Glasgow Corporation Tramways were formerly one of the largest urban tramway systems in Europe. Over 1000 municipally-owned trams served the city of Glasgow, Scotland. The system closed in September 1962.
The Glasgow Street Tramways Act was passed by Act of Parliament in 1870. The act provided legislation that allowed Glasgow Town Council the right to decide whether or not they were willing to have tramways within Glasgow. In 1872, the Town Council laid a 2½-mile route from St George's Cross to Eglinton Toll (via New City Road, Cambridge Street, Sauchiehall Street, Renfield Street and the Jamaica Bridge).
The Tramways Act prohibited the Town Council from directly operating a tram service over the lines. The act further stipulated that a private company be given the operating lease of the tram-lines for a period of 22 years. The St George's Cross to Eglinton Toll tram line was opened on 19 August 1872 with a horse-drawn service by the Glasgow Tramway and Omnibus Company. The Glasgow Tramway and Omnibus Company operated the tram-line and subsequent extensions to the system until 30 June 1894.
In declining to renew the Glasgow Tramway and Omnibus Company operating lease, Glasgow Town Council formed the Glasgow Corporation Tramways and commenced their own municipal tram service on 1 July 1894.
The electrification of the tram system was instigated by the Glasgow Tramways Committee, with the route between Springburn and Mitchell Street chosen as an experiment. With a fleet of 21 newly built tramcars, the experimental electric route commenced on 13 October 1898 and was considered a success. The city-wide horse-drawn tram service was withdrawn at the end April 1902.
Over 1100 new trams were built and fitted with electrical equipment by the Glasgow Corporation Tramways workshops at Coplawhill, Pollokshields from 1898 to 1952, a place that also maintained, overhauled and rebuilt the trams until 1962. Following the closure of the tram system, Coplawhill's paint shop was in 1964 converted into the Glasgow Museum of Transport, though bus and trolleybus maintenance and overhaul continued in the rest of the building for many more years. Following the Museum's relocation to the Kelvin Hall in 1987, the buildings were subsequently adapted to become the Tramway Theatre.
To provide the electrical supply, a generating station was built on the banks of the Forth and Clyde Canal, near Springburn. The Pinkston Power Station opened in 1901. The Pinkston Power Station and substations located at Coplawhill, Dalhousie, Kinning Park, Whitevale and Partick also powered the Glasgow Subway. The power station operated for 57 years, until it was handed over to the South of Scotland Electricity Board in 1958 and ceased operating in the early 1960s.
By the mid-1930s, the 1,140-strong Glasgow tram fleet, although modernised in the late 1920s, was becoming increasingly dated and unattractive. Other British cities had taken decisions to either abandon or modernise their tramway systems. The Empire Exhibition at Bellahouston Park in 1938 would also require additional vehicles to transport the expected visitors. Accordingly, Glasgow Coporation decided to construct a fleet of 152 (eventually) new bogie double-deck trams, the first of which were delivered in 1937 - the year of the Coronation of King George VI. These were followed up by four similar-looking single-truck cars in 1939, plus another a couple of years later.
The 100 Cunarder trams were a post-war development of the Coronation trams and were amongst the last double-deck trams to be built in the UK (between 1948 and 1952). Though comfortable, they were not regarded as being as reliable or capable as the Coronation trams. The Cunarders were fairly similar in design to the Coronations, a notable difference being the route number indicator being above the side window of the cab (rather than on the front of the tram), the inside-framed double trucks and the additional step at the platform, making three steps needed to get on board the car.
The Green Goddesses: ex-Liverpool tramsEdit
In 1954, with the impending closure of Liverpool's tram system (in 1957), 46 of that city's most modern streamlined trams were purchased by Glasgow Corporation. These tramcars, built in 1936, were intended to replace some of the ageing Standard tramcars. They did not prove wholly successful in Glasgow for all that the trucks, motors and controls of the cars were almost identical with Glasgow's own Coronation cars of the same period, for the Liverpool bodies were built to a price and for a relatively short life of fifteen-twenty years. By the time they got to Glasgow they were already close to being life-expired and both Glasgow and Liverpool (where many other examples remained in service after the 46 departed for Glasgow)) were compelled to undertake major overhauls to make the cars fit for further service. In Liverpool, the cars lasted to 1956, in Glasgow until 1959-60. In spite of their overhauls, the car bodies let in rain water, especially around the curved windows and those cars that weren't completely re-wired in Glasgow began suffering problems from electrical failures and occasional small fires.
In Glasgow, they were normally confined to only two routes, the 15 and 29. The accepted story is that these lines had relatively easy curves so that two ex-Liverpool cars (with wider, less sharply tapered front ends than the native Glasgow Coronations) going in opposite directions could safely pass each other. This was largely true of the 15 to and from Anderston Cross to Baillieston and Airdrie. However the 29 to and from Milngavie and Maryhill to Tollcross and Broomhouse, had several sharp curves in the city centre such as Argyle Street/Hope Street, Hope Street/ Cowcaddens, and Cowcaddens/New City Road, yet the Liverpool cars managed them with little difficulty. Had there been genuine difficulty, one might have expected these cars to have been transferred en masse to the 9, to and from Dalmuir West, Clydebank and Partick to Bridgeton Cross and Auchenshuggle, a long route with no sharp curves at all. As far as is known, not a single Liverpool car ever put in an appearance on this route.
Glasgow rejected an offer from Liverpool to purchase more Green Goddesses or the four-wheeled version, known as "Baby Grands".
The tram system was gradually phased out between 1949 and 1962 (in favour first of trolley buses and then, with the sale of the city's Pinkston power plant to the local Electricity Board in 1958, diesel-powered buses), with the final trams operating on 4 September 1962 (the city of Glasgow agreed that the municipality of Clydebank might have its own last tram ceremony, which duly occurred two days later) and the final trolleybuses in the early hours of May 28, 1967. Apart from the Blackpool tramway, Glasgow became the last city or town in the UK, other than Blackpool, to operate trams until the opening of the Manchester Metrolink in 1992.
- National Tramway Museum
- Scottish Tramway and Transport Society
- Strathclyde Partnership for Transport
- Transport in Glasgow
- 1912 map of Glasgow from National Library of Scotland (tram routes visible)
- Ian L. Cormack, Glasgow Trams Beyond the Boundary, Scottish Tramway Museum Society, 1967, ISBN 0900648074
- Tom Noble, The Wee Book of Glasgow Trams, Black & White Publishing, 2003, ISBN 1902927966
- William M. Tollan, The Wearing of the Green: Reminiscences of the Glasgow Trams, Adam Gordon, 2000, ISBN 1874422273.
|Historic town tramway systems in the United Kingdom (v/t)|
Alford and Sutton - Barnsley and District - Birmingham Corporation - Blackpool - Brill - Bristol - Chesterfield - City of Birmingham - Dearne District - Derby - Doncaster - Grimsby & Immingham - Grimsby District - Heaton Park - Hull - Ilkeston - Liverpool - London County Council - London United - Maidstone Corporation - Mansfield & District - Matlock - Mexborough & Swinton - Nottingham Corporation - Nottingham & District - Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire - Rotherham - Scarborough funiculars - Sheffield - Southampton - Volks Electric - Warrington - Wisbech and Upwell - Wolverton and Stony Stratford
Glasgow - Scottish Tramway and Transport Society