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The last tram out of Mason Green...

IT'S just 70 years since the last tram ran on Halifax rails. The last run, with a tramload of dignitaries, left Mason Green, Ovenden, for the town centre at 11.32pm on St Valentine's Day, February 14, 1939. It brought an end to an era of tramways that had lasted just over 40 years.

Back in 1898, tram services had begun with routes from Commercial Street to Highroad Well and King Cross. In preparation, Halifax Corporation had ordered 10 tramcars at a cost of 4,171, 630 tons of steel rails at 6.50 a ton, 100 poles at 1,090 and 29 sets of automatic points, for all of 19 each.

A depot for the cars was planned to be built at Highroad Well and on May 17 1898, the first run was made by car No 3 with members of the tramways committee aboard.

The tram ran up and down bet-ween Highroad Well and Mile Thorn for nearly an hour before the party alighted at the Granby Hotel for lunch.

Trials continued for several weeks before the first public service began on June 29 1898 to Highroad Well and King Cross.

The trams, which weighed eight tons, were double deckers, though the top deck was open to the elements. The cars were painted blue and white and the lower decks had curtains and cushions.

Soon another 12 miles of track were being laid to extend the system to Salter-hebble, opening in January 1899, and then to Skircoat Green and Booth-town, opening in March that year. Eighteen more trams were ordered and a new garage built at Skircoat Road, now a bus depot.

Over the next couple of years new lines were opened one after another... to Savile Park, Pellon and Illingworth in 1899 and to Causeway Foot, Catherine Slack and Stump Cross in 1900. That same year the King Cross line was extended along Burnley Road to Tuel Lane, Sowerby Bridge.

In 1901, lines were laid to Queensbury, Northowram, Shelf and Southowram and steady progress was made along the Calder Valley as trams reached Luddenden Foot by April, Brearley and Mytholmroyd by July and Hebden Bridge by November. Sowerby Bridge and Hipperholme were reached by 1902, Hove Edge a year later and Brighouse and Bailiff Bridge by 1904.

Services to West Vale were delay-ed by worries over the safety of the steep Salterhebble Hill, which incl-uded a gradient as steep as one in 9.6. For a time the council considered installing a lift capable of hauling a loaded tram between Dudwell Lane, at a point near All Saints' Church, and Wakefield Road in the valley below.

It would have cost 12,500 but in the end Salterhebble Hill was deem-ed safe, the idea of the lift was drop-ped and in 1905 the existing line was extended from Salterhebble, down the hill, to West Vale, where passengers could switch to Hudders- field trams for Elland and beyond.

Halifax tramways reached their peak in 1929, when 106 trams travelled 2.5 million miles on 58 miles of track and carried 20 million passengers.

But hilly Halifax was never ideal for trams and there had been several fatal accidents. In 1906, a tram ran out of control down New Bank, Halifax, and overturned on North Bridge, killing two people and injuring 11.

In 1915, six were injured when a tram ran out of control near the bottom of Lee Bank, Halifax. In 1920, two trams were overturned at Catherine Slack Queensbury.

The worst came in 1907, when a tram ran away in Pye Nest Road, Sowerby Bridge, and jumped the track at Bolton Brow, killing six passengers and injuring 37. It was one of Britain's worst tram crashes.

By that peak year of 1929, the era of buses was fast approaching. As early as 1912 the first of three Daimler single-deck buses had been brought into service and in 1929 the first local tram service, from Brighouse to Bailiff Bridge, ended.

Another six followed in the next four years, including Savile Park, Skircoat Green, Northowram, South- owram and Hipperholme, the routes taken over by buses.

Seven tram routes were abandoned in 1934, including Stump Cross, West End, Queensbury, West Vale, Triangle and Boothtown.

In 1936 the line along the Calder Valley line was cut, ending services to Luddenden Foot, Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge.

Others followed so that, by February 1939, the only route still operating was from Halifax to Ovenden.

On St Valentine's Day, seven trams crowded with souvenir hunters made the last journey, from Mason Green, on the Keighley Road, to Halifax.

The last tram of all contained the mayor of Halifax and other civic dignitaries – who had been taken to Mason Green by bus! – and was driven by one of the department's oldest employees, Whiteley Lumb. The conductor was John Nicholl, perhaps the oldest tram conductor in the country.

Over those 40 years, Halifax tramways had carried 820 million passengers and run 75 million miles. But soon the trams were confined to history, the rails torn up and the trams scrapped, apart from a few bodies which were recycled as bus and park shelters.

Share your memories with other Courier readers. Write to Nostalgia, Evening Courier, PO Box 19,

King Cross Street, Halifax, HX1 2SF, phone 01422 260208 or e-mail david.hanson@halifaxcourier.co.uk

The worst came in 1907, when a tram ran away in Pye Nest Road, Sowerby Bridge, and jumped the track at Bolton Brow, killing six passengers and injuring 37. It was one of Britain’s worst tram crashes.

By that peak year of 1929, the era of buses was fast approaching. As early as 1912 the first of three Daimler single-deck buses had been brought into service and in 1929 the first local tram service, from Brighouse to Bailiff Bridge, ended.

Another six followed in the next four years, including Savile Park, Skircoat Green, Northowram, South- owram and Hipperholme, the routes taken over by buses.

Seven tram routes were abandoned in 1934, including Stump Cross, West End, Queensbury, West Vale, Triangle and Boothtown.

In 1936 the line along the Calder Valley line was cut, ending services to Luddenden Foot, Mytholmroyd and Hebden Bridge.

Others followed so that, by February 1939, the only route still operating was from Halifax to Ovenden.

On St Valentine’s Day, seven trams crowded with souvenir hunters made the last journey, from Mason Green, on the Keighley Road, to Halifax.

The last tram of all contained the mayor of Halifax and other civic dignitaries – who had been taken to Mason Green by bus! – and was driven by one of the department’s oldest employees, Whiteley Lumb. The conductor was John Nicholl, perhaps the oldest tram conductor in the country.

Over those 40 years, Halifax tramways had carried 820 million passengers and run 75 million miles. But soon the trams were confined to history, the rails torn up and the trams scrapped, apart from a few bodies which were recycled as bus and park shelters.

 
 
 

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