Remembering Glasgow’s grand old ‘caurs.’

Glasgow 1068 launch

Glasgow 1068, formerly Paisley 68, was recently repainted in Glasgow Corporation livery. It was unveiled during Crich’s “Glasgow 50” commemorations with appropriate Scottish accompaniment. Photo copyright Derrick Yates, and used by his kind permission.

Fifty years ago this month, the urban tramway became all but a dead letter in the United Kingdom.

While Blackpool’s distinctive seaside tramroad would soldier into the modern age, the passing of Glasgow’s once-mighty network marked the end of the last major city system in the British Isles. A full decade after London’s trams had given up the ghost, the Scottish metropolis became the final UK city to follow suit, as a quarter of a million souls reportedly turned out on 4 September 1962 to watch the final procession of Glasgow “caurs,” in one newspaper’s interpretation of the local jargon.

In a commemorative piece for BBC earlier this month, noted Glasgow tram expert Ian  Stewart suggested that the “reasons for this late survival (centre) around the Corporation Transport Department building its own trams to its own design at the Coplawhill Car Works,” whilst also was “able to manufacture spare parts long after the tramway manufacturing industry had effectively disappeared.”

An early 20th Century view of trams on Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street. Image from the collection of Flickr user Tour Scotland Photographs (Sandy Stevenson), and used via Creative Commons licence. Click for original photostream.

Still, as Stewart acknowledges, a system which still boasted more than 1,200 trams as late as 1947 “was gradually wound down from about 1953 in what proved to be a lingering death.” The life and death of that remarkable and extensive system was commemorated earlier this month with events at Crich Tramway Village in Derbyshire, England, as well as at two Scottish museums.

Glasgow 1282

“Much prized quality,” reads the side advert on Glasgow 1282, and thus did many Glaswegians feel about the system’s streamlined “Coronation” cars, pride of the fleet in many years. This car was the last to run on the system — interestingly on 6 September 1962, after the formal procession. Joe Savage captured her at Crich in September 2012.

Crich turned its annual enthusiast’s day into a two-day event on the 15th and 16th to mark the anniversary. In Scotland, the Riverside Museum in Glasgow and Summerlee Museum in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, also held events.

Many eyes in the enthusiast world were intently trained on Crich, home to seven Glasgow vehicles that were deployed to good effect to give visitors a feel for the evolution of the city’s tramcars (specifically featuring 22, 812, 1068, 1115 and 1282),  according to the museum’s website. Visitors had the opportunity to ride and photograph a sizable complement lineup the museum’s cars, including many photo opportunities with the exiled Glaswegians and a procession featuring 22, 812, 1068, and 1282.

Among the more memorable events was the unveiling on 15 September of Glasgow 1068 — née Paisley 68 — recently repainted in Glasgow Corporation livery. It emerged from the works in true Scots style, accompanied by the skirl of a piper.

Meanwhile, north of the border, The Riverside Museum put its newly-refurbished 1938 Coronation Tram back on display, whilst Summerlee — home to Scotland’s only (for the moment) operational electric tramway, also held several events.

Glasgow tram lineup

Hear, Hear! The pipes are calling! Joe Savage captured this lineup of five former Glasgow tramcars at Crich, from left: 1282, 1115, 812, 22 and 1068.

For more on Glasgow’s tramways, see:

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3 Responses to Remembering Glasgow’s grand old ‘caurs.’

  1. Christine says:

    If I can find them, I’ll post a couple of Glasgow postcards showing trams (no close-ups, unfortunately) and link back to this fine post of yours.

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