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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Dear old Glasgow Town

The Author in his teenage years takes the controls of 'Cunarder' 1358 during a break at the Service 18 (or was it 26?) terminus.

For enthusiasts of a certain generation its hard to believe that almost fifty five years have passed since the last great UK tram system passed into history. Glasgow by a long chalk was the most impressive of systems still running in the late 1950s. Sheffield with its two axle cars and Leeds with its mix of similar cars augmented by London 'Felthams' shipped north were both fascinating, but nothing could beat the intensive tram services operating in Scotland's industrial heartland. No tourist traffic to deal with, just a mix of regular riders day in and day out together with the afternoon outpouring of workers along the Clyde's numerous shipyards - requiring added specials using all available (operable) cars.

By the time I found Glasgow's tramway in the late 1950s' it was showing signs of 'wear and tear' in infrastructure and the tram fleet. Fortunately Glasgow's main commercial artery - Argyle Street, was still 'tram only' with all the remaining services traversing the stretch from beneath Central Station up to the Trongate. This meant a constant flow of trams in both directions along this important retail corridor. The 9, 10, 15, 18, 18A, 23, 26 and 29 all passed along Argyle Street - to the delight of this young enthusiast. Dalmarnock, Partick, Maryhill depots were filled with lines of Glasgow 'Standards' together with the unique Coronation Mark I and Mark II trams. Like Leeds, Glasgow supplemented its postwar fleet with purchase of 'foreign' cars. In this case some 46 'Goddesses' from the running down of the Liverpool tram system. Their dimensions and design meant they were limited to routes with mainly straight running.

Looking decidedly the worse for wear - an unknown ex Liverpool car is caught on the Service 15 inbound from Shettleston. Photographed at speed from an outbound Coronation car. This is how I remember my encounter with former Liverpool trams - in Glasgow.

Glasgow's equivalent of Rigby Road Works was even more inspiring within a cavernous building at Coplawhill. Lines of cars in for a final renewal or repair were attended to by a veritable army of craftsmen. Withdrawals from the large fleet of Glasgow 'Standards' meant a continuing funeral of these workhorses of the system stripped down before being shipped out for a funeral pyre on the outskirts of the city. The nearby Permanent Way Yard across from the Car Works had its own extensive layout together with an impressive fleet of dull red works cars equally fascinating to younger visitors, especially those from Blackpool!

Coplawhill. Pallbearers remove the remains of a fallen Glasgow Standard. One of

hundreds built in the same Workshop and now only good for scrap metal and burning two generations later. Below in the final years the Coronations share the same fate.

Of course there are some oddities within this still large fleet - appearing at peak hours to provide additional capacity (much needed) on Clydebank. Number 1100 with its hybrid redesign features, 1089 standing out as the only single deck tram in the regular fleet, and 1005 in its later double ended form looking more or less like a Mark II Coronation (but those of us in the know knew better).

Tram convergence at Trongate. Note the immaculate paved setts in the roadway.

Convoys of ' Caurs' dominated Argyle Street together with morning shoppers.

Glasgow even had its own trolleybus network in which Blackpool built single deck examples traversed the more prosperous residential districts, while clones of London Transport trolleybuses could be found on other tram replacement services. The green, cream and cadmium orange colours (together with brown varnished woodwork on the Standard cars) made for an agreeable livery more or less unique to the city's transport - although Halifax being influenced by these colours, opted to replicate them in a Pennine setting.

Below : a pair of venerable 'Standards' pause in peak hour workings

A classic 'odd man out' Number 1100 outside Partick Depot in Hayburn Street. Coronation car end styling grafted on to a 'Kilmarnock Bogie' maketh a marvellous 'one off'. Now fortunately saved for posterity through the efforts of Keith Terry and friends in 1962/63. All Images Copyright : John Woodman

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