Upper Michigan. We often traveled 360 miles one way for week-end visits to family and friends in WI. My Dad had a 55 Olds, and I have vivid memories of him speeding 108 mph down Hwy M28 out of the Soo. The road, as I remember it, was straight and smooth and completely empty of traffic. Before the Olds, my Dad had a 1950 Merc, but I don't have any specific memories of how fast it was. I do remember that my Dad used his Merc to pull the 27 foot long house trailer we lived in at the time. Those were the days--simpler--less regulated.
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