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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Merseyside 'Balloon' ?

Centre entrance trams were favoured in the formative years of both Liverpool and Glasgow's electric tramway development - but in single deck form. Both cities would discard the design as innappropriate; due in part to the limited capacity when compared to double deck vehicles. In Liverpool's case tramcar builders in both Germany and the United States were suppliers to fast expanding demand of that city's tramway.

However in 1912, possibly by way of comparison, the United Electric Company in Preston were commissioned by Liverpool to build a sample double deck centre entrance tram. Numbered 572 this impressive design came complete with enclosed top deck and open driver platforms. Seating 83, and no doubt with standing capacity usually exceeded at busy times - the tram (four axle) offered far greater economics than 40 seats on the Brill built centre entrance single deck trams (four axle) delivered in 1898. The wide centre entrance

and elaborate 'gates' intended to seperate those leaving the tram from passengers wishing to enter - are noticeable features. Whether the 'gates' were successful in practise is highly questionable. Equally noteworthy is the very constrained space allotted to the driver on exposed open platforms. Probably only drivers with narrow girth were selected for Number 572, whilst conductors needed to be extremely agile to handle their large load of passengers. This bold experiment was needless to say not repeated and 572 soldiered on for a few years before withdrawal.

One other European tramway took a stab at centre entrance double deck tram development and this exceptionally was Vienna. The city had already built a very presentable and neat all-enclosed two axle double deck tram in 1913. Whilst the 'Great War' was in the first years of bloodletting, Vienna's tramway workshops also developed their own version of the New York 'Broadway Battleship' (which was the popular name given to Number 6000 - see previous Blog). Two Austrian centre entrance cars double deck trams appeared; this time with fully enclosed driver platforms extending from the main bodywork at both ends (reflecting the eventual features on London's 'Feltham' cars). Numbered 452 and 453 the duo were oddities among otherwise standardised two axle cars and trailers common throughout Europe in those years. They were both retired in the early 1930s.

The next attempt at double deck centre entrance trams would emerge from a most unlikely source.

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