Today we begin with the first part of Mr. Dale’s chapter on tandem driving, published in 1899:

The tandem is the poor man’s team, and is somewhat neglected by many who might obtain a great deal of amusement from it. But driving tandem is not only an amusement, for it is an excellent and economical method of traversing bad roads for long distances. On this point I may claim to speak with some certainty, having driven a tandem for something like eighteen hundred to two thousand miles in a year, for three consecutive years, over some of the worst roads on our Indian frontier. In fact, for the whole of the cold weather and a considerable portion of the hot season too, I was always driving. It is needless to say that this was excellent practice. In fact it is in my opinion impossible to learn to drive well until you have had some experience of driving journeys.

In the old days, the coaching books tell us, those who had a taste for coaching, qualified in the art by driving the stage-coaches, and no doubt this was an incomparable school for coachmen. Roads of all sorts, horses of all kinds and seldom of the best, with loads of varying weight, and time to keep, taught them to be thorough coachmen, judges of pace, strong with a weak team, and gentle with a strong one, so as to get the most work with the least expenditure of the horses’ strength.

When in 1881 I was appointed to the frontier, I found that part of my duties would consist in driving from one end of the frontier to the other, from Bannu to Rajanpore. My immediate predecessor had done the journey on a camel, but I have no taste for camel riding. The ordinary riding-camel is dull work, and the trotting-camels from Bhowalpur are expensive, and carry little or nothing besides the rider. The journey might be ridden on horseback, but there was the question of baggage. Why not drive tandem? “Oh,” said everybody, “that is impossible. The roads are so bad, no cart would stand them, and you would not get twenty miles.”

I am afraid I am not very good at taking advice, and experience has told me that not one man in a hundred knows anything about a road over which he may have traveled often enough. So I took my own course, bought four ponies, and had a bamboo cart built for me. I had the seat placed rather high and on it a box, literally a box—which I found most useful, for it carried my books and pipes—from which to drive. The net underneath carried the baggage, and the whole was drawn by two ponies tandem fashion. The road was rough and in places very heavy, but it was nowhere impracticable, and I drove over the whole of it for three years without a serious accident. The low center of gravity of a bamboo cart makes the danger of upsetting small…

We’ll continue with Mr. Dale’s tandem-driving tales next Saturday!