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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Open Top Veteran

One large UK city whose tramway heritage is less known or remembered is that of Newcastle Upon Tyne. The system gave way to trolleybuses in the late 1940s and was distinctive for several reasons. Firstly Newcastle's trams and trolleybuses (and buses) were immediately recognisable for their bright yellow livery. Secondly the tramway

hosted interrunning across the Tyne with neighbouring Gateshead right up to the end of tram operation. Gateshead's trams were notable for the large number of single deck cars necessary due to the prevalence of railway bridges over the road system at many points.

Another claim to fame was Newcastle's very large double deck cars which seated over a hundred (and carried many more at peak times). Along with the Swansea & Mumbles double deck cars they were the largest capacity trams in Britain. Known as the 'F' Class several retained their open tops and garden seats throughout their working lives, whilst other examples were given top deck saloons but leaving the end sections open - a sort of elongated 'Standard 40' format.

At the end of the system one car was saved through the efforts of local enthusiasts - F Class Number 102. Being exceptionally large and in a period of austerity it was no little thing for this tram to have found a safe haven when all of its sister fleet were scrapped. Equally exceptionally it travelled from one end of the country to the other gracing the entrance to the Montagu Motor Museum along with a Portsmouth trolleybus (which had a much shorter journey to make). The tram was placed on display in the open - remaining there for some time before the Crich museum began to spread its net in the early 1960s. Now 102 is a particular favourite in the TMS collection having operated early on in its years at Crich. It is destined for a major overhaul which would see it again provide pleasure to visitors - particularly from the north east of the country.

One other former Newcastle tram is in preservation having been restored to its original enclosed condition (114) at the Beamish Museum after extensive work on the saloon remains which was all that was left to work on. A quite marvellous reproduction of the tram has thus been created resplendent in the same Newcastle livery as 102. Along with Jubilee cars 761 and 762 - the Newcastle F Class, and Swansea and Mumbles Brush built electrics of 1928 - were and are the biggest trams in the UK. This early view of it on display at the Montagu Motor Museum shows it in its original preserved state open to the heavens of course. Nonetheless it survived several seasons to finally gain cover further north in Derbyshire where it is today on static display. Image : Copyright John Woodman Archive

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