A Day Visit by V.E.Burrows
There have been a number of books written about Southend Corporation Tramways and the earliest (unless I've missed one) was published in 1965 and simply called "The Tramways of Southend-on-Sea". It was written by V.E.Burrows whose personal recollections stretched back to the system during the First World War.
Most of the book is a detailed and fascinating history of the system, taking up nearly 180 pages, but in the middle there is a chapter entitled "Interlude" where Mr Burrows relates a day out in Southend in 1925 by a "tramophile" (not a word that's used much these days!) and his explorations of the system. I've reproduced it below, partly because it gives a very good description of the tram system at the time but also because it gives a fascinating description of the town (and also perhaps what a local thought of day trippers).
The photos I've used are roughly contemporaneous, taken either from Mr Burrow's book or my collection. Unfortunately, the intrepid tramophile didn't take a photographer along with him on the day so some may be a few years out and certainly some of them don't capture the hustle and bustle that's described in the book.
At the Blue Boar
It is Whit Saturday 1925, and a tramophile, having elected to travel to Southend by the former Great Eastern Railway Company's route, seizes the opportunity, when his train halts with a snort and a shudder in Prittlewell Station, of rising from his stuffed horsehair seat and alighting with a sigh of relief. Emerging from the station, he makes his way down East Street, and upon arrival at "The Blue Boar", his travel fatigue is speedily forgotten and his spirits greatly refreshed by the sight of an elderly four wheel tramcar standing at the terminus.
This proves to be no. 32 which with its open top and oldfashioned body with six small windows on each side, represents the method of travel de luxe of two decades ago. The car is painted in a livery of cream and green and prominently displays along the side of the upper deck metal advertisement panels extolling the merits of the beers produced by a well-known East End brewery. In little compartments at each end of the lower saloon there is a seat for one, but resisting the temptation to occupy one or to sample the delights of the open deck as this will still be a pleasure to come, the visitor allows no. 32 to depart for High Street and crosses the road to West Street.
He looks carefully for any sign of the former tramway and finding none by the time he reaches North Road, he retraces his steps to "The Blue Boar", and finds standing there an even more venerable open top four wheel tram in the shape of no. 4. This is a very short car with only four small windows on each side and gives the impression of being very nearly related to the type of vehicle which used to be drawn by horses.
No. 4 moves off on its journey to High Street almost at once, leaving the visitor gaping, so he decides to walk the half mile or so to the centre of Southend, and recrossing the road, strides off in its wake. Victoria Avenue, with its Edwardian villas set well back from the road, and their tree-filled gardens setting up a social barrier between them and it, greets him with quiet dignity.
The single track tramway with its short oval shaped passing loops, is strongly reminiscent of two decades ago, so much so that the open top four wheel car he now sees approaching which is of the three-window saloon type common to so many tramway systems, appears almost modern by contrast. This is car no 3 which shies away from him disdainfully at the passing loop, and proceeds on its way to the terminus, followed by that typically tramway sound of spring-laden points jumping back into position, as the car passes through the other end of the loop. The discerning student reflects that the fleet numbers of the Southend cars apparently have no connection with their age.
Scenes at Victoria Circus
In the distance he can see cars passing to and fro and knows he is nearing Victoria Circus. Suddenly the aloofness of Victoria Avenue is left behind, he passes the L.N.E.R. station on his left and has arrived at Southend's centre. Somewhat bewildered by the sudden activity occasioned by scurrying crowds consisting of residents and visitors alike and by vehicles of all sorts surging in all directions which it takes four policemen to control, he crosses Southchurch Road when opportunity permits, takes his stand outside "The Victoria Hotel" and endeavours to collect his thoughts.
It is a fine day and everyone is out of doors. A tram arrives every two minutes from Leigh, and as befits the most important route on the system, they are all top covered cars with eight wheels. They halt in London Road to set down passengers, then at the bidding of the genie on point duty, they swing round majestically into High Street and reappear some minutes later outside "The Victoria Hotel" on the return journey to Leigh having in the meantime circumnavigated Warrior Square and made a brief halt there if the schedule permitted.
Along Southchurch Road come the cars from Southchurch and Thorpe Bay and also the circular tour cars via both ways. These also turn into High Street but do not reappear on their return journeys as they turn right into Southchurch Road out of Warrior Square. The circular tour cars are all four wheel ones with open tops, whilst on the local services to Southchurch and Thorpe Bay, to which the same cars work alternately there are a few eight wheelers with covered tops, a few eight wheelers with open tops, the remainder being four wheelers with open tops.
The observer notes the coloured route boards on the sides of the cars and how, on a vehicle arriving from either Southchurch or Thorpe Bay, whether local or circular, while the passengers are alighting the conductor nips smartly off the back platform and reverses them, dodging the oncoming traffic with an ingenuity born of long practice. The blue Southchurch board becomes red Thorpe Bay & Beach, the blue Circular via Southchurch becomes red Circular via Thorpe Bay and vice versa. To complete the tramway scene, the three faithfuls on the Prittlewell route pursue their journeyings like clockwork.
The student now casts about for other features of interest, and notes the smug, squat, red double deck open top motorbuses of the Westcliff-on-Sea & District Motor Services Ltd. fleet lined up in Victoria Avenue. The large route number boxes with the small stencil in the middle, as though they did not wish the fact to be too well known, strike him as peculiar. Sandwiched between the open toppers are a few single deckers, some of the latest design and others with open tramway type platforms at the rear.
Also much in evidence are the Company's motor chars-a-banc with their tiered seats and removable canvas roofs catering for parties of sightseers in search of the beauties and mysteries of Essex. Coaches and private buses there are in their hundreds, bringing day trippers into the town, and of course in addition, the usual miscellany of commercial and private vehicles, both horse and mechanical, which are to be seen in the streets of any busy town in this year of 1925.
The visitor gazes around and observes the shops and markets with their thronging crowds, but of particular appeal to him at the moment are the various places of refreshment in the vicinity of the Circus. He selects one whence he can continue to watch the present activity from an upstairs window and the only music he asks with his meal is the rumble of eight wheel cars and the staccato of four wheel cars over the crossings, and the swish of trolley booms as the cars gather speed.
The only discord to mar this perfect harmony is an occasional screech as cars take the curve into High Street, but a man arrives with a can and waters the rails and the tone picture is restored. The diner's attention is suddenly riveted on a single deck open crossbench car approaching empty from the depot along London Road. This proves to be no. 40, which glides sinuously round from Victoria Circus into High Street en route for the Kursaal, there to commence its day's work in conveying parties along the sea front and through the boulevards. But this is like watching the happenings in another world from afar, so the student issues forth into the jostling crowds again and resumes his vantage point for a few minutes before moving on.
The flow of traffic seems greater than ever, but after a time it is apparent that something is amiss. For several minutes no cars have been arriving from Leigh, the last to do so having already left on its return journey. Meantime a crowd is gathering at the stop in London Road, and glancing across to Southchurch Road expectantly. Suddenly a strung-out convoy of cars appears from the direction of Leigh with open top four wheel car no. 35 well in the van and driven by an inspector. The car is empty is without route boards and the conductor is hastily changing the indicators to Chalkwell Park.
It looks as though there has been an incident and that car 35 has been brought out to deal with the emergency, as our friend reflects that this is the first open top car he has seen on the Leigh route. Car 35 is smartly reversed over the crossover in London Road and commences to load up with passengers. Meantime the following car from Leigh, covered top eight wheel car no 46 also pulls over the crossover, and with a cry of "Leigh car behind", no. 35 is away, a gentleman standing on the top deck confirming with a friend on the pavement the appointment for a darts match that evening at a local hostelry. With a final thumbs-up gesture he takes his seat, and Victoria Circus is left to ponder the recreational activities of the two citizens concerned.
Meantime the third car in the convoy, covered top eight wheeler no. 57, has picked up the few passengers from car 46 who wish to reach Warrior Square, and turns into High Street followed by two similar cars nos. 55 and 49. In an incredibly short time no. 57 reappears at "The Victoria Hotel" and is away over to London Road to clear the waiting crowd, which is forever forming and dispersing. Before any appreciable crowd can form again, no. 55 is there to take on passengers. Thus in true tramway fashion is another incident closed without argument, conferences, fuss or bother. The student speculates on the cause of the hold-up but as with similar incidents elsewhere in the past, decides he will never know.
High Street and Warrior Square ....
He now feels impelled to move and proceeds down High Street stepping out into the road at peril of his life to gain a more forward place in the slow moving crowd on the pavement. He notices how the trams discipline all traffic by compelling it to maintain four lanes. He takes a brief glance round Warrior Square and notes the passenger shelter erected for the convenience of tramway patrons.
Car 32 is on the High Street terminal stub and is about to leave for Prittlewell and he watches with rapt attention the action of the trolley arm on the automatic reverser. As he watches no. 32 disappear, he observes three topcovered eight wheel cars all labelled Leigh coming down High Street, so it seems that arising from the recent incident, there is some bunching to be ironed out on the route. To his surprise the first car, no. 47, instead of turning into Warrior Square, pulls on to the vacant stub and immediately reverses and is away, as it does not have to pickup passengers at that point.
The next two cars, nos. 24 and 22, are of particular interest, as a few weeks ago both had open tops, and very smart they look repainted in their cream and green livery. The age of no 22, however, is betrayed by its internal clerestory roof and mitre topped windows. Both cars proceed into Warrior Square, no. 24 sets down and picks up passengers and departs at once, while no. 22 draws over the crossover and pulls up behind open top four wheeler no. 26 destined for Southchurch.
Marine Parade ....
The transport student sets off purposefully down High Street, passes under the railway bridge and is immediately caught up in a great concourse of people emerging from the L.M.S.R. Station. The throng in its march southwards requisitions both pavements and the whole of the roadway as well and all traffic has to stop.
Our friend wonders how it could have been possible to operate the proposed High Street tramway under such conditions had it ever been built. He passes the Royal Hotel and the entrance to the pier on his right, and descending Pier Hill, reflects on what sort of trams would have been used to cope with the gradient. So he reaches Marine Parade, and crossing to the seaward side, ambles along in the direction of the Kursaal. To his right the beach is well littered with deck chairs and their occupants.
The tide is almost at full ebb, and half a mile out can be seen distant figures digging for bait. The other side of the road is lined with cafes, restaurants, boarding houses, taverns, amusement arcades, stalls for the sale of the genuine Southend rock "lettered right through", confectioners' shops, stationers, fruiterers, fancy goods stores, ice cream booths, fried fish shops, vendors of peanuts, and the stalls of the fishmongers offering cockles, whelks, shrimps, mussels, oysters, winkles and jellied eels, all extending in endless variety as far as the eye can reach.
Drawn up against the kerb on his side of the road is a long line of double deck horsebrakes, motor chars-a-banc, ponies and traps, horse cabs, and all the latest in motor coaches, all either plying for hire or offering the visitor a specific drive or mystery tour. Turning seaward again, he observes the famous pier stretching a mile and a quarter out to sea, and halfway along it sees that two of the pier trams, consisting of several vehicles all coupled together, are about to pass each other, the one crammed with folk proceeding to the fun and distractions at the end of the pier, the other equally full of visitors who have made the trip to Southend by water, have disembarked at the pier head and are now on the last stage of their journey.
The lone visitor passes a Punch and Judy show on his right, but resists a natural impulse to halt and watch the cruelties perpetrated by the principal actor, as already he can see and hear the trams at the end of Marine Parade swinging out on to the seafront from Southchurch Avenue or making their way back to town to collect fresh loads.
Life by the Kursaal....
43 waits for passengers at the Kursaal, Ian Banks collection
As he approaches, crossbench car 43, fully laden with passengers, draws out from the loading island by the Kursaal for its circular trip along the front and round the boulevards, and falls in behind open top four wheel car no. 11 bound for Thorpe Bay.
Open top eight wheel car 23, looking rather disreputable with its dirty paintwork and its front dashboard full of hammered dents, draws up from Thorpe Bay, and it is then that the interested observer realises the true value of the large warning bell attached to the handrail at the front of the car, as no. 23 starts to ease its way through the crowds swarming over the roadway. Crossbench car no. 41 now appears, having completed another circular trip, and nudges its way into the loading island and disgorges its load of satisfied clients.
A queue is waiting in the crush barriers ready to board the car, it is soon full up, and the tramway regulator motions it in front of covered top eight wheel car no. 61 bound for Thorpe Bay, and off it goes. The topcovered car seems somehow out of place on the seafront, as with a tintillation on the bell and much energetic striking of its gong, it sets off in pursuit of no. 41. As far as one can see round the curve of Thorpe Bay, there is an endless procession of trams in both directions. With a full load open top car 30 arrives from Thorpe Bay with the route board on its side reading "To and from Kursaal", reverses, fills up again, and wends its way back to Thorpe Bay.
All is bustle and noise. The Southend rock manufacturer assures all and sundry that his product is lettered right through, the peanut vendor that his comestible is fresh roasted, the ice cream salesman that his product is lovely and made of real dairy cream, the fisherman that his crabs and lobsters were caught and boiled that morning, the newspaper seller exhorts the public to inform themselves on the latest news.
Muffled shots come from a shooting range in a nearby amusement arcade, an organ grinder suddenly appears and feverishly twirls the handle while his partner solicits contributions from the passers-by, and the background to all this miscellany of sound is the racket of two or three steam organs battling for supremacy in the Kursaal grounds.
Nearby on the promenade a man is haranguing a crowd on the subject of spiritual advancement, a phrase which he uses repeatedly. The crowd is rather more in the mood for sin than repentance, and while the speaker pauses for breath, a wag in the audience remarks that the particular advancement in which he is immediately interested is his tram fare to Leigh. The stern rebuke of the speaker is lost in the hilarity of the crowd, the sudden stentorian tones of a mariner demanding whether anyone would like to go a-sailing, and an ear-splitting screeching as a very long open top four wheel car, quite as long as an eight wheeler, rounds the curve into Southchurch Avenue. This proves to be car 37 bound for High Street.
Crossbench car 42 has meantime sidled into position by the loading island, has discharged its passengers, and is now preparing to load up again. Our traveller hurriedly takes his place in the queue, buys his ticket at the kiosk, and is fortunate in securing a corner seat on the seaward side of the car. At the other end of the seat immediately in front sits a large, bull-necked gentleman, in Panama hat, new grey suit, no collar or tie, a large purple handkerchief in his breast pocket and highly polished brown shoes. This individual, whose accent proclaims him to come from the Wapping Old Stairs locality, appears to be alone, but keeps up a constant stream of comment on all topical matters for the edification of whoever may be listening and happens to catch his eye. He is consuming shrimps from a bag in his pocket and his discourse is only punctuated when in dexterous manner he bites off their heads, and ejects them through the side of his mouth on to the ground below, meantime skinning the rest of the carcase with his fingers, popping it into his mouth and masticating same with loud smacks of approval.
One of the three coal trams, Richard Delahoy collection
Open top eight wheel car no. 15 swings round into Southchurch Avenue and suddenly the gent from Wapping is silent and his attention becomes fixed. Following his gaze, those round him observe coal wagon no. 1 approaching fully laden. This is rather too much for Mr. Wapping, who has never seen such a thing on tram lines before, and a look of acute disbelief overshadows his countenance.
As no. 1 draws nearer and is about to pass, he springs to life, stands up, grasps the handrail, and in a loud fruity voice hails the rather grimy driver of the coal wagon as "Daddy" and requests to be supplied with the information as to whether he has just come up the mine. "Daddy" replies with gestures which are apparently understood and immediately answered in like manner by Wapping, to the obvious mutual satisfaction of both, and no. I proceeds at a steady 8 m.p.h. on its way to the generating station amid the mirth of the crowd on no. 42.
The sea front and boulevards ....
An open top tram at Thorpe Bay Corner, Rothbury Publishing
Meantime the car has almost filled up, there is no queue now, so no. 42 moves gently off the siding on to the eastbound track in East Parade, and notches up to a steady 12 m.p.h. The boarding houses, fish restaurants, amusement arcades, gimcrack shops, public houses, sweet stalls and oyster bars are passed on the left, while the promenade on the right is thronged with a gay crowd, and beyond is the sea with a few sailing boats and the grey lines of a battleship half hidden in haze.
The Loading Pier is reached, but here work has ended for the day and the entrance gate is shut, although the trolley mast of another coal wagon can be seen inside the yard. The Gasworks are passed on the left and are the subject of fresh comment of an indelicate nature by the Wapping gent, who has been silently occupied for the last few moments in peeling a large apple with a clasp knife. He now cuts off unbelievably large wedges of apple at a time and appears to be able to consume same without difficulty. Open top four wheel car no. 10 bound for the Kursaal, covered top eight wheel car no. 44 and open top four wheel car no. 31 for High Street, and then open top four wheel car no. 6 for the Kursaal, are passed one by one, and then "The Halfway House" is reached and no. 42 pulls up behind eight wheel open top car 16 bound for Thorpe Bay.
Cars 11 and 61 pass by on their return journeys, and then "The Halfway House" is left behind, the social climate seems to rise, the crowds on the promenade are less dense, commercial activity on the left gives way to dwelling houses and hotels, and smart, residential Thorpe Bay is reached. Open top car 30 passes by with a full load for the Kursaal, and during the brief halt at Thorpe Hall Corner to enable no. 16 in front to discharge its passengers and cross to the other track for the return journey to High Street, the gent from the East End passes the time of day with an elderly nursing sister of frigid countenance, who is waiting to cross the road, addresses her as "Auntie" and facetiously enquires after the health of her old gentleman and the kids. The lady ignores him, crosses the road head in air, upon which, with a most rueful look, Wapping informs his fellow passengers that his girl friend does not love him any more.
42 entering the reserved track in Thorpe Hall Avenue
No. 42 then turns into Thorpe Hall Avenue and mounts the slight rise leading to the boulevard, which it enters, as open top four wheel car no. 34 emerges. The car gathers speed and rushes through the leafy fastnesses of the reservation brushing boughs and leaves aside as it goes. The tracks wind away in the distance, the ballast between them overgrown by a grassy carpet.
At the various crossings provided for the convenience of vehicles to pass from one carriageway to the other, glimpses are caught of the outside world. An open top car passes on the other track, and then no. 42 lunges down a dip and passes under the central arch of the railway bridge carrying the line between Southend and Thorpe Bay. There is a slight decrease in speed, a half turn to the left and Thorpe Hall Boulevard is entered.
Then on to Bournes Green, where a precautionary stop is made before crossing the southern carriageway of Southchurch Road and turning left into Southchurch Boulevard. The occupants of the car are strangely silent, enjoying to the full the exhilaration of the ride. Another open top car flashes by and no. 42 is rapidly overhauling a car in front. This is open top four wheel car 29 and the two draw up almost simultaneously at "The White Horse", where topcovered car 60 on the local service is waiting.
Nos. 29 and 42 draw out of the boulevard on the street track in Southchurch Road and a cry of disappointment goes up from the children on board. Wapping announces in the vernacular that he is thirsty, but nobody takes any notice. The car then passes through the shopping centre of self-contained surburban Southchurch, and when Southchurch Avenue is reached, no. 29 continues straight ahead, but the conductor of no. 42 alters the points with his point lever, the car turns into Southchurch Avenue, the points are changed back again, and no. 42 proceeds down residential Southchurch Avenue, over the railway bridge, finally reaches the Kursaal and passes over into the siding, just as no. 40 quits it with another full load on board. The occupants of no. 42 alight and disperse, the gentleman from Wapping makes for the nearest tavern and our tourist decides to take a short walk with change of scene and makes his way along Marine Parade to the pier.
The Pier Tramway....
Seven tramcars all coupled together are standing at each side of the island platform at the station on the lower deck at the pier head. They are all four wheel singledeckers with roofs, some having closed saloons and the others being open with cross bench seats similar to the single deck cars in the town. The explorer has barely taken a seat in a cross bench car on the first train due out, when with a jerk and a clatter the multi-tram moves off.
The rather flimsy looking track with its centre conductor rail becomes single outside the station and wends its straight and narrow way to the midway passing loop with its symmetrical bulge and then carries on to the terminus. Fourteen pairs of wheels rattling over points and rail joints, together with a peculiar side to side swaying motion which the cars develop, does not make for a smooth and silent ride, which, however, has the great charm of novelty. Through the unboarded track can be seen the incoming tide swirling around the feet of the piers, while the tram proceeds on its way unconcernedly high in the air above rowing boats, motor boats, ketches, smacks and other small craft. The maritime tramway is on the east side of the pier and by looking back over his shoulder, the traveller can see the tiny figures of the town trams on the promenade moving around the broad sweep of Thorpe Bay.
Pedestrians on the adjacent promenade deck envy the tram its superior turn of speed, but any temptation to jump over the dividing railings and board the vehicle is averted by the numerous menacing notices warning all and sundry that the rails are alive with electricity. The tram enters at slower speed one end of the passing loop just as the oncoming tram of seven cars reaches it from the other direction. Here there are no spring points, the rails being of bullhead type, and speed is reduced still further until the points have been reset by the operator in the diminutive signal box. Then with a jerk speed is regained and the journey to the landing stage is accomplished without incident. Here again there is an island platform, the track on one side of which is occupied by the next tram out.
The tourist makes his way to the very end of the pier, disdaining the peepshows, rifle ranges, hoop-la booths and other attractions of the fairground, and watches with interest the passing panorama of shipping far out in the Thames estuary. He observes the patient anglers and takes good care not to get entangled with their hooks, lines and sinkers, then ambles back to the tram station, as he has still two objectives to attain, a ride on the tram to Leigh, and if the natives prove friendly, an excuse to forage round the tram depot. Whilst returning to the shore by the next tram, he observes the single deck buses of the Westcliff Company on the beach road west of the pier and idly wonders what particular local circumstance has prevented the tramway extending the whole length of the sea front from Shoebury Common to Chalkwell.
In an open topper to Leigh ....
Leaving the pier, he proceeds up High Street to Warrior Square, manfully battling through the crowds of idlers, tourists and shoppers. In Warrior Square stands covered top eight wheel car no. 38 in glistening new paint. This vehicle is of particular interest, as only a short time ago it was a very long open top four wheel car, in fact a sister car to no. 37 seen earlier in the day.
It has obviously not been on the road in its new form very long, and while he is deliberating whether to board this car for Leigh, there is a sound of a warning gong, and topcovered eight wheel car 19 turns into Warrior Square bound for Southchurch on its next trip. This was also until very recently an open top car, and strangely enough there follows it round the curve a sister car, no. 20, still with open top and bound for Thorpe Bay. Our connoisseur would very much like to ride to Leigh on an open top car, but the possibility seems remote, as this route appears to be almost wholly served by top covered cars with the occasional working by an open top vehicle.
Nos. 38, 19 and 20 depart and Warrior Square is empty, and a queer quietude prevails. After a few minutes the familiar sounds are heard again and five four wheel open top cars in a row turn into the square from High Street: no. 36 on the circular tour via Thorpe Bay, no. 11 for Southchurch, no. 37 for Thorpe Bay, no 5 on the circular via Southchurch, and no. 9 with the conductor standing on the front stairs fiddling with the indicator and holding an animated conversation with the driver at the same time. From aimlessly twiddling, the conductor gives the destination of the car his serious attention, and to the immense satisfaction of the potential traveller, Leigh is the result, and he clambers aboard.
There has apparently been a slight hold-up somewhere due to traffic conditions, and all five cars collect what passengers there are and proceed on their way immediately. Our passenger for Leigh mounts to the top deck of no. 9 and occupies the seat right at the front of the car, which turns out of Warrior Square West into Southchurch Road and crosses Victoria Circus. Several more cars are seen proceeding down High Street and no. 32 is waiting in Victoria Avenue to get across the road. No. 9 leaves the London Road stop and develops a low throaty growl as it gathers speed
The conductor collects the fares and asks for the exact money if possible, confidentially explaining to our friend that he has only just come on duty with this car fresh from the depot and is short of change. He further volunteers the information that this is an overtime job, as he has done his stint for the day, having been on the first car out to Leigh at 5 a.m., come off duty, gone home to dinner and had three hours' sleep in the afternoon. He further states he would have preferred the Boulevard run, as there were not so many short stage riders on it as the Leigh route.
The depot is passed, "The Cricketers" is reached and the rider scans North Road in vain for signs of the former tramway. London Road with its shops and warehouses is a main road typical of any sizeable town. Here away from the sea front, there is little sign of holiday makers or holiday attractions, and the passengers are mainly residents. "The Plough" at Westcliff is left behind and now the car is almost full.
Several topcovered cars have passed, including no. 21, another recent conversion from an open top vehicle The car passes Chalkwell Park, where some cricket is in progress. There is a protracted agonised screech from the direction of Chalkwell Schools, and open top car 39 appears, turning slowly into London Road. This is another of the very long four wheel cars and the first open top car passed on the way so far. However, in Leigh Road, no. 35 bounces by, looking very short compared with no. 39, and bearing Victoria Circus on its indicator.
Car 38 in Leigh Broadway, photo Reg Sims
And now no. 9 passes along Leigh Broadway and comes to rest behind no. 38 at the terminus. The terminal stub is occupied by topcovered car 59, which is the next car due out. The conductor of no. 38 with tongue in cheek affects to express great surprise at the sight of no. 9, and says he has heard it said that such ancient vehicles still operated round the boulevards, but that he personally had not believed it.
The large car 38, glistening in its new paint, does rather date the smaller open top car with its oldfashioned body and not-so-new paintwork. The driver of no. 38 joins in and says his car looks all right, but it is on the slow side and its acceleration is poor, which is not to be wondered at, as the vehicle has the extra weight of the top cover to carry without its motive power having been increased. Car 59 comes off the stub and no. 38 moves on to it. Car 22 arrives and parks behind no. 9 and the traveller decides to return by car 22. Nos. 38 and 9 move off in rotation, and then it is the turn of no. 22, which he boards. The journey back is made without incident, the student alights at the stop before Victoria Circus, and strides determinedly up the depot road.
At the depot ....
The depot appears completely deserted, but unseen eyes may be watching. The first things the visitor's eyes light on are two very old uncanopied open top four wheel cars 1 and 2 standing on a length of track in the yard. They look very dirty and neglected but appear occasionally to be in use as rail grinders and general works cars. A faint hammering comes from a car right at the end of the shed, and upon investigation, two electricians are found to be working on eight wheel covered top car no. 50.
Rather surprised that anybody outside the transport industry should be interested in tramway matters, they volunteer the information that this car was responsible for the dislocation on the Leigh route earlier in the day due to a burnt-out controller. Of the fleet of fifty-eight passenger cars, fifty-one are out on the road today, the other seven being scattered around the depot. Of these, open top eight wheel cars 13 and 14 are available for service in the event of any car failing on the road, but in view of their age are treated as spare cars. Car 18 has just been fitted with a top cover and is in process of being repainted and no. 25 is having a top cover added. Single truck open top cars 12 and 27 are also present but are normally only used at the height of the season as their bodies are not in very good shape.
Allocation of cars ....
Car 49 at Leigh, photo Dr H A Whitcombe
Of the fifty-one cars in service, twenty-one are on the Leigh route, comprising eighteen top covered eight wheel cars nos. 21, 22. 24, 38, 45-49 and 51-59 and three open top four wheel cars nos. 9, 35 and 39. Twelve cars are on the town services from Warrior Square to Southchurch and Thorpe Bay, the same cars working to the two termini alternately, these consisting of six open top eight wheel cars nos. 15-17, 19, 20 and 23, three four wheel open top cars nos. 11, 26 and 37, and three eight wheel covered top cars nos. 44, 60 and 61.
There are eight open top four wheel cars on the circular services, each car operating via Southchurch and Thorpe Bay alternately, these being nos. 5, 8, 28, 29, 31, 33, 34 and 36. Three open top four wheel cars are on the Prittlewell route, nos. 3, 4, and 32 and another three on the sea front shuttle, nos. 6, 10 and 30. The four single deck open cross bench cars are working their scheduled duties of special trips along the seafront and through the boulevards.
Generally speaking the Leigh route has priority for all the top covered cars, although it is necessary to operate two or three of these vehicles on the Southchurch and Thorpe Bay routes, lest the absence of this type of car should be noted and commented on. The circular routes and the Prittlewell service are worked exclusively by the four wheel open top cars and the Southchurch and Thorpe Bay locals have whatever is left.
By the time the visitor leaves the depot, it is getting towards dusk, and after observing for a few minutes the unabated bustle at Victoria Circus he makes his way to the L.N.E. Railway Station, the last thing he sees before entering which is the lights of car 32 receding in the distance towards Prittlewell.