The Doric Columns
An early Tram entering Union Street and one in the distance approaching. A small street Market seems to be in progress in front of and behind the Mercat Cross of the 2nd Hand Cocky Hunter variety. Note the relatively clear air despite heavy use of Coal during these times which turned silver granite to black. The old Tolbooth Tower is dwarfed by the Tower of the new municipal clock Tower. The many open fire lums (chimneys) are evident in the shadows cast on the 'Castlegate' as it was better known, and at 9.50am. Is that a cab rank structure in front of the Duke of Gordon's Statue and a horse drinks from a water trough. A ride for a couple o mecks - Or for taller schoolboys look - here's where the tuppeny half gets aff
What a joy to ride these far from relatively silent horseless carriages with 50 HP motors - but better than buses for clean air - no cancerous diesel particulates. Seats that hinged at the back so that as it reached the terminus the seats backs could be clanged to face in the other direction to suit inertia to forward motion by the passengers. the delightful Spiral staircase and driving from either end of the vehicle using a large brass handle above a vertical contactor to move up through the 'gears' with a 'nginge gnine ngigne' sound as it accelerated all punctuated by 'dud-dung' wheel crashes as it sounded each crack between lengths of sunken tram rails between the granite causeway stones. The conductor used to jump out to change points with a long handled chisel tool to push the junction rail in the favourable direction for his route the Tram would turn then he would walk to the other end to replace it in the original position before proceeding. The open decks were a delight for children such as I and we leaned and climbed on the slatted bench seats in peril of falling out to survey the street melee from this 'on high' vantage point.
End to end convenience for pennies and ha'pennies but the tram rails would prove a real hazard for cyclists in the wet and could turn bike and cyclist over and in danger if he were to fall into their path. To cross a line one had to traverse the line positively at near right angles or over you went. Note the Basket delivery Bike and the Sun Blinds.
Women on Trams - World War 1 created a shortage of male labour in a number of areas including the Corporation Tramways. When it became known that women would undertake traditional male jobs there was a meeting opposing such a move. In spite of such reaction women were recruited by Aberdeen Corporation from May 1915, initially as 'Conductorettes' . By the end of the war nearly all the conductors and a handful of drivers were female.
Mannofield was nearly in the country then it seems but this is also reminiscent of the Hazelhead Park section which was lined with cut through mature trees to reach the park gates.
Note the catchers each end which my mother tested successfully when wee brither Jackie run in front of the tram with her screaming - 'oh ma bairn!' in protest as she lunged in front of the moving tram to recue him. By then he had cleared the hazard and she was next in line suffering only grazes and loss of dignity thanks to the low profile 'Cow Catcher'..
Single and double seated interiors
Towards the end of 1925, privately owned motor buses began to make their appearance on the streets, running in opposition to the Corporation Services and by means of fare cutting and other irregular methods to purloin a considerable proportion of the travelling public previously carried by the department.
Some idea of the proportions assumed by this competition may be gained from the fact that when it was at its height, no fewer than 20 separate concerns were operating vehicles, most of them on the Bridges route.
However owing to the uneconomic methods employed, the majority of them soon went out of business.
Space age Trams - The Streamliner - Flash Gordon inspired and an even more luxurious ride - stupendously prominent and a delight as they were so well upholstered clean and draught free.
Cheek by Jowl - old and new stand at at the Castlegate terminus yet all the Trams were incinerated by the Beach Shelter circuit regardless of the towns affections, a supreme act of vandalism by the Corporation to reduce them to mere ashes and metal scrap - such is the urgency civilised progress - every Grandfather in the world leaves begrudgingly and mourns for such better remembered and pleasing times. Brig o' Dee to Brig o' Don was the main route for the Flash Trams. Advertising had yet to adorn these unlike the buses.
Constitution Street Depot should have been kept open for the best preserved Tram vehicles and these could well have been a ongoing tourist feature for the long Beach promenade much like the Blackpool preservation Trams.
1947 Bridge of Don Streamliner bearing the City Coat of Arms
Although the new trams could reach a speed of 45mph, in service they rarely went above 30mph, so the streamlined aesthetic was really an expression of modernism rather than a practical way to cut down air resistance. They summed up the spirit of an age which was obsessed with speed: Campbell’s Bluebird car; LNER’s Mallard Locomotive; the Supermarine S6B seaplane, each of which claimed World Records during that era. The technical aspects of tram operation weren’t ignored, either: it’s said that Aberdeen’s tramways won praise during the War because they operated with very little sparking: bright flashes from trams could breach the blackout and give away the location of the City. That also pleased folk with wireless sets, because 'sparky' trams caused radio interference – and only the brand new trams ordered at the end of the decade were fitted with suppressor coils.
The 1st of 4 Streamliners arrived during July 1940 and in a buoyant article in the P&J, Councillor Collins noted that that there was a tendency for people to believe that trams had outlived their usefulness, but he had never subscribed to that view. His own opinion was that, as soon as the war was won, the City’s old trams should be scrapped and an entirely new fleet inaugurated.
Falcon & Pheonix
Resurrection! - One of the Last Survivors
The Tram is possibly 1 of 6 from the batch of c.1901 Topped Double-deckers with 6ft Wheel Base. and was 1 of the 1st Electric Trams made by Brush Electrical Engineering Co., Falcon Works. Loughborough to be operated by Aberdeen Corporation Transport. Like some other Tram bodies following their retirement it was purchased and bizarrely converted into linear living accommodation by a someone in need of a cheap 1930s depression times 'home' and aptly named Cedar 'Cottage', where it had remained in total obscurity until now. The Tram body was cleaned and carefully reinforced for removal by the dedicated band of enthusiasts. It was then extricated from the exterior cladding that masked the core of the buildings structure. With the help of a Crane and a Haulier the body was then removed from the site it had occupied since 1930 and placed on a low Loader. The lift entailed the use of a large 50 ton crane although the Tram in its present modified state weighs only 4/5 Tons. The main difficulty was that it had to be lifted over Electricity cables and these were 'isolated' as a precaution and the Tram was then safely removed from its enforced 'halt' of 83 years. It was then placed on to the low loader and will re-start its life with a full restoration.
There are plans underway for a dedicated feature website which will include a History of this Tram and its ilk, which will be an ongoing story, as well as a section on the social importance of the Trams in Aberdeen's past History, a Picture Gallery, ongoing News of the project, and a chance for the public to make Donations towards this unique restoration. It is expected that the Website will be quickly established as the group were anxious for the Tram to be safely preserved before going ahead with this publicity. The Tram is now in secure accommodation, having moved under relative secrecy due to the danger of possible vandalism before leaving its former site. It now starts its long and painstaking journey to full recovery as a passenger vehicle. Watch this space!
The casually improvised, fully camouflaged and narrow depth Cedar 'Cottage' was a 'shanty' built around the body and frame of a cocooned Double-decker Tram set on a concrete slab. It then had its seating removed to provide cheap compact living accommodation for a quirky recluse for limited outlay during hard times between the wars in a remote location. The exterior of the Tram was pitched roofed and squared off, slatted with timbers and then clad with cedar wood tiles. Cedar shingles and shakes roof tiles have been used for 100s of years and have proven their durability in all kinds of climates. They can be used to create individual buildings, whether traditional or modern, and their rich, warm colour and texture blend beautifully in any natural environment. The natural effects of ageing and weathering give shingles and shakes, in time, an attractive silvery grey colour. The site still became something of an eyesore with long neglect, and several random out-houses erected around it. A site well overdue for demolition and re-development.
ach - jist knocket doon min.
The Tram in its new home. Immediate priorities are to remove the green tongue and groove boarding which was possibly its 1st stage as a shanty home modification, and complete an assessment of the work required and how it will be phased. It is fortunate that all missing parts can be replicated from patterns elsewhere on the Body; the lower deck pillars and beams, the missing upper deck bulkhead, and the top deck sides, for example. A staircase for a sister car No.14 exists and patterns can be made from that.
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