LUPTS history: Glasgow tram tour and 869



[This section has been updated from the version that originally appeared in ‘LUPTS 1958-1991’.]


One trip is so significant in LUPTS, and indeed transport preservation, history that it deserves a section all to itself.  This was the two day visit to Glasgow, leaving Liverpool on Saturday 20 February 1960, and which included a tour of the Glasgow tramway system the following day.    


As mentioned in a previous section, one of LUPTS’ earliest aims had been to preserve a Liverpool tram.   Enthusiasts at the time were worried that no Liverpool tram would survive for future generations.   An early scheme to preserve German trailer 429 and Bellamy 558 had failed when both cars were subject to vandalism and neglect when stored in the open at Kirkby and scrapped.   Liverpool’s official last tram, 293, did pass into preservation but at the Seashore Trolley Museum, Kennebunkport, Maine, USA where it remains to this day in a deteriorating condition. 


Allegedly as an afterthought, Liverpool Corporation themselves retained Baby Grand 245 which had been one of the cars in service on the last day.   However, just a year later, there was concern over its condition and LUPTS made several efforts to obtain custodianship of the car.   One idea was that it could run on part of the West Kirby-Hooton railway line, suitably equipped with overhead.   The initial request about the car was made in 1958 but the matter was not resolved finally for over a year.   In January 1960 LUPTS received a letter telling them that their request had been turned down.   The decision was explained in a letter from the Chairman of the Passenger Transport Committee dated 23 March 1960:


“Dear Sir,


“I have your letter of March 20th which refers to the request which was made regarding Tramcar No.254 (sic).   The reason the Committee did not feel that they could turn this car over to your society was due to the strong body of opinion which considered that the tramcar should be retained in Liverpool.


“As you know we are hoping that arrangements may be made with the Director of Museums in Liverpool for this tram to be taken over by him but meanwhile it is intended to retain it in our Edge Lane Works.


In the intervening period, 245 has only been on display in Liverpool for about five years.   Initially it was kept at Edge Lane Works, accessible only on official visits.   For a time it was on display at the Steamport transport museum, and later at the Large Objects Collection, housed at Princes Dock, Liverpool.   On the closure of the latter, it was moved into a reserve store in Bootle until it was placed on loan to the Merseyside Transport Preservation Society in May 2006 (see here).   It is ironic that, 48 years after LUPTS made enquiries about the car, it was finally loaned to its successor organisation.


Returning to 1958, having not received a prompt response from Liverpool Corporation, LUPTS turned its attention towards the Glasgow system where a small number of the 46 Bogie Streamliners (Green Goddesses) which Glasgow had bought in 1953/1954 were still running.   It was decided to organise a farewell tour of the system on one of the cars and, at the same time, try and obtain sufficient funds to buy one for preservation.   The date for the tour was arranged for Sunday 21 February 1960 and Glasgow were to charge £6 for the hire.   In order to reach Glasgow, a Ribble Tiger Cub was hired for two days at a cost of £45, with local tram enthusiast Ted Gahan being the requested driver. 


The weather that weekend was atrocious and Ted recalls having great difficulty in keeping the coach – 964 (JRN40) – on the road and he had to exercise extreme caution when using the brakes.   Arrival in Glasgow was well behind schedule and in all the confusion, two participants (including Wallasey-based enthusiast Allan Clayton) were dropped off in the wrong part of town and inadvertently spent the night in a local brothel.   Allegedly they never even undressed but spent the night listening to the trudge of feet past their locked door.


The next morning, a crowd gathered in St Vincent Street by 10.30am for the start of the tour.   The selected car was 1055, which had been 869 in its Liverpool days.   Martin Jenkins and Chris Bennett had, with the help of the staff at Coplawhill Works, undertaken a survey of all the remaining Liverpool cars and this was judged to be the ‘best’, based on several criteria including last overhaul date, general condition and retention of Liverpool features.   As 1055 swung into Renfield Street for the first leg of its six hour tour, there were 94 passengers on board including reps of the Glasgow press.   Numerous photographs stops had been organised, especially on those stretches not normally covered by Goddesses, such as the 1949 extension to Blairdarie.  In Glasgow, the cars were generally confined to route 15 and 29.   At Mosspark 1055 was posed alongside a Glasgow works car, tending to the track in the freezing weather.


During a break at Dennistoun, LUPTS members were allowed to do a spot of driving within the depot.   Anthony Henry was at the controls of Standard car 64 when he discovered that the brakes were low on air and, with quite a lot of people in the cab with him, was unable to reach the handbrake.   Unfortunately, 1055 was being manoeuvred at the same time and Anthony was unable to stop the collision between the two cars.   Glasgow Corporation sent a bill for £44 to LUPTS and the Vice-Chancellor summoned Martin Jenkins to explain what had happened.   Anthony paid the bill personally, which was a vast amount for a student in those days (equivalent to about £800 in 2010 prices).


The tour finished at about 4.00pm and the Liverpool contingent made their way back home in the Tiger Cub with Ted at the wheel again.   The weather was no better and, having stopped for a break at Penrith, Ted was told that the A6 over Shap was closed and he would have to take an alternative route via Kirkby Stephen.   The snow had been so heavy that the local snowploughs had only managed to clear a path wide enough for one vehicle.   Arrival back in Liverpool was at 1.00am on the Monday morning.


Photographs of the tour have appeared in many publications: A nostalgic look at Liverpool’s trams, Liverpool Corporation tramways 1937-1957, and Green Goddesses go east, to name but three.   Film footage appears on Online Video’s Liverpool trams: Green Goddesses remembered, No trams to Pier Head and Glasgow trams part two


Before the tour, and following the rejection of the 245 plan, the LUPTS Committee had decided to purchase 1055/869 for preservation.   As can be imagined, the idea that a group of students wanted to buy a tram was very newsworthy and an article appeared in the Liverpool Daily Post of 27 January 1960 under the headline “University tram fans covet the last Green Goddess”. 


Glasgow Corporation Transport, in a letter dated 15 February 1960, quoted a purchase price of £50, subject to the tram being removed from Glasgow’s premises within a period of two months.   It was estimated that the costs of transportation, spares and renovation would add another £300 to £400 to the bill.   The sum of £450 was not inconsiderable in 1960 so the Society, in mid-March, began fundraising by writing to the good and the great of Liverpool.   Some responded positively.   Jack Train and Deryck Guyler, major personalities of the day, each made contributions, the latter going on to say in his letter that “... perhaps my old friend Frisby Dyke might be allowed to take tickets on your first trip, that is, of course, if you ever get it going”.   Both Train and Guyler appeared in the hugely popular radio show ITMA - Guyler’s character Frisby Dyke was named after a famous Liverpool store.   [As an aside, in early 1998 the author wrote to Deryck Guyler via his theatrical agent, to enquire whether he would write a short forward to LUPTS 1958-1991.   Several months passed without a reply, and an incorrect report that Guyler had died was received from one source.   In summer 1998 a letter was received from Guyler’s son to say that he was in a nursing home in Australia but was pleased to have sight of a copy of his original letter and sent his wishes.   Guyler died in October 1999 at the age of 85.]


Those passengers on board the tour on 21 February were asked to contribute over and above their 5 shilling (25p) fare.   Some people were rather less supportive though.   On House of Commons notepaper, Bessie Braddock, the famous local politician of the time, responded to the request with “... because of the many other financial requests and commitments that we have to meet, Mr Braddock and myself are unable to make a contribution to your funds.”   Lord Cohen of Birkenhead offered the unhelpful advice “... wouldn’t a set of coloured photographs and scale drawings be adequate?”    


Although the University authorities had initially been supportive of the scheme, it appears that they began to get slightly worried about the implications of a student society having its own tram.   The LUPTS Committee was also concerned on a number of counts, including the relatively small membership and the fact that, being a student society with an ever changing membership, continuity could be lost.   It was therefore decided to set up another society which would involve local enthusiasts in the city, named the Merseyside Tramway Preservation Society (MTPS), to actually take ownership of the tram.    


The funds which LUPTS had collected for the purpose of buying the tram, and the £25/9/9 (£25.49) profit from the tour itself, were transferred to the new society on its formation in mid-1960.   Reference to LUPTS owning the tram, in publications such as the PSV Circle’s Fleet history of Liverpool Corporation Transport and Liverpool Tramways – the Eastern Routes, is therefore not strictly accurate but it does indicate LUPTS’ very active involvement in the initial stages of the project.   LUPTS’ involvement also receives a deserved mention in volume 4 of the TPC Liverpool Transport series and in Streets of Liverpool (written by Jenkins and Roberts (2006), it would do though, wouldn’t it?).   It is clear that without the decision taken by that early group of LUPTS members there would definitely be no Green Goddess preserved today. 


Detail of the subsequent story of 869 is outside the scope of LUPTS history, but there has been a strong link between LUPTS and the MTPS over the years.   Martin Jenkins was the first MTPS Chairman and he, together with Chris Bennett, were in Glasgow for the car’s return to England.   After withdrawal from service it was stored at Dalmarnock Deopt but Glasgow Corporation were keen to see its removal from their premises as soon as possible.   This proved to be a blessing in disguise as a catastrophic fire at Dalmarnock on 22 March 1961 destroyed part of the depot and about 50 tramcars, and 1055/869 could easily have been one of those.   On 8 June 1960, the tram was driven across Glasgow – for part of the journey by Martin Jenkins – to Coplawhill Works where is was loaded onto a lowloader for its trip south, paid for by Guinness in exchange for advertising on the side of the car.   The event was covered by television in Scotland and Martin tells the story of the students knocking on a remote farmhouse door to ask whether they could come in and watch themselves on the news.   The tram’s journey is also recorded in several of the books and videos described above.


The car was initially taken to Parkside on the Middleton Railway in Leeds, where it was accompanied by cars from other parts of the country.   Security was poor, however, and several LUPTS members – including John Ryan – spent a few nights sleeping on board to make sure that it wasn’t vandalised.   In later years it moved to the National Tramway museum at Crich and then back to Liverpool in February 1967, where it was housed the former Green Lane tram depot.   In 1979, restoration of the bodywork having been completed, the car was moved back to Crich for attention to its electrics.   The car remains at Crich today and is a very popular member of the museum collection, often being used for driver experience days.


In subsequent years, it has been featured in LUPTS events.   On 2 May 1998, the annual LUPTS tour featured Crich in its itinerary and 869 was posed for pictures alongside the tour vehicle – Merseypride Motor Services ex-BEA Routemaster RMA58 – on the depot fan to mark the 40th anniversary of LUPTS’ formation.   A few weeks later, some of the founder members had their own get-together and had the chance to drive the tram for the first time in many years.   On 4 September 2010, to mark the 50th anniversary of the LUPTS Glasgow tram tour – without the freezing weather this time – a large party of LUPTS and MTPS members gathered at Crich for a day of reminiscing and riding the car (see here).


Undoubtedly, the continued existence of 869 is certainly LUPTS’ most significant contribution to transport history.


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Last updated: 08 September 2010

© Charles Roberts/LUPTS 2001-2010