ABERDEEN CORPORATION TRAMWAYS
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The first Aberdeen trams were placed in service with the route served painted along the sides and on the dash plates. As each route had its own depot, there was little chance of trams being wrongly allocated, to the confusion of passengers. Here is No.5 on the Woodside service.
Later trams had four larger windows on each side of the lower deck. This unidentified car is on the Great Western Road route and the upper side panels carry this information. By this time a route colour system was in use, identifying the various routes. The Great Western Road route colour was brown, but red, white, blue, green, yellow and black were also used.
Here is similar car No.16 with one of the early top covers fitted. This was ahead of its time and considered to be too heavy, hence only one of this type (known as the “White” top cover after its inventor) operated in Aberdeen.
Car 15 has the more standard top cover adopted in Aberdeen although later cars had four-window top decks to match the pillar spacing of the lower deck.
A reversion to open top cars occurred when these were placed in service, presumably for seasonal use to and from the Sea Beach terminus. Note the reversed stairs and separate entrance and exit provision.
Seasonal cars were a luxury but, instead of being fitted with top covers, the cars were modified with staircases removed for departmental purposes. This view was taken in October 1946. Bow collectors had been fitted by that time but they have single arms that must have made them somewhat unsteady.
Aberdeen settled down to the use of open balcony cars as can be seen in this 1920s view of Union Street. Route colours were applied to these cars but the lower balcony panels did not allow them to be carried round the front of the cars.
As can be seen from this commercial postcard view of Castle Street in the 1930s, the open balcony cars were still prominent on all routes but they did not carry route colours by this time, having been relegated to “spare car” duties, filling in at peak hours or for special events, to supplement the regular enclosed cars.
The open balcony cars continued in service until around 1953 as extras and on short-workings. Typical of these was No.76 at Market Street on a short-working of the Woodside route to Fountain.
No.60 had been a balcony car and had the top deck enclosed in the form that would become standard thereafter. This was regarded as a “slow car” and usually ran on short-workings on the Woodside route.
No.109 was a typical standard car of the 1920s. Some were built in the Corporation’s workshops and some were supplied by Brush. Many were progressively modernised with higher speed motors and air brakes but No.109 was not one of these. It is painted as a brown car for the Great Western Road route but, at first, the route colour band was confined to the upper side panels and not carried round the ends of the cars – a throw-back to the open balcony cars. 109 is posed at Hazlehead.
Here is 119 at Woodside terminus. The No.7 cars carried apple green route colour bands, contrasting with the dark green of the main livery and, by this time, the differentiating colour was carried round the ends aiding identification from a distance.
Home-built Standard car 123 was equipped for a while in the 1930s with an EMB Flexible Axle truck. EMB supplied sample trucks to various tramway undertakings at this time and other recipients were Glasgow, Dundee and Edinburgh. They would be specified for Aberdeen’s two experimental streamlined four-wheelers placed in service in 1940.
The so-called “English Cars” were supplied by Brush in 1929 and featured straight sides to the lower deck allowing two double transverse seats to be provided. These were operated on the Blue route from Castle Street to Hazlehead and, as seen here, the White Kingsgate via Rosemount route.
When the Nottingham Tramways closed in the 1936, Aberdeen bought 18 of their 20 most recent cars (from the batch Nos. 181-200). They were transported to Aberdeen with the top and bottom decks separated and not reassembled as despatched so it has not been possible to determine the original numbers carried by them in Aberdeen where they were numbered 1-18. As can be seen in this view of No.2 at Mannofield, they did not carry route colours and were withdrawn from around 1950 with the arrival of 20 new streamlined bogie cars.
The next new cars purchased were two bogie streamliners with central entrances and two similar four-wheeled versions. Nos.140 and 141 were the last cars built by English Electric and can both be seen here at Castle Street in their original, predominantly, white livery.
A few changes were made to 140 and 141 including the removal of the transverse seating from the lower saloon and replacement with longitudinal seats, together with the substitution of the platform doors with roller shutters. The livery on these 1940 purchases was also altered to incorporate more green.
In 1947-48 further second-hand purchases came from Manchester Corporation where the trams were in terminal decline. Aberdeen took the best 14 of a batch of 1930-31 four-wheelers generally known as “Pilcher Cars”. They paid the most for them and carried out the most remedial work. They were numbered 39-52 in the Granite City and No.50 is seen at the Pittodrie siding on a football special. Edinburgh, Sunderland and Leeds were also recipients of these cars.
After operating the four experimental streamliners during the war years the decision was made to order a further 20 of the bogie cars. English Electric were unable to fulfil this order that was eventually undertaken by RY Pickering of Wishaw to the English Electric design. Here is No.33 soon after entering service in 1950. As built these cars required two conductors and had had limited route availability.
Later alterations to the centre-entrance cars included replacing the manually-operated sliding doors with folding doors and improved ventilation to the upper deck. The transverse seating in the lower saloons was taken out and replaced with longitudinal seats. They had a short working life, as the tramway system was closed in May 1958. They also proved troublesome in snow and slush and a nucleus of older Standard cars was retained to cover for them under these conditions. Although offered for sale, there were no takers and all were burned to allow reclamation of scrap metal.
Below is an additional photograph taken in 1898 of interest showing a horse drawn tram : from the STTS collection.
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