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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

I Belong To Glasgow

Straying from Blackpool's long familiar promenade scene Rigby Road Publishing is now preparing a further title for 2020 using images taken by the Author during his several youthful visits north of the border from 1959 up to the demise of Glasgow's tram system in 1962. I was fortunate enough to ride on 'caurs' still operating several routes across the city while it was in its industrial prime, with shipbuilding and steam locomotive manufacture very much a mainstay along the Clyde.

The city's tram system was distinctive through the diverse types, beginning of course with the by now venerable 'Standards' which came in two flavours, 'Hex Dash' and 'Round Dash' denoting the front end styling below the driver's controller position. Then came the 'Kilmarnock Bogies' which were familiar on the long east west services devoid of sharp curves or turns - a problem besetting the maximum traction bogies which had a tendency to derail if not carefully driven over junctions and around curves.

Three oddities remained operable - being turned out for peak times. Number 1100 which was a wartime attempt to upgrade a Kilmarnock Bogie of that number by rebuilding the car ends to a rendition of later Coronation cars. Not too successfully it must be said but providing a unique idiosyncracy in the fleet. A solitary single deck bogie car built around the same time as Blackpool's 'Pullman' cars in the 1920s and intended as a prototype for front entrance rear exit passenger flow - or was it the other way round? Ill regarded by Glaswegians, 1089, reverted to rear entrance / exit styling shortly thereafter and managed to stay in service almost up to the end in 1962. Both of these distinctive trams have thankfully been preserved : 1100 due to the efforts of the Late Keith Terry, and 1089 as a welcome exhibit in the amazing Clydebank Riverside Museum. One further strange car was 1005 originating with Vambac controls, unidirectional design and a remarkable all blue livery when launched in the late 1940s. Again unloved by the public the tram's passenger flow attributes were removed along with the Vambac controls and unidirectional mode. In later format it became more or less a late version of the Coronation Mark 2 class albeit with unique styling at both ends. Sadly it didn't make it into preservation.

Then came the dominant Coronation Mark 1 class transforming the image of the tramway system in the late 1930s. Robust well designed singular trams they trundled steadily in columns up and down Argyle Street and other central district paved streets in rain, fog, snow and downright 'dreck' weather right up to the very end in 1962. Thankfully four examples have been retained spread out from Glasgow and Scotland to Crich and the Seashore Museum in Maine. The Coplawhill Car Works piece de resistance produced a further 100 upgraded models in the early 1950s with more rounded bodywork, different bogies and interior improvements. These became known as the 'Cunarders' or formally as Coronation Mark 2 cars with two survivors, one of which ran in Blackpool for a number of years to help augment the 1985 Centenary. A postscript saw a further six Mark 1 Coronations added in the mid 1950s using second hand trucks from Liverpool. Liverpool also was a welcome source of further trams to hasten replacement of the still large fleet of 'Standards' some originating in the Edwardian era and becoming highly expensive to maintain. One of the Liverpool cars made it into preservation ranks and now runs as the only surivivor from that city's large fleet of bogie streamliners. It can be seen at Crich.

In addition to this impressive operation GCT also introduced trolleybuses in the late 1940s - some as tram replacement services and one or two routes boasting Blackpool built single deck trolleybuses of which one (13) was thoughtfully retained for the transport display now at the Riverside Museum.

Not forgetting the quite extensive mixed bag of works cars of all descriptions which justify a history all themselves if space permitted. I came to the city towards the tail end of this great municipal system but managing to catch a vivid sampling of its postwar years - memories whch still retain sights, sounds and possibly even smells of columns of passing trams parading through the city's always busy commercial centre. A chance to put some of these into print has now emerged for next year. More details anon.

St George Square with a Mark 1 Coronation on the 23 Service heading eastbound.

A hurried 'snap' on Argyle Street (one of my first photos of a Glasgow 'caur') traversing a busy crossing with what appears to be a 'Vauxhall' in competition on the nearside.

Sunday morning on Argyle Street in later years of operation and a trio of trams bearing down on the solitary waiting passenger. The absence of other traffic is noticeable.

All Images : copyright John Woodman

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