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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Spanish Armada invades Edinburgh

Who would have thought that the sole revival in Scotland of a second generation tramway would involve a fleet of Spanish built trams taking over the city's premier thoroughfare ? Scotland had such a proud tradition of designing and building its own tram fleets - with Glasgow leading the way (numerically). Edinburgh dismissed trams quite early on having continued building new cars in the post war period - albeit to their own design of the 1930s. Glasgow on the other hand kept faith with its tram operation until nationalisation of power generation put into doubt the economies of electricity for public transport. Over a hundred new trams were turned out postwar by the city's famous Coplawhill Works - providing comfortable riding qualities up to the end in 1962. Of course the condition of the tracks was allowed to slide in the final years but public affection for the 'caurs' was manifest in the tens of thousands turning out in pouring rain for the valedictory procession that September.

Aberdeen also ordered twenty new trams after the war - picking up where they left off with the prototype deliveries in 1940. The closure of this system was rushed and without ceremony. Dundee kept faith with traditionally built trams but well maintained and reliable until closure in 1956. It is particularly regrettable that no examples of electric trams exist from either system at a time when preservation was just getting into its stride. Of course one Edinburgh tram survives and has operated along Blackpool's promenade line successfully over several years, until delegation to static display at the National Tramway Museum.

So Scotland's sole tramway is reliant on Spanish built (or is assembled) modular vehicles lacking distinction from the myriad other articulated products now seen across Europe. Who would have thought it was the Spanish who conquered Scotland capital's streets? The expense of the Edinburgh tram scheme threw into doubt the viability of light rail schemes elsewhere - and the truncated operating line with its considerable capital over-run costs falls far short of the intended vision. Whereas Manchester's Metrolink has grown and grown (albeit with massive German built imports) - the chances of a similar evolvement in Edinburgh are likely to be heavily argued over on costs alone. Certainly there are plenty of Spanish imports on hand to sustain eventual extensions.

Nonetheless Glaswegians should not give up hope on seeing a return of trams to their city. Only this time perhaps thought might be given to home grown versions - double deck of course, and revival of those marvellously bold fleet colours which characterised the city over many years. One can only hope. In the meantime a ride on the Spanish Armada is glimpsed amid a magnificent sunset - photo courtesy Matt Lodge. With a hint of nostalgia by John Woodman - Blackpool built trolleybus 13 for Glasgow Corporation Transport - in the reserve collection store.

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