Arrival this weekend of 'German Trams In Colour 1955 - 1975' after an extended wait brought back memories from my time in that country in the 1960s. Straight from Blackpool via Catterick Camp to the middle of North-Rhine Westphalia brought me in immediate proximity to German tram systems then undergoing metamorphisis from postwar reconstruction to economic 'wirtschaftwunder' of the new Federal Republic.
Systems large and small were gearing up to replace their pre-war wooden framed trams, usually involving multiple trailer operation with two axle cars. In their place came ubiquitous Duwag 'grossraumwagen'; firstly with the bogie versions from the early 1950s and into articulated versions a decade later. For some reason German transport operators followed Blackpool Corporation practise with pale cream dominated fleet colours and modest waist level relief bands, usually grey green. Some systems bucked the trend sticking with proud pre-war colours such as Hamburg (red), Heidelberg and Munich (pale blue) and Stuttgart (yellow and black). Other systems came up with their own variants such as the unusual pale chocolate and cream of Dortmund, and all over green of the Vestische network in the Ruhr area.
Unlike the current market's consolidation to a handful of tram builders, in those days Germany had quite a diversity of manufacturers. Duwag being of course the dominant player, but Wegmann and Crede in Kassel, Talbot with its Aachen links and Linke Hoffman Busch (LHB), were among notable players. The bus lobby was making inroads into the smaller and medium size tram systems with route closures and consolidation well underway by the time I arrived in 1963. In fact the nearest tramway to my army base was that of Paderborn then shedding its last tram route of a once extensive interurban network in the middle of Westphalia. Nearby Bielefeld (home of Dr Oetker) was undergoing postwar modernisation however with new articulated cars replacing the varied two axle trailer sets from the 1920s era. To the south Kassel was taking delivery of Crede built articulated units but still operating a sizeable number of steel sided two axle pre-war sets. The Ruhr network stretching from Dortmund as far as west as Krefeld and to Cologne in the south was a vast cluster of diverse inter-running systems that drew my frequent visits over the ensuing six years.
Much of this is showcased in this new title - even to the extent of a photograph of an Aachen car built by Talbot which later went to the nearby Liege transport museum collection and featured in my own photograph on the back cover of 'Tribute to Rigby Road Works Volume Two'. In such ways do wheels complete the proverbial full circle. I couldn't understand at the time why Aachen trams were exhibited in Liege - but it transpired that Aachen enthusiasts were bereft of their own museum premises and the adjoining Walloon region of Belgium was willing to exhibit a neighbouring display from 'Aix La Chapelle'. The Liege collection is well worth a visit in a former depot of the town system. Of course an Aachen Talbot built car of the same type in Liege also made it to the UK - actually the Isle of Man as part of a contract to upgrade running equipment of the Snaefell MR cars - but that's a whole other story. A particularly fine detail in the publication was the individual coat of arms of each town and community including those in the eastern (DDR) half of postwar Germany - adorning the pages.
Well done Peter Waller and team