GLASGOW CORPORATION TRAMWAYS
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The Glasgow system was the largest outside London in the UK and operated more trams (over 1200 at its maximum) than all the other Scottish systems put together. It was the last of the big city systems to close in 1962 and its life was prolonged by being self sufficient to a large extent through having the Coplawhill Car Works to service the fleet and where most of the trams were built. Glasgow Corporation operated a route colour system until 1938 but examples of red, yellow and blue trams were still to be seen until the early ‘fifties.
From 1871 – 1894 the lease of the Corporation-owned tracks was held by the Glasgow Tramway & Omnibus Company. Here are two of their cars in Argyle Street in 1889. At that time the choice of future traction, to replace horses, had not been determined. The large gantries seen in this view were part of the installation of the Central Low Level Railway on the cut-and-cover basis. During the process the tramway was “future-proofed” by incorporating sheaves for cable traction between the roof of the tunnels and the road surface.
Negotiations between the Corporation and the Tramway Company over the continuation of the lease broke down and the Corporation established its own Tramway Department. They had to acquire a whole new fleet of trams and horses and here is a typical example on the “white” service between Mitchell Street and Springburn.
The life of the horse tramways was short and within three years plans were being drawn up for an experimental electric line using the overhead wire for current collection. This ran on the Mitchell Street – Springburn service that was proving taxing for horses due to gradients. 21 single-deckers, known as “Room & Kitchen” cars, based on American designs, provided this first service which commenced operation in 1898.
The single-deckers were not successful, being prone to de-railing and the Glasgow Standard car that emerged was an open-topped four-wheeler. It was decided to electrify the whole system in time for the 1901 International Exhibition at the City’s Kelvingrove Park and the Coplawhill Car Works was established to build the new fleet as the Corporation did not trust outside contractors to do this.
In the end 80 were built by the Gloucester Railway Carriage & Wagon Company and 120 of the best of the Horse Cars were converted for electric working, such was the pressure to provide new rolling stock. One of the former horse cars can be seen on the right operating the “Blue” service to Linthouse.
578 was typical of the first Standard cars and is seen on the “Red” service from Shawlands to Springburn. This car has louvred ventilators and the height of the railings around the top deck has been raised for safety reasons.
By 1904 it was dawning on the Tramways Department that in wet weather passengers would not travel on the top deck, exposed to the elements. Sir John James Burnet, the eminent architect, was commissioned to design a top cover for the Standard tram. This was his first attempt – the “Unobtrusive Top Cover”. Note that the windows could be lowered into the car sides and a sliding opening roof has been provided. This is car 473. The design was unsuccessful and only 18 were built.
The second attempt comprised a new tram, No.439, which retained the concept of the full-drop windows but abandoned the idea of the opening roof. Reversed stairs were provided but these proved to be unsatisfactory. 439 was initially operated on the “Green” service from Paisley to the East of the City.
The next variation was another new car, No.439, which came closer to the ultimately selected design with open balconies at each end with seating for 5 passengers. Note the reversion to the openable roof.
The ultimate design is as shown here with Car No.799. The main development is the square-ended roof extension over the balconies and the higher end panelling. 799 is seen on the “Red” service to Rouken Glen, and comprises a “Phase II” Standard car.
From 1909, new Standard cars incorporated Hexagonal Dash panels to incorporate vestibule framing and this was retrofitted to earlier trams between then and 1925. These represent the No.137 was experimental and operated from 1914 – 1930 with a front exit. The Standard cars with open balconies and vestibuled platforms represent the “Phase III” stage of development.
Further development was thwarted by World War I and female platform staff were recruited. This view at Rouken Glen evidently shows the first such recruit. The notice on Car 240 is a recruiting poster for the H.L.I Regiment which had its own Tramways Battalion.
The 1920s saw the Tramways suffering intense competition from unregulated buses and a number of experiments were put in hand with existing Standard trams with a view to enhancing comfort and speed. Among these were trials with bow collectors as seen here on “Yellow” car No.48.
Another part of the experiments was the construction of a Pullman single-decker, No.1089, generally known as “Baillie Burt’s Car”. Dating from 1926, it was intended for the inter-urban services such as from Paisley to Airdrie but was found to be slow loading due to unfamiliarity and the narrow entrance and exit.
No.1089 was later confined for most of its life to the only single-decker service from Clydebank to Duntocher where it is seen around 1937. It ended its days as a crush-load shipyard extra and has been preserved in the Glasgow Museum of Transport.
Another part of the policy to combat bus competition was the ordering fifty new bogie double-deckers which were placed in service in 1928-29 on the “Green” Paisley – Airdrie and Anniesland – Uddingston services. Difficulties were encountered in negotiating pointwork in the City Centre and by 1930, nearly all had been repainted with red upper panels for the Dumbarton Road – Argyle Street services that were largely straight. Three outside builders supplied these “Kilmarnock Bogie” cars and 1138 was one of ten built by Brush.
Reliance had to be placed on the Standard trams and plans to convert 200 to bogie cars similar to 1138 were shelved. Standards were therefore rebuilt again and the process, involving over 1,000 trams, extended between 1928 and 1935. Cars were totally enclosed, given high-speed motors, new trucks, upholstered seating, air brakes and heaters. These represent the “Phase IV” Standards. Although described as “Standard” cars, they took various forms. No.963, seen during 1940, was one that retained lower horse-power motors and older trucks, not being intended to last too long and allegedly unworthy of major re-equipment. These were known as “Semi-High Speed” Standard trams.
Despite this view, many continued to give stalwart service for many years and 909, at the Renfrew Ferry terminus, lasted well into the 1950s, latterly with high-speed equipment.
889 was one of ten Standard cars given modern EMB Flexible-Axle trucks in 1935. They were kind to the track and to the trams’ bodywork, prolonging their lives beyond those of their contemporaries and ensuring the survival of Car 779, now in the Glasgow Museum of Transport.
Forty Standard cars such as No.809 were equipped in 1935 with modern motors and control arranged for Regenerative Braking. Although invariably fitted in modern trams and electric railways, the technology was not sufficiently perfected in the 1930s and the fleet were not wholly successful. All the “Regen” cars operated on the “Blue” group of services from Springburn to Govan and Renfrew.
In 1939, five of the Semi-High Speed cars were cut down to single-deckers and used on Service 20 to replace former Paisley & District cars – two of which can be seen at Duntocher terminus to the left of No.821.
No.1100 was used for various experimental work in the years 1930 – 1943. Among these was operation with Brill 61E1 bogies in place of the Kilmarnock Engineering Company bogies originally fitted. Early in the War, 1100 reverted to the original bogies and had streamlined ends fitted, together with – later - electro-pneumatic remote control. Being a one-off car it tended to be used on shipyard extras but has survived in the National Collection of the Tramway Museum Society, although currently in store.
No.60 is a High-Speed “Red” car and is seen at Burnside terminus in January 1947. By this time the livery had been simplified and would shortly be simplified further.
Another variation is represented by this view at Anniesland of “Red” Standard No.27 with rebuilt bodywork having flush sides, following overturning in Pollokshields. By 1950 advertising on the cars had been approved and the remaining service colour bands would disappear within two years.
The last Standard trams had barely gone through the modernisation process at Coplawhill in 1935 when thoughts turned to their replacement. It was realised that re-equipment of veteran cars could only be a stopgap but more new trams were needed to satisfy increasing demands. Two prototype saloon cars were placed in service in 1937 and the second, 1142, was placed in this special red, sliver and blue livery to commemorate the Coronation of King George VI that year. This is how the class gained their name “Coronation” cars.
1142 was very much an odd car and saw comparatively little use other than for peak hour extras. It ended up at Newlands Depot, in which forecourt it is seen in 1948.
In total, there were 150 production Coronation cars placed in service between 1937 and 1941 and this view at the University terminus of the “White” service from Mosspark shows an early example when newly placed in service. The production cars were noticeably neater in detail than the two prototypes.
Most Depots were given an allocation, including Elderslie, where they were initially used on short-workings of the longest service from Renfrew Ferry to Milngavie (over 22 miles). However, as this involved some single track sections with passing loops that could not accommodate Coronations, they never went beyond Glenfield, south of Paisley.
Some simplification of the ventilation and cabin windscreens was carried out in the 1950s but the Coronations gave excellent service until the end in 1962. This is No.1258 at Millerston, one of a small number to advertise exclusively “Electricity”, on the sides, dash panels and every main window.
No.1003 is manifestation of the desire to make better use of the mechanical and electrical equipment given to over-age Standard trams. It was placed in service in 1940 with the truck from car 413 and seating from scrapped Standard cars. There were four other examples, all known as “Lightweight” cars.
The Glasgow tramway system came through World War II “bloodied but unbowed” and in 1947 a further experimental car was placed in service. This was No.1005. Unidirectional, with separate entrance and exit it incorporated PCC-type acceleration and control equipment. Being so different from the remainder of the fleet, the Transport Department tried to emphasise this in painting 1005 in three shades of blue.
In 1951, 1005 was painted in conventional colours and the experimental control equipment that had proved troublesome was replaced with electro-pneumatic contactor control as specified for the Coronation cars. This offside view shows the absence of doorways.
Being unidirectional, there was no need to make the rear of 1005 identical to its front. When new, the troublesome accelerator and control unit was beneath the rear platform where it was prone to overheating or flooding.
More new trams were still required by the late 1940s and by then it was no longer considered appropriate to re-use the equipment from Standard cars. 100 “Mark II Coronations” were placed in service between 1948 and 1952 and were soon nicknamed “Cunarders”. The original livery style can be seen here on No.1300, the last to carry it, until 1954, in this view at Crossstobs.
From 1301 onwards the livery was “softened” as can be seen in this view of No.1328 at Newlands Depot in 1949. This variation had been incorporated at the suggestion of some enthusiasts.
The final styling appeared on car 1340 and, by then, provision for advertising was incorporated on the car upper side panels as shown here on No.1307 that had been recently repainted.
The Cunarders were fine cars but never achieved the popularity of the Coronations. They also lasted until the system closed and No.1337 is seen here negotiating some roadworks at Cardonald at Paisley Road West during the last week of Service 22 in November 1958.
Six further Coronations were placed in service in 1954 based on the pre-war design, using bogies salvaged from the fire in Green Lane Depot, Liverpool. The bodywork design was considerable simplified to match the availability of money recovered from insurance arising from the loss of trams in the Newlands Depot fire in 1948. This is No.1397, itself destroyed in the Dalmarnock Depot fire in 1961.
The small Airdrie & Coatbridge Tramway was acquired in 1921. With 15 cars, it was promptly closed down and operated with buses while it was completely modernised and connected to the main Glasgow system. The trams were repainted in the Glasgow colours and operated in Paisley for a few years. This is a paint shop view and is the only one known to exist showing two of the former Airdrie & Coatbridge open-top cars in Glasgow livery. 1081 is on the left, and the view is dated 7th June 1926.
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The Paisley District Tramways were acquired in 1923 and “1000” added to the numbers of their trams when they became part of the Glasgow fleet. Here is No.1002 (formerly PDT No.2) at Kilbarchan in 1932 when this service was withdrawn.
With one exception, all the Paisley trams had open top decks and Glasgow Corporation cut down some of the best for use on the newly opened Clydebank to Duntocher service. These were the first trams in the fleet to be fitted with air brakes. This is 1037 as first converted in 1924.
No.1024 illustrates the appearance of these cars in their final years. It is negotiating the canal bridge that was immediately adjacent to a low railway bridge and prevented double-decker trams to operate this service. It closed in 1949, being replaced by single-decker buses.
Former Paisley No.17 was converted for use as a motorman training car and could usually be seen plying up and down Coplaw Street between Victoria and Cathcart Roads.
The best of the former Paisley cars Nos.1053-1072 were modernised to the equivalent of the Phase IV Standard cars and eleven were given low-height top decks in 1931 for use on the Kilbarchan service where a low bridge west of Elderslie prevented operation of top-covered trams. This was unsuccessful and the service abandoned, hence dispersal of these low-height cars to other depots. No.1072 is seen here in George Square.
The normal height cars were also dispersed but tended to gravitate back to Elderslie in their final years. Here is No.1068 – the last survivor - in 1954, heading for display in Abercorn Street, Paisley, to celebrate 50 years of tramways in that town. The car had been acquired by the, then, Scottish Tramway Museum Society and since then, the car was sent to Crich where it has been restored as Paisley No.68.
With demise of other tramway systems, there was no manufacturing industry that could manufacture tramway equipment on anything like a commercial scale. Yet in the early 1950s, Glasgow still required more modern trams to replace life-expired Standards. 46 of the newest streamliners were acquired from Liverpool. Always known as “Goddesses” in Glasgow, here is Liverpool No.881 on its way to Glasgow where it would be numbered 1033.
The ex-Liverpool cars came with three different types of bogies. The first batch of 24 had Maley & Taunton swing-link bogies which pounded Glasgow’s permanent way with a vengeance. This is 1021 at Maryhill Park as originally placed in service in April 1954.
The other types of bogies were manufactured by EMB, of their “Lightweight” and “Heavyweight” pattern. 1037 has the latter and shows some of the alterations carried out on these cars while operating in Glasgow. This view at Moir Street was taken in July 1955.
With such a large fleet of trams and so many miles of track on which they operated, it was inevitable that Glasgow would have a large fleet of departmental trams. Few were seen during daylight hours but the two Sand Cars were the exception as they carried sand from the drier to the various depots. This is No.39 in 1943 as originally built with low cabin roof.
Tool and Stores cars were former passenger cars and No.31 had originally been No.1004 when in passenger service (formerly Paisley No.4). It is seen here in the Barrland Street Permanent Way Yard in 1957, complete with trailer.
There was also a fleet of Water Cars and No.19 was typical of these, seen here within Langside Depot. Sister car No.18 was used solely for weed-killing duties on the reserved track. No. 19 survived until 1962.
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