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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

Centre Entrance Passenger Flow

Whilst Blackpool's almost unique policy of building up a bus and tram fleet entirely with centre entrance bodywork from 1933 onwards may have seemed strange to British eyes, it was very much in evidence in several European capitals. Berlin, Paris and Copenhagen were among major tram operators adopting centre entrance trams on the continent of Europe. Other systems such as Rotterdam (see earlier blog this month), Leipzig, Danzig and Zurich similarly acquired centre entrance trams to very different styling as further examples.

Possibly Berlin being the foremost proponent of centre entrance bodywork with over 500 examples built during the 1920s and early 1930s creating the largest class of tram in that system - running right up to the end of the West Berlin (BVG) tram system in the late 1960s.

Robust and entirely lacking in any streamline styling - the class were the workhorses of Berlin's tramway over several decades. Whilst divided Berlin went seperate paths after the 'Wall' was built sealing off east Berlin (and capital of the GDR) from the western (Allied) sectors. East Berlin continued to expand and modernise its tram network to the present day in a unified city - with lines incrementally entering what was formerly West Berlin.

A typical Berlin centre entrance tram from the pre-war years seen here installed in the headquarters of its builder - Linke Hoffman Busch (LHB) as evidence of its large contract for the German capital. The driver's point iron in front of the cab's sliding window is a notable feature in the days when automatic points were rare. Other examples of this class have been preserved in several German museums, as well as at the Seashore Trolley Museum in the USA. Image : John Woodman Archive

Paris also operated centre entrance cars from the same period with a rare survivor seen at the now closed St Mande Museum in that city. Its rich green and ivory colours not dissimilar to Blackpool but the design and styling was definitely French! Image : John Woodman

UK tram operators favoured the double deck rear staircase and platform design almost exclusively (other than Blackpool and Sunderland). Both Liverpool and Glasgow started their electric tram operations with centre entrance single deck trams but soon found double deck bodywork to be more acceptable (and economic). An example of one of the Glasgow 'caurs' is on display in the excellent Riverside Museum on Clydebank. Rare centre entrance cars did appear from time to time elsewhere, notably with Bradford's experimental Number 1 single deck car, and three single deck cars in Leeds in the immediate postwar era - two of which survive in preservation at the Crich Museum. Crich also has an eminently restored prototype centre entrance double deck 'Feltham' car (331) from 1931 - which ran latterly in Sunderland (where else?) before being rescued for preservation by Jay Fowler an active tram proponent in the 1940s and 50s.

The story of double deck centre entrance trams around the world is contained in the book by Rigby Road Publications 'From Broadway to Blackpool' still available online on the Tramtalk Shop.

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