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Bradford railcoach ?

July 26, 2015

The next UK tram development which played a small part in the evolvement of  Blackpool's  fleet renewal of the 1930s involved yet another unlikely tram operator, this time Bradford.   The city's transport managers showed interest in a break from the open balcony two axle double deck design which Bradford's 4 foot gauge favoured.

 

With the constraints of the Great War well removed, and like other systems with plenty of skilled labour, surplus machinery and equipment on hand - Bradford's tramway workshops were commissioned to design and build a single deck tram with bogies on a drop centre frame to allow centre entrance bodywork.   English Electric were called on to provide controllers and other electrical equipment.   The home built bodywork was given a dome roof then in fashion - and angular ends.   Teak painted side panels gave a sombre appearance contrasting with the white painted roof.  Appropriately numbered '1' - it was placed in service in 1927 on the straight running Stanningley Road route from the city centre.   Given Bradford's many inclines, some quite steep but readily negotiable by the two axle fleet - Number 1's bogies were given side couplings to aid traction.   Unfortunately the this meant that the passage of the tram over time was marked by incessant lound clanking with each rotation of the wheels.  Never desirable on residential streets.  

 

 

 Number 1 shows off its experimental trucks complete with coupling rods and track brakes.  The steep steps into the tram are also evident.   However the driver's cabs are neatly enclosed within the body design.

 

The experiment was short-lived and Number 1 quietly pensioned off - but some seeds had no doubt been sown on Strand Road, Preston where English Electric's marketing and engineering staff were being pressed to improve on the by now staid tram designs on offer.   

 Now fitted with side guards covering the bogies - this classic view of Bradford's brave experimental tram is a foretaste of Blackpool's more appealing rail coach five years later. 

 

Bradford was not alone in its pursuit of more appealing trams by the late 1920s. The bus (and trolleybus) industry had already surpassed the staid tramcar with ever more inspiring products offering comfortable seats, pneumatic tyres, and naturally greater flexibility - and speed.   Other tram systems took steps towards upgrading their offer - or, in many cases, deciding trams were yesterday's public transport.    UK tramcar manufacturers - a handful of builders - had a fight on their hands to stay in business. 

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