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Open Features: Trams

David Hammond recalls the days when trams trundled along the streets of a Yorkshire industrial town.

The oil paintings by Douglas Wood recall the era before petrol and diesel engines brought poisonous fumes to the streets of Huddersfield.

In the early days – the late 1880s – steam trams ran from the town centre to Lockwood, Fartown, Lindley and Paddock, while horse trams plied between St George’s Square and Moldgreen.

Mr Wood, a member of Huddersfield Art Society, lived at Roger Lane, Newsome. He died in 1990, aged 69. His father was a tram driver, and Mr Wood took a keen interest in the details of all the vehicle types used by the old Huddersfield Corporation.

“He went very thoroughly into everything he did to make sure he got everything right,” says his sister-in-law, Mrs Betty Wood.

Being a tram driver was a testing job, especially when the controls were located out in the open, and all weathers had to be faced. For the passengers, too, it must have been rough on the top deck in bad weather, before later vehicles were roofed in. There was one compensation – outside passengers travelled at a cheaper rate.

Mrs K Sykes of Long Lane, Dalton, remembers as a child watching tram drivers and conductors getting ready for work.

“Near to each entrance of the depot was a mirror, and each employee stood before this on reporting for duty. On these mirrors, starting from the top, were items worn by the employee, starting with cap badge, collar, tie and so on down to footwear.

“This procedure was carried out religiously. Otherwise, I should imagine the consequences of untidiness would have been dire.”

Mrs Sykes says that crews coming off duty often called at the bakery opposite the depot for a “pennorth” of broken buns. “The bakery was owned by Messrs Wardle Bellarby, who were well-known confectioners in the town.”

The old Huddersfield Corporation had the proud record of being the first municipality in the country to operate and develop its own tramway system.

It was felt unsafe at that time to use steam trams in the confines of King Street. When the fire box shell of a steam engine burst at Longroyd Bridge in 1891, a cleaner standing by was killed.

Advertising on trams began in 1885. From 1887, trams operated a parcel service, and from 1893, a letter service via post-boxes on the vehicles.


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