8 months ago

This England

This England is the quarterly magazine for all who love our green and pleasant land and are unashamedly proud of their English roots. Published since 1968 the magazine has now become one of England’s best loved magazines and has a readership of over 115,000 people from around the world. As well as being popular in England it outsells all other British heritage magazines in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and is sent to readers in every country of the world. Published in Cheltenham, in the heart of picturesque Gloucestershire, the magazine is edited, printed and despatched direct from England. Subscribe today and celebrate all that is best about England and the English way of life.


‘TRAMS INTO TOWN’ (continued) Left: The conductor on the upper deck of tram 510 at the National Tramway Museum. Above: The magnificent proportions of Crookes tram depot are seen to good effect in this 1957 view. BERNARD METTAM You always entered a tram on the rear platform — away from the driver, or motorman as they were officially called. The rear platform gave access to stairs to the upper deck. Once up there I recall the thick fug of tobacco smoke and the interesting shades of yellow and brown of the nicotinestained roof, together with notices like “Spitting Prohibited”. Conductors or conductresses, always in a smart uniform, wore two leather belts on opposite shoulders that crossed on their chest. One held a leather satchel of coins, the other held the ticket machine. Fares into town were something like 2d for a child. Depending on what model of tram you were in your journey could be an exciting and sensory experience: the smell of tobacco and leather seats upstairs and the whine of the electric motors working hard downstairs; tight corners (of which there are many in Sheffield) had the wheel flanges squealing against the rails and throughout the whole journey the sound of brake ratchets being applied and released; the click of the controller handle accelerating or slowing the tram, and sometimes the foot pedal that released sand onto a greasy rail was stamped on. Couple all that with conductors shouting “Fares please!”, and a tram journey was what might be described as a feast for the senses! My favourite seat in the tram was always in what I called the “bay window” — the large curved end of the upper deck above the driver. It was a semi-circular seat holding, I would guess, about six passengers, that gave a panoramic view of the road ahead if you knelt on the seat (which I did!) and faced forward Despite torrential rain, on the night of 8th October 1960 crowds lined the route to see a procession marking the end of an era. JOHN ROTHERA rather than back into the saloon. This driver’s-eye-view gave a good idea of what a difficult job it was driving a tram through busy city streets with traffic weaving around it on both sides, and how tight the clearances were on some routes. Out of the city centre the trams sometimes ran on reserved track where they were completely separated from the normal traffic, either in the middle of the road or to one side, and could really put on an impressive turn of speed. As I grew older I began to pay closer attention to the trams on which I travelled. In the city I noticed that there were fewer and fewer trams plying the streets, and the destination blinds were showing fewer and fewer destinations. Something was clearly happening to Sheffield’s trams. I didn’t know it then, but it was the beginning of the end for my childhood fascination. Route by route and year by year the trams were being replaced by the more flexible motor bus which didn’t require the extensive and costly overhead and street-level infrastructure and didn’t bring the whole system to a halt if one broke down in the wrong place. The motor car and HGVs were also beginning to make their presence felt in the city. The rails on the redundant routes were often just covered over with tarmac, and still continue to reappear at odd intervals today when a new or remodelled road scheme is undertaken — a poignant hidden history of the original Sheffield trams. The Walkley and Crookes routes succumbed to the 95 and 52 bus routes several years before the final day which was scheduled for 8th October 1960. This meant that, sadly, the life of the last few of the Roberts trams was as little as eight years. When the fateful day arrived it was a thoroughly miserable night, cold and wet, but that didn’t stop what seemed like most of the population of Sheffield turning out in the driving rain to watch the final procession of trams from the remaining western terminus through the city centre to the tram depot at Tinsley in the east end. My father and I managed to find shelter in one of the covered tram stops in the centre as the procession of 15 trams, including a couple of Roberts cars in a specially painted livery depicting Sheffield’s tram designs over the years, passed by. Number 513 had the words “Sheffield Tramways 1873-1960” on its end panels, and the one at the very end (510) carried the famous “Sheffield’s Last Tram” inscription. In between were a mixture of trams that were running normal services the day before, an illuminated tram, and a restored vintage tram. After

A penny that had been flattened by one of the last trams was a popular souvenir. SHEFFIELDHISTORY.CO.UK Above: 1st October 1960, and only a week to go until Sheffield Roberts tram 510 says farewell to the city. BERNARD METTAM Right: Ex-Sheffield tram 74 from 1900 emerging from the depot at Crich. Below: Tramway signs at Crich and a souvenir brochure commemorating Sheffield’s last trams. the cavalcade had passed we trudged back to the bus stop for a despondent, and wet, trip home by bus. Most of Sheffield’s tram fleet that still existed on 8th October 1960 was scrapped — usually by the scrap dealer Thomas Ward that was conveniently situated opposite the Tinsley depot. Local folklore suggests that as little as £40 was paid for each tram — which included 536, the eight-year-old Roberts car and the last double-decker tram to be built in the United Kingdom. What an appalling end for some of the finest trams ever to run on British streets. However, I’m pleased to report that several trams from a fleet that once numbered over 400 have been saved from the scrap dealer’s torch and have been preserved. The National Tramway Museum at Crich in Derbyshire (“Tramway Village”) has eight examples of Sheffield trams in its collection, including a horse-drawn tram (15) from 1874, and two more recent designs: 189 from 1934 and 264 from 1937 — all three of which are on static display. But for the real thrill of a ride on a tram, Roberts car 510 (“The Last Tram”) and 74 from 1900 are operational and take their turn in the rota of working trams. Tram 510 has now spent longer running up and down the mile of track at Crich than it did in the streets of Sheffield. The North of England Open Air Museum at Beamish has two working Sheffield trams: 264 is a 1907 design and 513 is the second Roberts car in preservation — although this is currently on loan to the East Anglia Transport Museum. If you have never experienced the unique sensation of a ride on an original electric tram, or if you spent your working life doing nothing else because a tram took you to and from your work, then a visit to the Tramway Village is certainly almost compulsory if you ever find yourself in the middle of Derbyshire with a day to spare. You buy your tram ticket with an old penny (1d) given to you at the entrance which gives you unlimited travel all day on as many of the trams working that day as you can manage. Smell the varnish, paint and upholstery inside the cars, watch the driver’s skilful control with both hands and feet, listen to the symphony of squeals, whines and bells from the magnificently presented trams returned to their former glory, and if that isn’t enough you can also see how a trolley “reverser” works! It was only on my last visit to the museum that Roberts car 510 was actually in service. I’d seen it in the tram sheds at Crich many times before undergoing maintenance, but this time I could climb aboard and relive the sights and sounds of my youth. It’s been carefully and beautifully restored; the driver and conductor on the day I visited were friendly, the seat backs were reversed at the terminus in the same manner that fascinated me nearly 60 years ago, and yes, I couldn’t resist sitting in the bay window upstairs for an all-too-short journey back to my childhood. CHRISTOPHER NICHOLSON Crich Tramway Village, The National Tramway Museum, Crich, nr. Matlock, Derbyshire DE4 5DP Tel: 01773 854321 Further Information North of England Open Air Museum, Beamish, County Durham DH9 0RG Tel: 0191 3704000 East Anglia Transport Museum, Chapel Road, Carlton Colville, Lowestoft, Suffolk NR33 8BL Tel: 01502 518459

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