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  • Writer's pictureJohn Woodman

The Way We Were - 4 (Glasgow)

Glasgow's amazing tram system closed its last service nearly sixty years ago. But the onetime familiar images, if not the sounds, of the city's trams still have a resonance in 2020. Unlike its ever present rival - Edinburgh, Glasgow has still to embrace the renaissance of light rail, although from time to time creditable attention is given to this or that scheme for formal consideration. A line running from the centre to Glasgow's Airport being oft mooted but so far unrealised. In the meantime Scotland's capital is taking next steps in extending its present light rail line worked by trams (foreign built it must be said) but retaining the madder and white colours long associated with Edinburgh's transport.

I was lucky enough to witness Glasgow's 'caurs' albeit in their declining years from the late 1950s until the very end in 1962. By that time the once smartly painted fleet had passed its sell by date with scuffed and scarred Coronations and Cunarders finally usurping the remaining veteran 'Standard' caurs - even more scuffed and scarred. A major tram depot fire at Dalmarnock summarily did away with a large number of remaining examples of all types during the final two years. This resulted in already withdrawn Standards being returned to service, including a handful given a repaint in anticipation of their being transferred to new homes in preservation. Some Standards already earmarked for preservation succumbing to the flames - fortunately to be replaced by survivors. One car made it as far as Paris where I saw it proudly displayed in its Glasgow colours (488) alongside a London trolleybus. Remarkably 488 is now back in the UK destined for operation at Crich after an extended complete overhaul. Hopefully it will retain the Glasgow livery of later years when it finally emerges from tlc it is undergoing in a Wales workshop.

The longevity of the Glasgow tram system also had the silver lining of being in a period when recognition of 'old trams' was seeping into wider acknowledgement of their role and relevance in earlier epochs. The city made sure this was immortalised by creating a transport museum using the former Paint Shop premises at Coplawhill Works and assigning several representative examples for permanent display. Other museums, notably with aid of the Scottish Tramway Museum Society and its supporters, added weight to these efforts. A Blackpool tram enthusiast was instrumental in securing preservation of a 'Cunarder' car whilst another well known enthusiast in Leeds saw to it that at least one of the remaining 'odd' cars was given a safe home at the National Tramway Museum. Another 'odd' car was the sole single deck tram in Glasgow by the early 1960s - 1089, a one-off experiment from the 1920s found sanctuary within the city's collection at Coplawhill. A third oddity - 1005 Glasgow's solitary attempt at introducing 'VAMBAC' operation on the system, this time in the form of a unidirectional double deck example - sadly did not make the grade.

Scenes from another era :

A busy junction being traversed by several tram services with Standard 75 on the 29 doing the honours.

Two of the city's famous 'Coronations' at the junction with Bothwell Street and Central Station with its restaurant of distinction and hotel as the lefthand side background. Classic Beardmore taxis parked on the right. A leading figure in the TMS - Derek Redmond, points out the finer details of single deck 1089 as it pauses in front of Partick Depot.

A veteran Standard plies the long service 15 to Ballieston with typical Glasgow tenaments and their independent small shops providing an extended background. Cobbled 'setts' make up the road service with obligatory tram track sections maintained by the Transport Department - as seen next to the passing Vauxhall?

All images : John Woodman

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