Glasgow & West Scotland

Glasgow 'a city that loved trams'

Glasgow trams
Glasgow trams
Glasgow trams
Glasgow trams
Glasgow trams
Glasgow trams
Glasgow trams
Glasgow trams
Glasgow trams

Fifty years ago this week Glaswegians bade a sad farewell to their trams.

From a maximum of more than 1,200 trams in 1947, the system was gradually wound down from about 1953 in what proved to be a lingering death.

Glasgow was a great tramway city and was the last in the UK to survive, apart from the Blackpool coastal tramway.

The reasons for this late survival centres around the Corporation Transport Department building its own trams to its own design at the Coplawhill Car Works.

It was also able to manufacture spare parts long after the tramway manufacturing industry had effectively disappeared.

Tram services went far beyond the city boundary extending to Milngavie, Paisley, Renfrew, Clydebank, Uddingston and Airdrie - all at rock-bottom fares and at high frequencies that are unheard of today.

Two-minute intervals

Trams running at two-minute intervals were routine, and in Renfield Street, the service was so intensive that a tram would pass every 12.5 seconds.

Nearly every principal city thoroughfare had them in profusion.

The mainstays of the fleet were the ubiquitous Standard trams. These had been constructed between 1898 and 1924 and progressively modernised over succeeding years.

Image caption Glasgow 'Coronation' trams had a luxurious art deco interior

One much-rebuilt veteran, which survived until 1960, had entered service 60 years earlier when Queen Victoria was still on the throne.

It was this longevity that eventually became their undoing.

Of course, there were the superb art deco 'Coronation' trams but there were not really enough of them.

The 'Coronation' was, however, the iconic tram of the 1930s and they were placed in service as soon as they came off the production line in 1937/38 on routes to and from the 1938 Empire Exhibition at Bellahouston Park - remembered by many, even today.

They were generally known as the 'new' trams, and 'new' trams they remained even after 20 years' service.

It was not uncommon for prospective passengers to let an old Standard tram pass if they could see a 'Coronation' bringing up the rear in the distance.

Glaswegians were fiercely proud of them and during their initial use on the Exhibition services it was as if your 'exhibition experience' commenced the minute you boarded one of them.

Closing procession

Indeed, the contemporary posters encouraged visitors to "travel by the new luxury trams".

Glaswegians turned out in their thousands (one report indicating 250,000) to witness the closing procession from the east end in an untimely deluge through the city centre and out to the South Side Car Works where most would be scrapped.

Yes, most - not all! A good number have survived - including four 'Coronations', one of which is in America - while a representative selection is displayed in the city's Riverside Museum to which their own 'Coronation' has now returned.

The National Tramway Museum at Crich, Derbyshire, has seven Glasgow trams and these are operated for the delight of visitors on a mile-long track through a recreated Edwardian street culminating in panoramic views of the Derwent Valley.

The Crich Museum was the provider of several of the trams that operated on the 1988 Glasgow Garden Festival site where BBC Scotland headquarters is now located.

Prior to the festival's official opening, the Duke of Edinburgh took a trip on one of the older Glasgow trams and was heard to question why on earth we had got rid of these?

Why indeed?

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