A History of Manchester’s Tramways, Manchester Corporation Transport Department 1949 [ebook]


A History of Manchester’s Tramways, Manchester Corporation Transport Department 1949. Booklet, 9.25”x 7.25”, paper covers, pp.36, of which one blank, two folding diagrams of routes, 19 B&W halftone photographic illustrations. Financial tables, and appendices giving opening dates of routes and dates of conversion to trolley bus or motor bus operation.


“A Souvenir Brochure on the occasion of the abandonment of the last tram service in Manchester on 10 January, 1949”. Well written and nicely produced this is a very good concise History of the Manchester tram network, which at its peak extended well beyond the city boundaries. Tramways in Manchester began as private enterprises, and might well have remained so, if the companies had run services across the centre instead of running them from the outskirts to the centre, then back on the same route. This was inconvenient for passengers, and added to city centre traffic congestion. The Corporation decided over a period of time to take over the private services and run the trams as a proper network.

The scheme was in fact a perfect example of what social historians have come to describe as “Gas and Water Socialism” – the municipalisation of utilities to provide a better service to the public, to regulate fares so that sufficient income was generated to cover repairs and renewals, to improve the wages and conditions of staff, and to produce a financial surplus which could be devoted to reducing the rates. For many years it worked perfectly – fares were reduced to roughly a third of what they had been, traffic increased, hours of work were reduced, wages increased and useful sums paid annually to the City Treasury. In the difficult financial climate of the 1920s, things began to go wrong, 1929 being the tipping point, when the trams ran at a loss for the first time, and there was the prospect of heavy expenditure on track renewals.

From then on, it was a managed decline over 20 years, with cheaper trolley and motor buses being introduced. This is a classic of its kind, which does not waste space with photos of City Council worthies, and endless lists of “Alderman This” and “Councilor That” Chairman, Deputy Chairman etc. of the Tramways Committee… There are some good photos of horse drawn buses and trams, and of electric trams.


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