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About A Week: Trams And Cricket

Bring back our trams, Peter Hinchliffe pleads.

Trams and cricket. When I was in my teens the two things went together.
Cricket meant Headingley. The thrill of seeing some of the world's best players competing in Test and county matches.

Those glorious, historic characters. Trueman and Statham, Lindwall and Miller, Len Hutton, Denis Compton and the great Don Bradman.

And getting to Headingley always involved a tram ride. Clutching brown paper bags containing leaky tomato sandwiches we would board one of those clattery monsters with adverts for Tizer, Aspro and Yorkshire Relish emblazoned on its side for a journey into bliss.

Days out at Roundhay Park also involved tram rides. Let me tell you, in the days before theme parks and super-duper twirl-yourself-silly thrill rides an afternoon out at Roundhay Park was some adventure!

Then there were those Blackpool trams.

Seated on the top deck, riding past the Tower heading for the South Beach on bank holiday Monday, looking down on the lasses promenading in their best frocks ... It seemed then that life was offering its best gifts.

Go back a century, and every substantial city and town in England had its own trams, including my home town, Huddersfield. The worthy burghers of Huddersficld resented the idea of outsiders running a tramway. In 1877 the London Tramway and General Works Company promoted a private Bill in Parliament to build a tramway in Huddersfield. "Get lost!" said Huddersfield Corporation. Or words to that effect.

The Corporation then obtained permission to build their own tram system. The prime mover was Councillor Armitage Haigh, a Huddersfield lad through and through. What else could he be with a name like that. Along with his father and brothers he ran Priestroyd Iron Works. Armitage supervised the setting up of a tram route from Lockwood through the town centre to Fartown. The first steam-powered tram ran on January 11, 1883.

Eventually a fleet of 30 steam locos and 26 double-decker cars ran over 29 miles of track. Steam gave way to electricity in 1902. The last electric tram ran in Huddersfield on June 29, 1940.

In the early 1890s Huddersfield pioneered a scheme to fit letterboxes to trams. Messrs Atkinson and Sykes, tinners, of Market Walk, supplied boxes of stout block tin, painted vermilion, to the tram company at 1 and 5 pence apiece. These letterboxes, fitted to the outside of the trams, were emptied hourly from 8.30 am to 9.30 pm during the week.

Corporation employees took the boxes to the Tramways office at the corner of Northumberland Street where the contents were collected by postmen at regular intervals throughout the day. Wives could write a note to their working husbands and have it delivered within the hour.

"Gone to Monday Market with our Alice. If you happen to come home at dinner time there's a beef teacake in the pantry. And left-over rice pud.'"

In 1892 local folk managed quite nicely without mobile phones and text messages. That year 9,800 letters were posted on the trams. Other towns and cities followed Huddersfield's lead in tram mail but none were quite as successful.

A month or two ago I was re-living my youth, once more riding around on trams. Sheffield Supertrams. Fancy vehicles they are too. Green and purple decor. A smooth ride. And they don't half whiz along!

At some junctions traffic lights automatically change to green, giving the trams precedence over cars, most of which contain just one person.

Sheffield has got it right. This is the service that public transport should provide. Manchester also has its supertrams. Other towns are queuing up to follow suit, eager to put the clock back a hundred years.

Leave your car in the garage, say I. Bring back our trams.


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