Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The Birmingham Tram

Long before the Midland Metro Birmingham, like many towns and cities, had a street tram network. It was one of the largest networks in the country opening in 1904 and lasting until 1953. At its height the network stretched for nearly 130km growing as the city grew in the Interwar Period. The Birmingham network, operated by Birmingham Corporation Tramways, had a narrower track gauge than many networks and it was the largest narrow gauge tram system.

As with nearly all the systems in the UK, decline began in the 1930s as trolleybuses and later motorbuses proved to be cheaper and more flexible. With hindsight of course it was a big mistake to close down the tram systems though made sound financial sense at the time. Most of the Birmingham network was closed just after World War 2 with a number of lines surviving until 1953 and the final closure.

There are not many traces of the Birmingham tram network now. Two tramcars survive and bits of track here and there plus some of the old depots. I remember when Erdington High Street was resurfaced in the 1980s, some of the old tram track which had been tarmaced over could be seen. In 1999 the Midland Metro began operation and in 2015 with the extension to New Street street trams returned to Birmingham at last.
Tramcar 395 at Thinktank

Tramcar 170 at the AMRTM under restoration

Interior of Witton depot, at the time used as a bus museum, notice the rails