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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Let Glasgow Flourish

This reverberating motto was on the side of every Glasgow tram and bus (municipal of course) which served the city for many years. Glasgow's greatness was of course epitomised by the forest of shipyard cranes bordering the River Clyde - clustered around emergent vessels being rivetted and welded by generations of workers in the past century. Second city of the Empire - Glasgow grew and grew from the industrial revolution and transition from sail to steam power for ships large and small, especially those traversing the Atlantic on the shortest route between North America and mainland Britain which meant the docks and ports along the Clyde.

A hurried 'snap' showing a tired and worn Kilmarnock Bogie car (and equally tired camera) pursuing in close proximity a Coronation car along Argyle Street.

Standard car 585 (somewhat bowed) on Hayburn Street but still in service.

'Wee Baldie' on one its many enthusiast tours in the final year or two of the system - with a contrasting new bus carefully passing by. The car is crowded with a standee load of enthusiasts such was the fascination with this unique tram on Brill bogies and more or less in original condition (with some internal changes of course). Images : John Woodman

A remarkable legacy in stone and fabric remains to impress those visiting the city and even though the trams (caurs) have long passed on - the streets and thoroughfares they served still bear marks from their passage in the form of wall rosettes which once held overhead wiring.

Glasgow's confidence and prominence (and wealth) allowed its Council to endorse the design and development of its own class of modern trams in the 1930s. Why not? If the city's engineering prowess could launch massive ocean liners and much more, then the workshops at Coplawhill could readily produce new trams epitomising progressive times in styling and comfort. The resulting 'Coronation Mk 1' trams (George VI that is) were unequalled in the UK for reliability and robustness - as well as a sharp edged design allowing clearance on the many tight curves and junctions on the system. Over 150 were built and many more would have appeared had it not been for the war. The

equally robust 'Standards' in their varied but not dissimilar forms would continue on to dominate services into the early 1950s. Joined by the gothic styling of their four axle counterparts - the 'Kilmarnock Bogies'. It was my great pleasure to have been able to ride almost all of the types of Glasgow's extant fleet in their final years of service - with exception of the experimental two axle designs.

Favouring the distinctive green, cadmium orange and cream livery - Glasgow's trams and buses were an integral and element in the city's heartbeat. Trolleybuses got a look in late on (I believe the last new trolleybus system in the UK) even going as far as operating examples designed and built in Blackpool by HV Burlingham. They too were resplendent the same fleet colours and styling. The story of Glasgow's trams has been related many times elsewhere - and in great detail for the historians in us. Fortunately the late demise of the trams at least meant that the preservation (heritage) movement had emerged to tackle saving examples from the scrapyard. The marvellous Clyebank Museum of Transport displays in eclectic manner a representative number of 'caurs' even to the extent of 'Wee Baldie' the solitary single deck bogie car 1089 which soldiered on more or less to the very end in 1962. The collection at Crich is home to a similarly varied display, most of which were saved through the individual and collective efforts of Scottish enthusiasts at the time. There being no safe home for old trams north of the border for many years. Keith Terry had more than a hand in ensuring that oddity 1100 (former Kilmarnock Bogie) was kept for perpetuity despite, it is alleged, efforts by some to prevent its installation at Crich. Good on you Terry. Another enthusiast, Tony Stevenson, likewise ensured that a postwar Coronation car was preserved at Crich (1297), or so I am reliably informed. Such are the individual efforts of one or two enthusiasts now providing enduring value to later generations.

The Science Museum acquired a Standard car (585) as did French enthusiasts (488) which has now returned to the UK (pre-Brexit initiative?) and the subject of worthy full restoration to operating condition at the East Anglia Transport Museum near Lowestoft. A Coronation car (1245) found sanctuary at Lowestoft for a while before returning north of the border (via Rigby Road) where it is also the subject of comprehensive restoration by a small dedicated team of volunteers at the Summerlee Heritage Museum. This museum's small fleet includes the former 'School Car' 1017, a cut down Standard type double deck tram which once provided a training vehicle for would be GCT drivers and found itself in an enthusiast's garden before being wholly restored to run in this working tram heritage line near Glasgow.

Another Coronation car (1274) made it to the United States and the Seashore Trolley Museum where I made my pilgrimage to see it on display many years back now. All in all Glasgow did indeed flourish and it certainly was in full force in the days I found myself traversing that classic service along the River Clyde's shipyards and industries all the way to Dalmuir West (and back to Auchenshuggle of course).

Argyle Street - those were the days, always a 'caur' in sight. Image : John Woodman

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