This is an (edited) article from one of our members, David Sinclair, detailing Dumbarton Trams.A little bit of History
This system operated from an end on junction with the Clydebank Burgh Tramways at the centre of the bridge over the Duntocher Burn in Dalmuir, through Dumbarton to a terminus at Balloch. There were two branches to Barloan Toll, wholly within Dumbarton, and to Jamestown. The original system served only the one-time Royal Burgh of Dumbarton from Dalreoch Quarry to Dumbuck with the branch to Barloan Toll. The public service was started on 20th February 1907. To provide this service there were six double deck top covered trams. [Top covered means that the passengers on the upper deck had a roof over their heads.]
It is possible that they were used only within the burgh. The county element of the tramways was then constructed. The first portion to Alexandria Fountain was opened on 7th May 1908 and the remainder of the main line, the Fountain to Balloch and from Dumbuck to Dalmuir started running on 25th June 1908. Twenty additional cars were needed. These cars were open top. This left only the branch to Jamestown to be completed. The problem here was the railway bridge over Bank Street which did not have enough headroom to allow the safe operation of double deck cars. The company was not allowed the usual option of lowering the carriageway and so single deck cars were required. Four double deck open top cars were purchased second hand from Glasgow Corporation Tramways. These had been built originally as horse cars, but had been converted to electric traction. They were converted to single deck by the simple expedient of blocking off the stairs to preclude access to the upper deck. When used on other parts of the system, the barrier could be removed. This section of line finally opened on 24th February 1909.
In the 1920's two further top covered cars were purchased. As these were still quite new when the system closed, they found a new home with Ayr Corporation Tramways (their № 29 & 30). Surprisingly, when that system closed, the two were again sold, this time to South Shields Corporation Tramways where they served until after the Second World War.
Dumbarton’s trams were typical British urban trams of the period. That is they were double deck, double ended, wooden bodied, running on a relatively unsophisticated four-wheeled truck, powered by two motors capable of operating in series or in parallel, and fitted with a service brake and an emergency brake. The service brake was hand operated, while the emergency brake was rheostatic. One or two views also show trams fitted with a hand operated slipper track brake. [By series is meant that the electricity passes first through one motor and then the second. This has the effect of reducing by half the voltage applied to each motor. By parallel is meant that the full voltage passes through each of the motors simultaneously.]
[By service brake is meant the brake which the driver normally uses when driving the tram.]
[Traditional British trams were usually provided with an emergency brake activated by swinging the controller handle back to and past the off position. This had the effect of rearranging the electrical circuits so the direct current motors acted as generators passing the current so generated through the motors? starting resistances. This brake was much more powerful in action than the service brake, and did not involve great physical effort on the part of the driver. It did suffer from the disadvantage that the trams? Wheels had to be turning to have any effect and it was necessary for the tram to be going in the direction corresponding to the direction of the reversing handle, i.e. it could not be used to control the tram running backwards on a steep hill until the reversing handle was put in to reverse.]
[A slipper track brake was provided on some trams, particularly in hilly areas. It was basically a skid which was pressed down directly on the rail to provide resistance to forward (or backward) movement. It enabled a tram to descend a steep hill without having to depend on the brakes acting on the wheel. The only place on the Dumbarton system where they might have been justified was on the Jamestown Branch for the descent of Bank Street in Alexandria, but these cars did not operate there! The brake could be applied by hand, usually operated by a second wheel rather than a handle, or it could be applied by compressed air on more modern trams equipped with compressed air braking. On some trams it could also be applied as part of the rheostatic electric braking system in which case the skid was magnetized to provide the downwards force.]
[The control of the speed of a tram was achieved by altering the voltage applied to the motors. This was achieved in two ways. One was by altering the wiring of the motors from series to parallel and the other by introducing electrical resistances in series into the circuits. Passing electricity through the starting resistances causes them to heat up rather in the way that a traditional electric bar fire generates heat. Good driving practice required that the controller be allowed to rest only on the off, series or parallel positions. Other positions involving the starting resistances were only to be used transiently.]
The gauge of the tramways was 4 feet 7 inches in common with the other systems in the Glasgow conurbation. This gauge was selected as it allowed the operation of railway wagons on tramway track running on their deep flanges, thus raising their much wider wheel treads clear of the road surfacing alongside the tram rails. It happened at only two places on the Glasgow system, both in the Govan area, where Fairfield’s shipyard was linked to Govan goods yard and Stephen’s shipyard was linked to Shieldhall goods yard via the tramway system. The latter yard used steam engines initially, but later acquired a battery electric locomotive. The crossing is made more complicated with no less than eight separate castings, each different as the railway track was laid on a sharp curve. Had the railway line been straight and at right angles to the tram track only one type of casting would have been required, though a total of eight would still have been needed. Interestingly, the castings were provided by Edgar Allen of Sheffield, who are still in the business of producing such castings for the railway industry in this country and abroad. They also have a facility in Bathgate nowadays. Part of this track, which also served the later distillery (now demolished), can be seen in the car park next to Castle Street and crossing the present day dual carriageway.
As there was a requirement for a clear space of 18 inches outside the outer edge of the vehicle, this meant that Dumbarton’s trams were restricted to an overall width of 7 feet 0 inches. Modern buses and trams tend to be 2.5 metres (8 feet 2 inches in width). Current collection was by means of swivel head trolleys in common with the other company systems, but unlike the Glasgow system which used fixed head trolleys. The two varieties arose from the different needs and layout of the systems.[A swivel head trolley operated satisfactorily with the wire far away from the centre line of the track, but it did require moving parts to guide the wheel to the correct route at junctions.] A fixed head trolley, on the other hand, required that the overhead conductor wire be suspended over the centre line of the track to within very close limits. At junctions in the overhead, no moving parts were needed, the trolley wheel following the correct route automatically.]
Economic advantage could be taken of the side running capability by suspending the conductor wires from a horizontal arm attached to a single pole at one side of the street rather than a pole at each side of the street that double track and fixed wheel trolleys required in the city. On a system involving single track and passing loops, it was usual to provide separate conductor wires for each direction of travel even on the lengths of single track, thus eliminating the need for junctions at each loop. Another advantage of the swivel head trolley is that it is possible to make the reversing of the trolley pole automatic by a triangular layout of trolley wires.
In the early days, when the trams operated only in Dumbarton, the pattern of services involved a tram leaving Dalreoch for Barloan Toll, one from Barloan Toll to Dumbuck and one from Dumbuck to Dalreoch. The timing was such that all three trams reached the corner of High Street and Church Street simultaneously. The next departure from each of the three termini was to the other terminus.
On the opening of the whole system the basic route was Dalmuir to Balloch with shuttle services to Jamestown and Barloan Toll, together with additional trams in Dumbarton and to Alexandria.An interesting article from the Tramway & Railway World Publication from 1907.
April 4,1907 273
THE TRAMWAY AND RAILWAY WORLD
DUMBARTON ELECTRIC TRAMWAYS.
In view of the rapid development of electric traction within the city of Glasgow, and for many miles beyond, within the last five or six years, it is not surprising that the royal burgh of Dumbarton, which is an important shipbuilding centre and the home in Scotland of the marine steam turbine, should not wish to be left behind in the important matter of tramway facilities. The town, which is situated on the north shore of the Clyde about 14miles below the centre of Glasgow, has a population of over 20,000.
In the spring of 1903the Corporation of Dumbarton entered into an arrangement with Messrs. Crompton and Company, Limited, of London and Chelmsford, and the Electric Supply Corporation, Limited, under which these two companies agreed to take over and work the Electric Lighting Order which the burgh had obtained in 1902, and in addition to apply for powers to construct tramways in Dumbarton. No time was lost in making the necessary application to Parliament, and the royal assent was given to the Dumbarton Tramways Act in August, 1903. The promoters of the scheme recognised that the tramways in the burgh of Dumbarton were only a step to greater things, and after prolonged negotiations they obtained the consent of the Dunbartonshire County Council to apply for powers to construct tramways from Dumbarton eastwards to join the Glasgow Corporation lines at Dalmuir, and northwards up the Vale of Leven to Balloch on the shores of Loch Lomond, passing through a busy industrial district. After vigorous opposition by the railway companies, the Act was obtained in December, 1906, and it is hoped that the whole length of route, which extends to some 14 miles, will be ready for traffic within the next 18 months. When this is done the inhabitants of Glasgow will be able to visit the beautiful scenery of Loch Lomond by electric tramcar.
The tramways in the burgh of Dumbarton, which were opened on February 20, form the centre of this larger scheme, and extend to about three miles of route. The main line through the town, from the eastern boundary in the Glasgow Road to the north-western boundary in the Alexandria Road, is about two miles in length, and there is a branch line of about a mile running from Church Place to the boundary in the Bonhill Road near Barloan Toll. The whole route is laid as single line with frequent passing places. The streets in Dumbarton are in many places narrow, and in the case of the line to Barloan it was found necessary to lay the track on one side of the street all the way.
The gradients in Dumbarton are nowhere serious, the steepest being 1 in 20 at the approach to the bridge over the river Leven. Curves are fairly numerous, the sharpest being at the junction of Church Street and Church Place, where the branch line joins the main route. At that point the curve eastwards has a radius of 46 ft., while the curve to the west has a radius of 48 ft. At Dalreoch Toll it was found possible, with some ingenuity, to get in a piece of double track round an awkward reverse curve and in this way the car traffic is kept to the proper side of the road in both directions.
The lines pass under two railway bridges, one
 at Dumbarton East Station and the other at Bonhill Road, close to the power-station and car depot. In both cases it was found necessary to lower the level of the roadway about 18 in., and in order to ensure efficient drainage at the Bonhill Road bridge the Corporation stipulated that an 18 in. storm-water drain should be laid with an outfall into a small stream near at hand. At another point, near Dumbarton East Station, the road crosses a small stream, and it was thought advisable to replace the old stone arch by a new steel bridge of considerably greater width. At two places the tramway crosses, on the level, railway sidings into shipbuilding yards.
The work of laying the track and building the power-station and car shed was begun in the spring of 1906 and was completed in the autumn of the same year.
The gauge of the tramways in Dumbarton is the same as that of the Glasgow Corporation Tramways, namely, 4 ft. 7? in. A number of people not well acquainted with tramway matters are unaware of the object of this gauge, which differs so little from the standard railway gauge. When the original horse tramways were laid in Glasgow it was proposed to run ordinary railway wagons over the lines at certain places, and at the present time the electric locomotives of the Fairfield Shipbuilding Company may often be seen taking two or three wagons of coal along the street on the tramway lines into the shipbuilding yard from the goods depot the Caledonian Railway Company some distance away. The groove of an ordinary tram rail is too shallow to take the deep flange of a railway wheel, so that it is necessary for the railway wagons to ride on the flanges instead of the treads of the wheels, and on this account the gauge has to be made slightly less than standard. The rails, which were made to the British standard specification, are of B.S. No. 1 and No. 1c sections, weighing 90 lb. and 96 lb. respectively, the latter being used on all curves of less than 66 ft. radius. The fish-plates are of the "Dicker" pattern, and both rails and fishplates were rolled by the North Eastern Steel Company, of Middlesbrough. "Eureka" patent lock nuts are used for the fishplates. The tie-bars, which are spaced at approximately 6 ft. 8 in. centres, were supplied by Messrs. Bayliss, Jones, and Bayliss, and are of their patent weldless pattern, notched at one end and screwed at the other. They are 2 in. deep by 3/8 in. thick. The bed for the rails consists of 6 to 1 concrete 6 in. deep, and the rails were packed, within an hour or two after the concrete was deposited, with cement and sand. The bonding at the rail joints consists of two 4/0 Neptune bonds, and the track is cross-bonded every forty yards. The rails are drained at frequent intervals by trapped rail drain boxes.
In the macadamised roads the paving is laid with a toothed margin, the setts extending alternately 1 ft. 6 in. and 1 ft. 8 in. beyond the rails. All the paving is of whinstone setts, laid on a bed of cement and sand in the proportions of 1 to 4, the setts being 5 in. deepby 4 in. wide. The paving is grouted with pitch, and, inplace of cement parging, pitch grout is run into the haunches of the rails.
The points and crossings and special work are of manganese steel, and were supplied by Hadfield's Steel Foundry Company, of Sheffield. The points are 12 ft. long with 7ft. 6 in. tongues.
 The radius of the symmetrical points is 200 ft., and of the side throw points 150 ft. The standard crossings are 8 ft. 6 in. long with an angle of 1 in 6. The railway and tramway level crossings are of the solid pattern. The points at the car shed fan are 9 ft. long and have a radius of 60 ft.
Side bracket construction with flexible suspension has been mostly used, although in the High Street there' are some span wires. The poles are made in three sections of lap-welded mild steel, and are without cast-iron protecting bases. The brackets vary in length from 6 ft. to 17 ft., and have neat ornamental scroll work on them. The trolley wires are of the grooved pattern, the size being 2/0 S.W.G., and mechanical ears are used throughout. The overhead line is divided into the usual half-mile sections by section insulators. The span wires are 7/12 S.W.G. galvanised steel, and the guard wires, which are frequent, are of 7/16 S.W.G. The feeder pillars are fitted with the usual switches, lightning arresters, and telephones. Brecknell automatic signals are placed on the Bridge Street and Strathleven Place sections of the route, where the passing places are not in sight of each other. For each section there are three signal lamps to allow of three cars going in the same direction at one time.
CABLES AND FEEDERS.
The cables are laid on the solid system in wooden troughs filled with bitumen. The feeders between the section pillars and trolley wire are of high conductivity 57/18 copper wire, insulated with vulcanised rubber and taped and braided. The steel armouring is of flexible tubing. in. internal diameter.
The number of cars at present is only six, but when the larger scheme is carried out many more will be required. A11 the cars are of the double deck single-truck type, with top covers. The main dimensions of the cars are: Length over collision fenders, 28 ft.; width (extreme), 6 ft. 9 in.; height from rail to top of car, 15 ft. 8? in. The seating capacity is 22 inside and 34 outside. The radial trucks, which were supplied by
 Messrs. Mountain and Gibson, have a wheelbase of 6 ft. The cars have all the latest improvements in the way of lighting and ventilation, and are fitted with Hudson and Bowring lifeguards. The car bodies were built by the Brush Electrical Engineering Company. Each car is fitted with two 30 H.P. motors, and the usual controlling gear and brakes. The electric equipment of the cars was carried out by the British Westinghouse Company.
POWER-STATION AND CAR SHED.
The generating station and car shed are conveniently situated at the corner of Bonhill Road and Hartfield Gardens, on a plot of ground of sufficient size to afford ample room for extension. The buildings are substantial brick structures, with no pretence at ornamentation. They are designed on thoroughly up-to-date lines, the roofs, travelling crane, and steel chimneys being carried on steel framework filled in with brick walls. The power-station block consists of an engine room, boiler-house, feed-pump room, battery room, offices, and stores. The engine room is 46 ft. long, by 38 ft. 8 in. wide, and below the engine room floor there is a basement in which all the electric cables and resistances are placed. All the connections to the machines and switchboard are made by bare copper conductors fixed to the ceiling of the basement. The plant in the engine room consists of three multipolar open type Crompton dynamos, coupled direct to compound high-speed engines supplied by Messrs. Belliss and Morcom. The engines, which are of the two-crank enclosed type, have forced lubrication, and work with superheated steam at 180 lb. pressure. Each of the larger engines develops 270 B.H.P., and the smaller one 75 B.H.P. Two of the dynamos have an output of 185 kilowatts each, the speed being 420 revolutions per minute, while the third machine has an output of 50 kilowatts, at 575 revolutions per minute. The dynamos are wound so as to give any voltage between 480 and 550, so as to be serviceable either for the lighting or the traction feeders, May 2, 1907]
SPECIAL WORK FOR DUMBARTON
In the account of the Dumbarton electric tramways in our issue of April 7, the name of the makers of the points and crossings was, through a misunderstanding, incorrectly given. We hasten to correct the error, as the whole of the special work was supplied by Messrs. Edgar Allen and Company, Limited, Imperial Steel Works, Tinsley, Sheffield, through whose courtesy we are now able to give drawings of the points and railway crossings.
All the points and crossings are of the makers' imperial manganese steel. The points are 12 ft. 6 in. long, curved to right and left as required, with 8 ft. tongues of a radius of 150 ft.as shown in the drawing. The symmetricalpoints are of 200 ft. radius. The standard crossingsare 8 ft. 6 in. long with an angle of 1 in 6, all madeto suit the Dick-Kerr type of joint. As the tramway crossed the railway twice, viz., at Denny's siding and McMillan's works, special crossings had to be made to suit both railway and tramway tracks, shown in illustration.
There is now no doubt that solid manganese castings are the solution for combined tracks. For the car shed entrance the points were 9 ft. long and of 60 ft. radius.
Destinations which are known to have been used
ALEXANDRIA BALLOCH BARLOAN BARLOAN TOLL DALMUIR DALREOCH DALREOCH TOLL DUMBARTON DUMBUCK JAMESTOWN SPECIAL. It is possible that there was also a destination DEPOT
The definitive work on this system is Dumbarton's Trams and Buses by A.W. Brotchie and R.L. Grieves, published by N.B. Traction, 1985. There is an article in Scottish Transport Magazine No 23 [January 1973, pages 2-8], by James Campbell, and published by the Scottish Tramway Museum Society, now the Scottish Tramway and Transport Society. Finally, there is an article in Tramway and Railway World, associated with the opening of the burgh portion of the system. [4 April 1907, pages 273-276; 2 May 1907, page 391] The booklets Old Alexandria Bonhill & Renton by A. Graham Lappin, Old Dumbarton by John Hood, Old Bowling, Duntocher, Hardgate, Milton and Old Kilpatrick by John Hood all published by Stenlake Publishing of Ochiltree, 1999, 1999 and 2004 contain a number of interesting views of tramway subjects.
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