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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Another look back in time

This time in Glasgow. Like many enthusiasts now of a certain age there were a handful of destinations in the UK - diminishing with ever increasing frequency by the late 1950s - worth heading to to witness the demise of the once great British tram. Each one had its own distinctive style of operation with very different trams of a design unique to that location. Of course I was fortunate in residing in the one urban centre which had opted to go against the trend and not only retain its trams but also to modernise, insofar as it could, a still sizeable fleet of almost 160 cars.

Dwindling systems still operating tramcars by the time I became engaged in this rarified pastime were Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Aberdeen, and Glasgow. Llandudno and Grimsby (and Immingham) also had characterful lines on opposite sides of the country. Apart from a momentary stop at Liverpool's Pier Head on a school outing to Chester I never managed to make close acquaintance with Liverpool's trams. Although successive visits to Glasgow (overnight by Western SMT coach from Blackpool) ensured that I did at least ride on a 'Green Goddess'. Leeds was another system seen (and this time ridden on) if only briefly on three seperate visits; including the very last day of tram operation in 1959. The latter being notable for dismal November skies and last day tours on the final two routes. Here of course I got to sample London's most modern trams - the Felthams, with their roomy interiors and gently rolling characteristics. The two axle Horsfields were neatly designed but by 1958 no longer cared for and down at heel as they say.

Sheffield in contrast offered remarkably well turned out trams right to the end. This featured a remarkable last tram procession through rainsoaked crowds in 1960. The system operated several contrasting types, even during the final two or three years, with fascinating works cars hiding in the confines of Tinsley and Tenter Street depots. The staff were singularly friendly to visiting enthusiasts, as I recall.

However Glasgow was the last big city bastion of traditional trams still dominating a commercial centre. A library of books have been written on Glasgow's trams, such is their fading fame from the late 1950s. This reflected in part the demise of the city's industrial pillars in shipbuilding and locomotives - which were declining along with much heavy industry in those years. Nonetheless factory turnouts still ensured lines of Glasgow's 'caurs' solemnly progressing to take workers home, or to more smoke filled bars. Glasgow's 'Standards' survived almost to the end of the system, partly by a depot conflagration which ensured whatever could run, ran; to make up for Cunarders and Coronation cars which succumbed to the flames.

A woebegone Liverpool tram in its final months (one hopes) of service in Glasgow.

My memories of the Standards (and indeed much else) are still fresh. Several of the 'caurs' I rode went on to become classic museum pieces. Here is number 22 alongside another part of Glasgow's municipal enterprise. Whilst I was a passenger on the very last departure from immortally named Dalmuir West, I avoided the final rites in September 1962 - again a rain drenched grey day.

A sunny morning this time as number 22 negotiates a junction on its way back to the depot after morning peak service. Well laden municipal refuse wagon heads in the other direction. The destination blinds all look remarkably fresh and clear.

Both Images :

John Woodman


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