Glasgow Corporation Tramways

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search
Glasgow Corporation Tramways
Glasgow Tram 1962.jpg
A "Coronation" tram in Trongate, in June 1962, three months before the final closure of the system
Locale Glasgow
Open 1 July 1872
Close 4 September 1962
Status Closed
Track gauge 4 ft 7 34 in (1,416 mm)
Propulsion system(s) Horse, steam and later electric
Route length 141.37 miles (227.51 km)
Glasgow trams in 1962, shortly before final withdrawal of services (Cunarder on the left, Coronation in middle row)

Glasgow Corporation Tramways were formerly one of the largest urban tramway systems in Europe[citation needed]. Over 1000 municipally-owned trams served the city of Glasgow, Scotland with over 100 route miles (160 route kilometres) by 1922.[1] The system closed in 1962 and was the last city tramway in Great Britain (prior to the construction of new systems in the 1990s).


The Glasgow Street Tramways Act was enacted by Parliament in 1870. This legislation allowed Glasgow Town Council to decide whether or not to have tramways within Glasgow.[2] In 1872, the Town Council laid a 2 12-mile (4.0 km) 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.

Track gauge

Glasgow's tramlines had a highly unusual track gauge of 4 ft 7 34 in (1,416 mm). This was to permit 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge railway wagons to be operated over parts of the tram system (particularly in the Govan area) using their wheel flanges running in the slots of the tram tracks. This allowed the railway wagons to be drawn along tramway streets to access some shipyards. The shipyards provided their own small electric locomotives, running on the tramway power, to pull these wagons, principally loaded with steel for shipbuilding, from local railway freight yards.


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 of April 1902.

An additional 400 new trams were built and fitted with electrical equipment, with the Glasgow Corporation Tramways workshops at Coplawhill, Pollokshields heavily involved in the construction of the new trams. Following the closure of the tram system, the workshops were converted into the Glasgow Museum of Transport in 1964. Following the Museum's relocation to the Kelvin Hall in 1987, the buildings were subsequently adapted to become the Tramway Theatre. In 2007, plans began to relocate Scottish Ballet to its new location alongside the Tramway Theatre. This entailed knocking down or renovating the five most eastern bays of the Tramway Theatre building and it officially opened on 17 September 2009.

To provide the electrical supply, a generating station was built at Port Dundas. 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. The plant and its massive cooling tower, which dominated the skyline of the city – was demolished in 1977.

Following electrification, Glasgow trams were initially fitted with trolley poles to take electricity from the overhead wires. The trolley poles were later replaced with bow collectors.

Rolling stock

"Room and Kitchen" cars

Glasgow's first purpose-built electric trams were 20 single deck vehicles with a central entrance, entering service in 1898. They were not successful and only lasted 8 years in service. One was converted to a mains testing car and is now preserved in its original condition and number,672.


Glasgow Standard tram with top cover

These four-wheeled, double-deck tramcars were the mainstay of the Glasgow tram fleet from electrification until the late 1950s (due to the imminent closure of the system). The first versions of these trams had rounded front panels and open tops (later enclosed). They had "round dash" and "hex dash" appearance. This referred to the front (dash) panels. They were originally round, but in order to accommodate glazing later versions had hexagonal profile dashes. There were over 1000 built between 1898 and 1924. They were progressively modernised in four phases, although not all went through each phase. The first cars were open-top unvestibuled four-wheelers (phase one). They then had top covers with open balconies (phase two), platform vestibules and roll-top draught covers (phase three) and finally fully enclosed top covers (phase four). Electrical equipment and running gear was also upgraded at each moderisation phase. There are examples of these cars preserved in Glasgow, Crich, Paris and the Science Museum (London).

Ex Horse cars

The electrification of the Glasgow system was rapid and the city needed cars quickly to fill the demand. 120 of the best horse car bodies were placed on new underframes with the same trucks and electrical equipment as the standards. They lasted until around World War I, although one, car 92, survived until the 1930s, having operated as a single-deck one-man-operated car on the Finnieston – Stobcross then Paisley – Abbotsinch services.

Ex-Paisley cars

Glasgow purchased the Paisley District Tramways Company in 1923 and inherited its fleet. They were numbered into the Glasgow system by adding 1000 to their Paisley number. Most of the fleet were small open-top double-deckers. Many of them were cut down and used for the Duntocher route in Clydebank. The more modern cars were upgraded to a similar appearance as the Glasgow Standard cars.

The "Kilmarnock Bogies"

After the Corporation constructed a prototype, an order for 50 new trams was placed in the mid-1920s; they were delivered in 1927-1929. They were fairly similar in appearance to the later Standard trams, but with eight wheels (two four-wheeled bogies)and four windowed saloons. The tramcars were constructed by four different manufacturers to a common design, but all used bogies made by the Kilmarnock Engineering Company (hence the nickname). These eight-wheeled trams were restricted to several comparatively straight routes to avoid the risk of derailing on tight curves.

Coronation Trams

By the mid-1930s, the Glasgow tram fleet 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. Glasgow Corporation built two prototype streamlined cars with different bodies, bogies and interiors. A four windowed car with the interior of the five windowed car with EMB bogies was chosen and it was decided to construct a fleet of 100 new double-deck trams, the first of which were delivered in 1937 - the year of the Coronation of King George VI. A total of 150 production cars were built and were described as the finest short stage carriage vehicles in Europe. A further six were constructed in 1954 with slightly modified bodies, on bogies salvaged from a Liverpool depot fire.

Last British-built double-decker No.1392


The Cunarder trams were a post-war development of the Coronation trams and, as such, were the last new double-deck trams to be built in the UK. The last all new double deck car built in the UK, 1392, is preserved in Glasgow's Riverside Museum. 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) which made it easier to read in a line of trams.

A "Green Goddess" tram (in Liverpool Corporation livery) preserved at the National Tramway Museum

The Green Goddesses: ex-Liverpool trams

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 and were mostly withdrawn within a few years. At 36 feet (11.0 m), they were 2 feet (0.6 m) longer than the Coronation trams; accordingly they were normally confined to only two routes (15 and 29 - with relatively few sharp curves). The last to be withdrawn was number 891 in July 1960, more than two years before the final closure of the tramway system.[5]

Glasgow rejected an offer from Liverpool to purchase more Green Goddesses or the four-wheeled version, known as "Baby Grands". Glasgow also rejected an offer from London Transport for its surplus E3 type tramcars.


The tram system was gradually phased out between 1956 and 1962 (in favour of diesel-powered buses), with the final trams operating on 4 September 1962. By that time only one route remained in operation, the number nine which ran from Auchenshuggle to Dalmuir. On the final day of service there was a procession of 20 trams through the city, an event attended by 250,000 people.[6] Apart from the Blackpool tramway, Glasgow became the last city or town in the UK to operate trams until the opening of the Manchester Metrolink in 1992.

In 1949 one tram line was converted to trolleybus operation. Thereafter Glasgow developed several trolleybus routes, but these were all replaced by diesel buses by 1967.


Some of the rolling stock was preserved and the largest collection can now be found at Glasgow's Riverside Museum, including the only remaining horse drawn tram.[7] Seven Glasgow trams can also be seen at the National Tramway Museum in Crich.[8]

The Summerlee, Museum of Scottish Industrial Life runs a former Glasgow Corporation tram on the only operational electric tramway in Scotland, excepting the recently constructed line in Edinburgh.[9]

See also


  2. Brash, Ronald W. (1971). Glasgow in the Tramway Ages, Longman, ISBN 0-582-20488-7. Page 27.
  3. Brash, Ronald W. (1971). Glasgow in the Tramway Ages, Longman, 1971, ISBN 0-582-20488-7, Page 28.
  4. Klapper, Charles Frederick (1984). The Golden Age of Buses, Routledge, ISBN 0-7102-0232-6, Page 22.
  5. I. Stewart, The Glasgow Tramcar (page 166), published by the Scottish Tramway Museum Society, 1983, ISBN 0-900648-21-X

External links

Further reading