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1952: London's trams trundle into history
After nearly a century of service the tram has made its final appearance in London.

The very last tram to rumble along the capital's streets arrived at south-east London's New Cross depot in the early hours of this morning.

It was driven by John Cliff, deputy chairman of London Transport Executive, who began his career as a tram driver.

Trams have carried banners all week proclaiming "Last Tram Week" and special tickets carrying the same message have been produced.

Conductors punched souvenir tickets and enthusiasts drove or cycled alongside the tram - car number 1951 - for the duration of the journey.

The tram's journey time was extended by almost three hours by crowds of cheering Londoners who surrounded it along the route from Woolwich to New Cross.

Noisy and dangerous

At New Cross depot the tram was greeted by LTE chairman Lord Latham.

"In the name of Londoners I say goodbye, old tram," Lord Latham declared as the vehicle entered the tram shed.

The first electric trams appeared on London's streets in 1901 following on from horse-drawn trams which were introduced in 1861.

However, by the 1930s trams were seen as noisy and dangerous to other road users.

In 1931 a commission of inquiry recommended trams be replaced by trolleybuses - electrified vehicles which did not need tracks - but many trams were temporarily reprieved by the outbreak of the Second World War.

The final phasing out of trams follows the closure of the Kingsway tram tunnel three months ago.

The tunnel which begins in Kingsway and extends under The Strand was opened in 1906 and houses two tram stations - Aldwych and Holborn.

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Watch/Listen
Scene from last tram's jouney
Thousands saw off London's last tram

Images from the last London tram journey (no sound)


In Context
By 1952 trams had already been phased out in several English cities but some of London's old trams were sent to Leeds where they remained in service until 1959.

Ten years after the demise of London's trams, trolleybuses followed them into oblivion.

In the 1970s much of the Kingsway tram tunnel was converted for road use.

During the conversion Aldwych station was destroyed but Holborn tram station remains intact in an unused portion of the tunnel.

Over the years trams have regained popularity in some quarters as an environmentally-friendly means of mass transport.

Manchester has had a tram system since the mid-1990s and in 2000 a combined tram/light railway system started running in Croydon in south east London.
'I was there'
I was 10 when the last trams ran in London in 1952. I lived in NW London, an area without trams and my father took me out for joy rides on the trams which were largely in south London.

We would travel to Holborn to catch a Route 33 or 35 tram and travel through the Kingsway subway emerging at the Embankment and ride to the end of the line in south London.

I loved the trams, not only because of their sound and motion, but also I was aware that they were a "living" remnant of a bygone age - a few of the trams were some 40 years old.

I can still feel my sadness when we travelled by coach to a south coast resort on 6 July 1952 through south London only a few hours after the last trams had run. In areas where I was accustomed to seeing trams, the streets were empty with only the rails to show where they had once been.
David Grant, UK

Stories From 6 Jul


 
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