In the early 1880s, Huddersfield had become the first town to own its own municipal transport system, with a fleet of steam-powered tramcars. By the early 1900s, many of the routes had been converted from steam to electricity and these, in turn, were eventually replaced by electric trolleybuses.
By the early-1960s, the costs of maintaining the infrastructure of overhead wires and the fleet of trolleybuses were becoming too high. At a lengthy Council meeting in October 1962, a decision was taken to phase out the trolleybuses and replace them with motor buses.1 Over the next few years, the trolleybus fleet was gradually withdrawn.
Huddersfield Corporation were acutely aware that this was the end of an era, and the week beginning 7 July 1968 was publicised as the “Last Trolleybus Week”, with souvenir tickets and brochures produced to mark the occasion.
Exactly 47 years ago today, on the afternoon of Saturday 13 July 1968, the final electric trolleybus services ran.
- The Tramways of Huddersfield (1959) by Roy Brook
- “Passenger Transport in Huddersfield” by Roy Brook in Huddersfield: A Most Handsome Town (1992) edited by E.A.Hilary Haigh
The following is a transcription of the souvenir brochure published to mark the occasion, which rather optimistically predicted the citizens of Huddersfield might soon be riding around on battery powered public transport…
The County Borough of Huddersfield, in 1879, promoted a Parliamentary Bill for power to construct tramways and the Act was passed in 1880, giving the Corporation such powers.
Construction commenced in 1881 and the track was laid on several routes within the County Borough boundary. During last century it was customary in this country for a Corporation to lay the tram track in its area, but lease the working of the lines to a company. In the case of Huddersfield, difficulty was experienced in persuading companies to lease the working of the laid tracks. Because of this, the Corporation decided to apply for powers to operate the tramways system themselves and these powers were granted under the Huddersfield Improvement Act of 1882. On Thursday, 11th January, 1883, the first tramway route operated by the Corporation was opened from Lockwood, through the town centre, to Fartown, using steam locomotives and trailer cars. Thus Huddersfield became the first County Borough in the country to operate its own Tramways.
Towards the end of the century development in the use of electric power as applied to tramways had progressed so much that the Corporation decided to explore the possibility of converting the steam tramways to electric traction.
It is hoped that this brochure will be useful to those interested as a detailed history of electrified transport in Huddersfield by Tramcars and Trolleybuses.
The extension of the Tramways into outer districts raised the question of additional rolling stock, and the Tramways Committee, following a report prepared in September, 1898, by the Manager, dealing with the suggested electrification of the Lindley and Outlane routes, decided not to purchase any more steam engines and cars, but to give consideration to the proposal to convert the whole system to electric traction.
On the 25th February, 1899, the Corporation adopted this proposal, and the application to the Board of Trade to borrow the sum of £47,780 for the electrification of the system being successful, the work was put in hand at once and completed by 1902.
The contractors for equipping the Outlane and Lindley route were Greenwood and Batley of Leeds, and for the Longwood and Crosland Moor routes, R.W. Blackwell and Co., the remainder being constructed by the Corporation’s own staff.
The first electric car was put into service on the Lindley route on the 14th February, 1901, and on the same date electric cars commenced on the Outlane and the Lindley via Edgerton and Holly Bank Road routes.
The first 25 electric tramcars were built by G. F. Milnes & Company of Hadley. They were the open-top type, seating 24 inside on stuffed longitudinal seats trimmed with crimson velvet, and 29 on the upper deck. All were originally mounted on Brill Maximum Traction Bogies, but as it was found that bogie cars were unsuitable for Huddersfield routes they were converted to four-wheelers by 1910; this change over effected a considerable saving in current consumed.
Opening dates of other routes (by electricity) are as follows:-
|Crosland Moor||18th February, 1901|
|Linthwaite and Slaithwaite (Star Hotel)||18th February, 1901|
|Longwood and Paddock||25th February, 1901|
|Waterloo||15th May, 1902|
|Newsome Road||15th May, 1902|
|Fartown via Bradford Road||19th May, 1902|
|Sheepridge||21st May, 1902|
|Birkby||10th June, 1902|
|Almondbury||17th June, 1902|
|Honley||17th June, 1902|
|Bradley (steam discontinued 2nd June)||13th July, 1902|
The total cost amounted to only £101 more than the total of the accepted tenders, which was £72,458.
The last steam trams in regular service ran to Almond bury and Honley on the 17th June, 1902, but three cars were used on the 21st June, 1902, in connection with traffic to Fartown Sports.
There were now 29½ miles of route (32.63 track miles) open for traffic within the Borough, and an Act of 1900 authorised a further 3½ route miles inside the Borough and 19½ outside.
The foundation stone for a new tram depot and generating station in St. Thomas’s Road, on a site originally intended by the Corporation as a Sanitary Depot, was laid on the 13th February, 1900.
In April, 1901, the Corporation decided to give three months’ trial to the proposal of charging the same fare inside the cars as outside; hitherto, the outside passengers had been allowed to travel at a cheaper rate. Sunday services, as the result of a poll of the ratepayers, were put into operation on the 9th June, 1901, whilst in January, 1902, the pre-printed ticket system was introduced on the electric lines only and later adopted over the entire system.
In 1903 the rolling stock had increased to 70 tramcars by the purchase of 44 new and one second-hand rebuilt from the British Electric Car Co., Ltd.
During 1907 the permanent way was reconstructed from single line to double line on the Lockwood, Moldgreen and Birkby sections, and negotiations were completed with the Linthwaite Urban District Council for the purchase of the Linthwaite tramway track, subject to the Tramways Committee agreeing to relay the track with double lines.
One of the unique features of the Huddersfield tramway service was the carriage of coal in specially designed trucks, the scheme being started in September, 1904, following an agreement made in December, 1902, with Martin, Sons & Co., Ltd., of Wellington Mills, Oakes, to carry all their coal requirements from Hillhouse railway sidings — a distance of three miles from the mills. This method of handling coal, which was carried out for a considerable number of years (being abandoned when the track was removed on the conversion to trolleybus operation) proved very satisfactory. The difference in level between the railway sidings and the street allowed the railway wagons to discharge the coal into chutes from which the coal trucks were easily loaded; the 10 ton capacity of these trucks could be filled in three minutes. The coal was discharged at each side of the truck or from the bottom through hoppers into the boiler houses of the three mills concerned. Approximately ten thousand tons of coal were conveyed annually when this service was in operation.
TRAMWAY EXTENSIONS AND OTHER DEVELOPMENTS
In 1913, Parliamentary powers were obtained for further extensions of the tramways, including those from the Borough Boundary to West Vale.
The extension was carried out in two stages, Birchencliffe to Elland Town Hall, approximately 1½ miles, which was opened for traffic on the 14th January, 1914, and from Ell and Town Hall to West Vale, another mile, on the 30th May, the same year. The extension to West Vale was the means of linking up with the Halifax Corporation’s transport system.
The Slaithwaite (Star Hotel) to Marsden (Peel Street) extension was inspected by a representative of the Board of Trade on the 1st October, 1914, and was opened for traffic two days later. The distance from Huddersfield town centre to the Marsden terminus at Peel Street is 7·22 miles and the route to Marsden was the longest tram route put into service.
In July, 1914, the Town Council approved the Tramway Committee’s minute, relating to the carriage of dogs in the upper saloon of the trams, provided the dog was carried on the passenger’s knees and payment was made at the full passenger rate.
In 1915, the Corporation introduced Route numbers, when all trams were fitted with opal glass plates on which the route number was shown by metal stencils.
During the 1914-18 war, female labour was engaged on the trams and in the depots for the first time. In all, 211 conductresses and 45 car cleaners were employed. A silver and enamelled brooch was presented to every woman with two or more years’ service. Sixty women were recipients of this souvenir.
In January, 1920, the Corporation successfully promoted a Bill in Parliament empowering them, inter alia, to construct a tramway extension to Brighouse via Rastrick. The Huddersfield Corporation (General Powers) Act of 1920 also authorised Motor Omnibuses on certain specified routes outside the Borough, and also on any other road subject to the consent of the Ministry of Transport and the West Riding County Council, sanction being obtained to operate inside the Borough and taking such reasonable fares and charges for the conveyance of passengers therein as may be approved by the Board of Trade under the Huddersfield Corporation Act of 1913.
The Brighouse tramway extension, three-quarters of a mile of which was laid on sleepers through the fields between Netheroyd Hill Road and Bradley Lane, was opened for traffic on 12th March, 1923. This important extension, which was the last to be constructed by the Corporation, formed a direct connecting link of tramways between Huddersfield and Bradford.
On completion of the Brighouse extension, the route mileage of the tramways was 38½ the track mileage being 62½. The Corporation at this time owned 132 tramcars, and of these, 66, each with a seating capacity of 58, were supplied by G. F. Milnes & Co. and the British Electric Car Company. The remainder of the cars were of the vestibule type — later adopted as standard — seating 62 and 64 passengers, and were built by English Electric Co., Ltd. A large number of the older type cars were converted by the Department’s staff to the standard type. Eight further doubledeck vestibule type tramcars, of up-to-date design, were obtained from the English Electric Co., Ltd. , in 1931. These were the last tramcars purchased and were sold to Sunderland Corporation in 1938.
The fares and stages were on the zone system, being revised on 1st January, 1924, on the basis of 1d. per mile, the stages being arranged numerically at approximately half-a-mile distance. A minimum fare of 1d. entitled the passengers to travel two stages. In the endeavour to compete with increasing motor omnibus traffic operating on the “return fare” system, a 3d. maximum fare was instituted in November, 1927, on the trams between the Town
Centre and any tram terminus.
In 1931 it became apparent that the tramway system, track and most of the rolling stock was approaching the end of its useful life, and would within a few years have to be renewed completely, or replaced by some other form of transport. One of the worst sections of track was that from Wakefield Road to Almondbury, approximately 11 miles in length, and the necessity for an early renewal of this route gave an opportunity to experiment with a service of trolleybuses between Byram Street (near the Town Centre) and the tramway terminus at Almondbury. The tram service on the Almondbury route was gradually abandoned during the early part of 1933, and a temporary service of motorbuses was run via Almondbury Old Bank while Somerset Road was closed to traffic during track removal and highway reconstruction.
The trolleybus service commenced over the newly constructed highway in Somerset Road on the 4th December, 1933. Six doubledeck trolleybuses of four different makes were used so that experience could be obtained as to the best type of vehicle.
After initial “teething troubles” the results on this route were encouraging.
Early in 1933 it became obvious that the tram track to Outlane and Lindley, via Trinity Street and Westbourne Road, needed early attention, and it was found that the Ministry of Transport would not authorise the renewal of a double track tram route unless a clear margin of 9′ on either side of the tram track was available for ordinary road traffic. The existing width of part of Trinity Street made this impossible, and the estimated cost of the dual work of widening Trinity Street and relaying the tram track was so very much in excess of the cost of conversion to trolleybuses that it was finally decided trolleybuses should be introduced on the Lindley, Out1ane and Waterloo routes. Accordingly authority was obtained under the Public Works Facilities Scheme and the trolleybus operation on these routes began on the 11th November, 1934.
24 double-deck trolleybuses with Karrier chassis and both Metro-Vick and English Electric electrical equipment were obtained for these services. Following further experience on the Almondbury, Outlane, Lindley and Waterloo trolleybus routes, the Passenger Transport Committee decided that the rest of the Corporation tram routes should be converted to trolleybus operation, and powers were obtained under the Huddersfield Corporation (Trolley Vehicles) Act of 1936 for this purpose.
In order to deal with the building developments and in some cases to find a more suitable turning point, the trolleybus routes were extended for short di stances beyond the old tram termini as follows:—
|Newsome||Church to Newsome, Caldercliffe Road.|
|Crosland Moor||Dryclough Road to Crosland Hill Road.|
|Marsden||Peel Street to Fall Lane.|
|Brighouse||Commercial Street to Bone gate Road.|
and an additional route was run from Woodhouse Church down Woodhouse Hill joining the existing routes at Fartown Bar. The conversion of these routes began on the 2nd May, 1937, and completed as follows:—
|Trolley Buses||Motor Buses|
|Crosland Hill||3rd Oct. 1937||6th July 1964|
|Birkby||7th Nov. 1937||6th July 1964|
|Marsden||l0th April 1938||31st Jan. 1963|
|Sheepridge ex-Brackenhall —6-3-49||19th June 1938||14th July 1966|
|Bradley ex-Keldregate —2-4-56||19th June 1938||13th July 1967|
|Longwood||1st Jan. 1939||13th July 1967|
|Lockwood Church||12th Jan. 1939*||14th July 1966|
|19th Jan. 1939†|
|West Vale||28th May 1939||9th Nov. 1961|
|Brighouse||30th June 1940||9th July 1955|
|Riddings||6th March 1949||14th July 1966|
|Fixby||30th June 1940||15th July 1965|
|Newsome||2nd May 1937||14th July 1966|
|Almondbury||4th Dec. 1933||15th July 1965|
|Outlane, Lindley & Waterloo||11th Nov. 1934||13th July 1968|
|* temporary † permanently|
The tram route to Honley was not converted to trolleybus operation for two reasons:—
- The tram terminus at Honley was some little distance from the centre of the township, and the bulk of Hanley traffic was carried by motor omnibuses over the tramway route.
- The railway arch at Lockwood viaduct was too low to allow for double-deck trolleybuses, plus the overhead equipment, and the cost of lowering the road beneath that bridge was found to be prohibitive.
Accordingly the trolleybuses on this tram route were terminated at Lockwood Church. The roadway has since been altered allowing normal double-deck vehicles.
In order to relieve congestion along Northgate, Viaduct Street was equipped for trolleybus operation and open for traffic on the 21st January, 1954, and the Bradford Road routes were permanently diverted along that thoroughfare, although the overhead equipment was retained for emergency purposes.
Again to relieve congestion in New Street and John William Street, the powers under the Act of 1936 which authorised a trolleybus diversion from Manchester Road, via Outcote Bank, Manchester Street and Market Street, were exercised in 1947. The incoming vehicles from the Marsden, Crosland Hill and Longwood routes were diverted on the 9th November, 1947.
On the 17th July, 1940, a provisional order (under powers, conveyed in the original Act of 1936) was obtained authorising an extension from Woodhouse Church to Riddings Road and an extension from Ash Brow Road along Bradley Boulevard, these extensions being opened on the 6th March, 1949.
Powers authorising further extensions of the following routes were obtained but not exercised:—
|Balmoral Avenue||—||From Blackmoorfoot Road.|
|Riddings||—||Into new estate at Keldregate.|
|Black Horse, Dalton||—||From Moldgreen via Long Lane.|
The depot at Longroyd Bridge, which was formerly used as a tramway generating station taken over by the Electrical Department in 1917, was entirely reconstructed in 1937, and was capable of housing all the 116 trolleybuses owned by the Corporation. An administrative block was built over the Colne River.
On the 9th July, 1955, the Brighouse Trolley Bus Service was discontinued and operated to Fixby (Borough Boundary) only. The West Vale Trolley Bus Service was discontinued on the 8th November, 1961, and the Marsden service was discontinued upon delivery of buses in 1962.
Children of three and under 15 years travel at half the adult fare.
No workmen’s return fares issued.
Free travel on production of passes is granted to blind persons, legless and severely disabled ex-servicemen and to old people of 70 years and over (during certain hours and with resident qualification in the Borough), whilst those between 65 and 70 may travel half-fare under specified conditions.
The conveyance of parcels on vehicles was discontinued on the 30th November, 1953.
The total route mileage operated was 35.968.
It is felt that the foregoing concise history of the development of the electrified operation of tramways and trolleybuses by the Huddersfield Corporation will have been of interest to those who, during the last 67 years, have taken advantage of this form of public transport. It can be said that this marks the end of an era, so far as electrified transport as it is known today is concerned. The tramcar, which in its day fulfilled an extremely useful purpose within the limits of its track. The trolleybus, a silent smooth-running vehicle, but also with limitations according to the overhead system.
It is significant that the end of electrified transport, as described in this brochure, coincides with the Centenary Celebrations of the incorporation of the County Borough of Huddersfield. Another 15 years of operation will have to pass before the Corporation’s public transport system can achieve such a distinction.
What will the next decade bring forth? We live in a world of change where mechanical and electrical developments are taking place with amazing rapidity.
Could it be that in the course of time, developments in electric batteries or fuel cells will once more bring to our towns and cities a form of public transport which is as silent and smooth as the trolleybus but without the limitations of circumscribed distance and mobility.