Weird and wonderful machines of trams' heyday revealed by Shropshire historian

By Toby Neal | Features | Published:

Mechanical marvels which were the workhorses of Britain's old tramways system come under the spotlight in a new book by Shrewsbury transport historian Peter Waller.

nostalgia pic. Wolverhampton. This picture of a Wolverhampton Corporation Tramways vehicle is copied direct from the book Works Trams of the British Isles by Peter Waller. The book's caption is: "Wolverhampton Corporation No A1, seen here when new around 1902, was a combined water car and snow plough..." Library code: Wolverhampton nostalgia 2020..

"Works Trams of the British Isles" is a survey of the tramway engineers' vehicles which kept things moving in the days in which big towns and cities had their own tram networks.

"Often little known and generally unfamiliar to the passengers that used tramways, works trams were an essential facet of the efficient operation of any system, large or small," says Peter.

"Although construction of most tramways was left to the contractor employed on the work, once this was completed the responsibility for the maintenance and safe operation of the system fell on the operator."

The larger the operator, the greater and more varied the fleet of works cars which were used, and specialist vehicles were constructed for specific duties.

Works Trams of the British Isles by Peter Waller

Apart from things like regular relaying of tram track and overhead maintenance, some operators saw an opportunity to make money from freight and parcel traffic, and dedicated vehicles were made.

A significant number of ex-passenger cars were converted for works duties. For instance, Peter says, as late as the early 1950s Liverpool Corporation was converting redundant passenger cars into snow ploughs.

Peter grew up in Bradford in the 1960s, a city which operated trolleybuses until 1972. He moved to Shropshire in 2007.

His book is a pictorial record of some of the weird and wonderful works vehicles which were used on the tram network of yesteryear.

"Works Trams of the British Isles" is published by Pen & Sword and costs £25.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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