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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Sheffield's wonderful trams

By the mid 1950s Sheffield, like other British municipal systems decided to throw in the towel on running trams. Notwithstanding that the topography of the city lent itself admirably to electric traction with trams handling the many inclines, some quite steep, without problems much like Lisbon.

The exclusive use of two axle double deck trams was not unique, but certainly for a system of this size it was notable. Nonetheless the city's transport department had a high reputation for maintaining both trams and buses in first class condition. The conservative pale cream and dark blue colours did much to brighten otherwise dark industrial areas and blackened buildings.

One of the city's stylish 'dome roof' trams heads through the city centre with the Town Hall in the distance. Buses now intrude.

Not only did the Queen's Road Works ensure Sheffield's trams were kept to a high standard even in their final years, but previous decades saw successive new cars being constructed by the Transport Department. Probably the 'Dome Roof' cars of the late 1930s eschewing the streamline styles elsewhere were the most attractive trams on the system. The postwar flourish of a further thirty six new cars complemented the substantial fleet of 'standards' and 'dome roof' trams. At least two examples of the Roberts cars and one 'dome roof' design remind us of this once great traditional British tramway.

Contrasts with a 'Dome roof' car at Vulcan Road siding alongside an earlier Sheffield Standard design - these typified the Sheffield system in its heyday up to closure in 1960.

The second generation tramway in Sheffield follows some of the former routes but lacks the flavour and public affection shown to the original system. Neighbouring Rotherham operated a joint service with Sheffield connecting the two industrial centres. In Rotherham's case their contribution were eleven single ended double deck cars with the route having loops at both ends. Ironically work is ongoing to bring a Sheffield Rotherham tramlink back - this time with the 'tram train' concept. Spanish built, German designed units have arrived in anticipation of this 'first' for Britain. Sheffield's other fame was its role in supplying tram rail and pointwork to UK tramways (and further afield). Hadfields and Edgar Allan being familiar names in tramway permanent way circles. Alas these have given way to German and Austrian steel firms as an example of how the European Union and 'Single Market' has distorted our domestic industry over the past four decades.

The heavy industrial backdrop was enlivened by the passage of the city's immaculately maintained trams - in this case one of the postwar 'Roberts cars'. A final flourish of the system. All images copyright John Woodman

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