Dublin's Trams Transcript
Published on 28th October 2014
The following is a transcript of the tenth Sir John T. Gilbert Commemorative Lecture by Michael Corcoran, at Dublin City Library and Archive on 23 January 2007. Audio
Welcome to the Dublin City Public Libraries and Archive Podcast. In this episode, "Through streets broad and narrow", Michael Corcoran discusses the history of Dublin’s trams, the men who drove them and how they intersected with events in Dublin's history such as the 1913 Lockout and the 1916 Rising. The tenth annual Sir John T. Gilbert Commemorative Lecture, was recorded in front of a live audience at Dublin City Library and Archive, Pearse Street on the 23rd of January 2007.
In the 19th century, the early 19th century, getting around cities became an increasing problem as the population grew and as the only form of transport was horse-drawn vehicles of one sort or another. In France the 18-teens there appeared the bus. It had the title ‘Omnibus’ on the side which meant for all and the idea was imported into London in 1829 and reached Dublin in 1832 and unfortunately ran foul of the jarveys and it was some years before a proper bus service or a regular bus service was introduced in Dublin. Now, in the meantime, it had to be recognised that horses weren’t able to deal very well with pulling solid-tyred or iron-tyred vehicles over the bad roads at the time and people got rattled to bits and in 1832 in New York an Irish coach builder named John Stephenson invented the tram. This was a vehicle on rails which were laid in the street and which could carry far more passengers than the bus and it was also of course far smoother and easier for the horse to pull. And I have here Stephenson’s tram, the first one ever. Now it took some time for the idea to cross to Europe. It did in the 1850s and in the meantime the double deck bus had been invented in London and they put a ladder on the back of the vehicle and a few boxes on the top and people sat up there and by the time that the tram arrived in Britain and Ireland it had come in double deck form. And the first trams were introduced in Dublin in 1872. Now there had been a previous attempt in 1867 but this failed and on the 1st of February 1872 Dublin’s first trams ran between College Green and Rathgar. The line was afterwards extended both ways to Nelson Pillar and to Terenure – the present number 15 bus route. The trams, as you can see, were open top double deckers and they had the railings along the top deck which soon had to be covered with boards because when women wanted to travel on the first trams it was decided that their ankles couldn’t be seen (laughter) and there were panels erected along the sides of the trams which were called decency boards (laughter) and of course they afterwards became the receptacle for advertisements.
Now the Dublin Tramways Company opened several routes over the next few months from the first one in February. They had one on the south quays called The Three Stations route which ran from King’s Bridge, now Heuston Station, down through the centre of the city, up D’Olier Street and out by what’s now Pearse Street and Westland Row and went up to Harcourt Street Station. They also opened a line to Sandymount which went by Bath Avenue, it went out as far as Ballsbridge, turned down at Haddington Road to Bath Avenue and went to Sandymount. They opened one to Clontarf. The opened another one to Donnybrook and their final line in Dublin at that time was on the North Quays, that opened in 1874. Now, there were a number of routes that they had proposed to do, but they didn’t do them and these were exploited by two other companies. In 1875 the North Dublin Street Tramways Company came into existence and they opened lines to Drumcondra, to Phoenix Park, to Glasnevin. They opened a very unusual line from College Green via Dame Street and Capel Street, Dorset Street to Drumcondra and they also went out of their territory really and they opened a line in 1878 which ran up to Inchicore from College Green. Nelson Pillar became the hub of the tramway system but College Green was always a very important secondary terminus and it was also used by the third company that appeared on the scene just after that and opened lines in 1879 to Harold’s Cross and on from Harold’s Cross to Rathfarnham. They opened a line to Palmerston Park which went up through Ranelagh and they also opened a branch off that later which went from Ranelagh to Clonskeagh. Now this was a rather small company.
The companies were all relatively successful but they were all on a comparatively small scale and in 1881 the three of them amalgamated to form the Dublin United Tramways Company Limited. Now the Dublin United Tramways Company through the Central brought in one of the most powerful figures in the history of the tramways, William Martin Murphy. Born in County Cork in 1845, he was partly trained as an Architect when he had to give up his studies to take over the business at home, building business, on his father’s death and he became very, very much involved in tramways and railways after that. One of the things about William Martin Murphy that he doesn’t get any credit for was the fact that he was a very early IDA man. He decided that he would import into this country nothing that could be made within it and in 1882 he established the Spa Road Works in Inchicore to build trams for the company and most of Dublin’s trams after that were built in Spa Road. From 1905 Spa Road only supplied the trams and they started building buses there in 1925 and it remained as a bus factory right after CIE sold it to Van Hools in 1973 until 1978, provided great employment and established a wonderful reputation for engineering excellence.
Now when the Dublin United Tramways Company was formed one other problem was to integrate the three systems they had taken over. They managed to do this and oddly enough over the next few years apart from opening connections between the previous three systems the only new route that they opened was to Dolphin’s Barn. It branched off from the line to Rathfarnham at the top of Camden Street and went as far as Dolphin’s Barn and in the 1880s the company had about 33 miles of tramway route and they had about ... they nominally had 186 trams but the actual operational number was about 162. Now they had a huge stud of horses. It was reckoned that you needed 10 horses for each tram. There were two horses on a team and they were replaced several times during the day and you had to have a spare horse as well in case any of the horses fell sick and you also had to have trace horses at the bottom of the steep hills to give the ones that were on the tram an extra pull up these hills. And the horses were actually treated better than the men. They had a veterinary surgeon to look after them. Staff could be taken on and dismissed. There were rule books in all the companies which emphasised the men’s duties and the company’s rights but there was never any talk of the men having any rights at all. They worked very long hours and their families usually brought their meals down to them at the termini and they had to eat as best they could during the day. So life on the trams was very tough. They were also expected to ... the trams trotted along at about 5, perhaps 6, miles an hour and the conductor was expected to call out to people walking ‘Car Sir?’ or ‘Car Madam?’ and try to persuade them to come on the tram (laughter) and it was ... now the penny fare resulted in a lot of extra people. At first the fares were rather high but the penny fare was introduced in 1884, applied on most routes, and even in the suburbs, and of course the trams went out across the canals into the townships that were formed at that time. On the south side you had Rathmines and Pembroke and on the north side you had Clontarf and Drumcondra and on the west you had New Kilmainham and the trams served these places but the penny fare was sacrosanct in Dublin from 1884 right through to 1949 and there was a terrible row when they increased it in 1949.
The company built new trams progressively at Inchicore but they had taken over a rather mixed bag from the other companies. For instance the North Dublin Street Tramways had some single deckers of which you see one here and these were one man operated, they only carried 18 to 20 passengers. You paid the driver as you got in, as you do today, and very similarly the money went into a glass box so the driver didn’t touch the fare at all and it persuaded him to be honest. George Shillibeer who had introduced buses to London in 1829 reckoned that in the early years of the trams and buses before they had bell punches and properly issued tickets about 10% of the money went into the pockets of the conductors instead of coming into the companies. But anyway that’s long in the past. Now they also had what you might call the Dublin United Tramways Company standard tram, built from 1882 onwards in Spa Road, it had a knifeboard seat on the top deck where the passengers sat back to back and it had long seats inside the windows – longitudinal seating on the lower deck – and there was a very large number of these trams built and some of them even survived into the electric era, rebuilt as electric trams. This particular one as photographed I believe in 1892 in Baggot Street and you’ll also notice the three balls of the pawnbroker shop above the horses.
Now steam was being used on tramways in the north of England particularly and in a few other places and there were two very important steam tramways that opened in the 1880s. In 1883 a narrow gauge line was built from Cunningham Road. There was a Dublin tramways terminus at the Phoenix Park entrance on Parkgate Street and just from opposite where Cunningham Road Garage is now a narrow gauge tram went to Lucan steam hauled two or three trailers and so on and it was fairly successful and it lasted in that form until 1897. I’ll be going back to it a little bit later. On the south side of the city you had the Dublin and Blessington which ran from the Tramway Company’s terminus at Terenure via Templeogue to Blessington, nearly 19 miles, and that was extended in 1895 to Poulaphouca which was on the premier tourist attractions in the Dublin area at the time. Now this line worked with double deck tram, double deck trailers, and they had a roof which was to prevent the sparks and the cinders from the engine from descending on the passengers. And you can see the engine in this picture has a very tall chimney to take the smoke from the exhaust above the level of the carriages. Now that was so much for independent lines outside the city but there was an even more important group of tramways on the south east side. From the junction of Northumberland Road and Haddington Road where the Dublin trams turned off for Sandymount there was the terminus of the Dublin Southern Districts Company. This company set up in 1879 and they built two lines. First of all they built one from what was then Kingstown Town Hall which came up Marine Road, turned left and went to Dalkey. And unlike the Dublin Tramways which were on the 5ft 3 gauge, the same gauge as the railways, this was narrow gauge. They opened a second line later in the same year from Haddington Road to Blackrock. There was a gap between them and the Dublin South Eastern Railway were cleaning up because you could get to Dun Laoghaire or Kingstown or to Bray on the train without having to change whereas if you wanted to go to Dalkey or to Kingstown you had to walk some of the distance between Blackrock and Kingstown. But in 1885 another company, the Blackrock and Kingstown, they filled this gap with another tramway but you had to go on a Dublin United Tram to Haddington Road, a Dublin Southern District to Blackrock, Blackrock and Kingstown to Kingstown and then another Dublin Southern District to Dalkey. It took you 2½ hours and needless to say that wasn’t very popular with people. Now the Dublin United were interested in electric tramways. The first ever long electric tramway in the world opened in Ireland between the Giants Causeway and Portrush in 1883 and they studied this very deeply. The whole problem was current collection which was by a side rail on this and if you sat on the rail you could be electrocuted and there was animals killed and all that sort of thing. And in 1887 a man called Frank Sprague he perfected the overhead trolley system in Virginia in the United States and that made electric tramways in the cities a very practical job or a very practicable job I should say and the first electric tramway in these islands in an urban setting was in Blackpool in 1885 and there was another one in Leeds in 1891.
The Blackrock and Kingstown was bought out by the Imperial Tramways of Bristol who also owned the Dublin Southern Districts Company and they appointed a man named Clifton Robinson as manager in 1892. A trained engineer, a great business man, he took it in hand and he electrified the whole line from Haddington Road to Dalkey. He built a depot in Shelbourne Road and a power station where Ballsbridge Motors are now. The power plant there was capable of driving 50 trams weighing 10 tonnes each at 8 miles an hour which at that time was a great achievement and as I say he opened for business on the 16th May 1896.
At that time you had the horse tram still trotting around in Dublin. The Corporation did everything they could to stop the Dublin United Company from bringing in electrics and the result was that you had that sort of a mess in O’Connell Street or what was then Sackville Street into the 1890s. I reckon that picture was taken in 1892. That incidentally is a map of the Dublin tramways in the horse days as owned by the different companies, not very clear but if anybody wants to get a look at it it’s outside I think on the exhibition stand. Now here’s Clifton Robinson on his tram on the 16th May 1896 outside the Town Hall in what was then Kingstown. The platform party have all been identified in photographs, as has the conductor on that tram, somebody took the trouble to write the names of these people underneath, and the man on the top deck is Davy Stephens who was a noted character in Dun Laoghaire. Each of these trams hauled a trailer and there was an equal number of trams and trailers, 30 and 30. A very serious accident occurred in Merrion Square. When the line was ... sorry I should have said the line could not be extended into the city, the Corporation objected to overhead wires. Now the Dublin United Company were very anxious to electrify their systems but they were told that this couldn’t be done and at that time the canals and the circular roads formed a lot of the city boundary but on the north side it was extended out to take in Fairview and the city boundary was actually at Annesley Bridge and the route to Dollymount was electrified in as far as Annesley Bridge in 1897. You have here an electric tram number 31 which is about to go back to Clontarf and on the left hand side there’s a horse tram and another electric beyond it and outside the wall where Fairview Park is now there was an appalling slob lands which had been created when the railway embankment was built in 1844 and the sewage of Drumcondra and all sorts of other horrible things including the outfall from a vitriol factory in Poplar Row went into that place. It was brought back on each incoming tide and it was a fairly messy place. But anyway that’s as far as the trams got in 1897.
The differences with the Corporation were overcome and on the 19th of March 1898 the first electric tram reached Nelson Pillar but it came in from the north side and it was 4 months later before the first one was extended in from the south side. In the meantime William Martin Murphy had moved very smartly to knock out any possibility of competition with the Dublin Southern District, he bought them out, and thus was formed the Dublin United Tramways Company 1896 Limited. And he immediately set about trying to electrify the whole system. Clontarf was driven by a power station in where the bus garage is now in Clontarf. It was only capable of driving 25 trams so with the combined forces of Ballsbridge and Clontarf you couldn’t have more than 75 electric trams running in the city but when he started the electrification he was also starting to build a vast power station at Ringsend and in the meantime they put on extra trams and at one time I reckon that the capacity of 75 that Ballsbridge and Clontarf could drive was actually increased to about 125 which was a wonderful achievement and it shows how well these power stations were constructed. Anyway as I say the first electrics reached the pillar in 1898 and from then on the Dublin United Tramways Company they just went from strength to strength.
The Dublin and Lucan steam tram which I told you about they decided the future lay in electricity as well and they electrified their line from Conyngham Road to Lucan in 1900 and they rebuilt the whole lot to a gauge of 3ft 6. Now the Dublin Tramways were 5ft 3, they stuck to 3ft 6, and the main reason was they were afraid that the Dublin United Tramways would try to take them over and they didn’t want that, they wanted to remain an independent company. It was the first of three new tramway companies to start operating in that year. You also had the Clontarf and Hill of Howth. From the Terminus of the Dublin United Tramways Line at Dollymount a line was built to the east pier in Howth along the line of James Larkin Road and along by Kilbarrack and so on out to Howth, the coast road, and this line opened in July 1900 and although it was a separate company the trams were actually numbered in the DUCT fleet and the DUCT did a lot of work. There was a change of staff at first at Dollymount which was known as the Junction but later on the DUCT took over the running of the line and they ran it with their own staff and it was very successful. And you have a picture here of a Dublin Howth tram going under the over bridge at Howth which carried the third major electric tramway and the only other one to open in Dublin in 1901 which was the Great Northern Railway’s Hill of Howth. Sutton and Howth are only 2 miles apart on the railway but this line was opened in two stages in 1901 to serve the Hill which at the time was very, very important tourist wise and also for insipient suburban development.
For some reason that I don’t know nobody has ever satisfactorily explained it, a picture of two Howth trams, two Hill of Howth trams, in the very early years decorated for some purpose and with a Japanese flag on the front of the top deck, we don’t know why. And incidentally it also shows the very elaborate uniforms that were worn by tramway men at the time. The drivers who had worked on the horse trams were all trained to drive electric trams in Dublin and their status went up and now they were called motor men instead of drivers and it was a very important social distinction at the time because the driver of a horse vehicle was regarded as unskilled whereas the driver of an electric tram was a highly skilled operative so that was it.
Now over the next few years the Tramway Company as their business increased and their lines grew they had a great problem with keeping up a supply of new trams because the tram builders in England and their own works couldn’t cope with everything so a large number of horse trams were converted. About 80 horse trams were converted to electric. You’ll see them in a lot of old photographs and you’ll always know them by the seven windows on the side. It’s a great way incidentally of dating photographs, this type of thing. That particular one was photographed in Rathfarnham and it’s going to go back to Drumcondra over the Harold’s Cross line. Once again the people in the picture are very interesting. You have the passenger sitting on the step. You have the motor man and the conductor and the little chap on the left is known as the ticket picker, the ticket boy. They employed boys to pick up the tickets and clean the trams at the termini and these afterwards became conductors and often drivers and they were a very important feature of the Dublin trams right up to the Second World War.
This is one of the converted trailers following an accident that I mentioned to you what happened in 1898 was, November 1898, a tram was coming in from Dalkey towing a trailer and there was a married couple sitting on the top deck of the tram and they got off at Holles Street and the wife went down the stairs fairly quickly. The husband was a little bit slow getting down and he tripped on the stairs and he fell between the motor tram and the trailer and he was killed and as a result of that the use of trailers was banned and the trailers were all rebuilt as motor trams as this one here, photographed at Whitehall terminus.
Now after they’d electrified the existing lanes the tramway company extended a lot of the services and they built some new lines. They extended the Dolphin’s Barn line to Rialto in 1905. They built what was known as the Whitehall extension from Drumcondra Bridge to where the Garda station is now in Whitehall in 1903. They built a new line through Baggot Street in 1906 and there were various other things like that. They also introduced two brand new lines. Sandymount was served via Bath Avenue and Haddington Road until 1900 but in 1900 they built a new line which came through Pearse Street and another thing they did was a very important line that ran from Ballybough to Parkgate Street via Parnell Street. Now this was in a way sort of a sop to Clifton Robinson who had threatened to extend the Dublin Southern District system into town and he said that he would serve all the areas because the Dublin United Tramways Company’s clientele were largely middle class. They had no trams in the Liberties or the North Wall or places like that where poor people lived whereas in Belfast and in other cities that have used simple systems the trams served everybody and they were regarded as a social service rather than a money making thing, to a great extent. And as I say a photograph taken at Whitehall, probably around 1910, and once again the crew are very prominent. Incidentally the driver in that photograph appears in a lot of other pictures of trams and it has been said that the reason he was photographed so often was that he had a striking resemblance to King Edward the VII. (laughter)
At the Dartry route which was opened in 1905 it was a branch off the Terenure line from Rathmines and this photograph shows again the very interesting summer gear of the conductor and the inspector who wore straw boater hats in the summer. The driver always wore a cabbie because it was less inclined to blow off his head and he was out on the front platform where he was exposed to the weather. The lady on the stairs is very possibly a member of the Murphy family because they lived up beside the tramway terminus in Dartry and it’s been said that she may have been a member of the family. Now the other thing I’d like to point out in this particular picture is the wonderful array of ads that appear on the trams, Millar & Beatty is there. Donnelly’s advertised on the trams and indeed on the buses for many years afterwards and a study of the advertisements is very often a most interesting exercise in social history as you will see a little bit later on. These ads here are all enamelled. They were done by the Dublin Japan Works in Jervis Street, they were beautiful works of art in their own right and today they’re worth a fortune if you can get your hands on one of them.
Now the other development was to vestibule the tram, in other words to put a windscreen around the driver and extend the top deck out over it. Now this is an exceptional tram because this was built at Spa Road in 1901 for the exclusive use of the directors and their guests. The Dublin Tram Company was very, very much a consultancy as well as an operating company. They advised people in other cities on how to build up their tramway systems and so on and they had this special tram built which brought the directors on their tours of inspection and also brought the visiting dignitaries around. A very interesting thing about it was as originally built it had decency boards but it had a magnificent wrought iron railings behind that board and the boards were taken off afterwards to show the glory of the iron work. This tram had a wine cabinet inside. It had beautiful cluster lamps, curtains on the windows and anything that could be done well was done well in it. It’s regarded as being to transport what the custom house was or is to architecture.
The next stage in the development of the Dublin tram was to try and put a top cover on it because on a wet day you got the full benefit of whatever was blowing and this was one of the original open fronted ones, rebuilt with windscreens with a primitive cover on the top deck and probably the most important feature of this, you’ll notice the shamrock, in 1903 the Dublin United Tramways Company introduced a system of symbols for the different routes. Now it was partly a style thing and it was partly because of the high incidence of illiteracy at the time, there were a lot of people who just couldn’t read where the tram was going. The Dalkey route had a shamrock, there was various things, in a couple of moments a thing will turn up that will show you what the symbols were and the symbols were accompanied at night ... you’ll notice that above the destination box below the symbol there are two lights, these were coloured lights and the colour code at night told you what route the tram was on. This is referred to in Ulysses where he describes a tram in Amien Street as a dragon or something like that, typical Joycean hyperbole but it’s there anyway, he does refer to the symbols.
So the top cover tram as I say appeared in 1904 and here you have the symbols from a 1913 timetable. There are a couple of routes there that didn’t survive. Now you had the main routes. There were three very big cross city routes: Drumcondra to Rathfarnham, Phoenix Park to Donnybrook and Glasnevin to Dolphin’s Barn, later Rialto – they carried most of the city traffic but the Drumcondra one was regarded as the backbone of the city system which carried more passengers than any of the others. It was a really heavily traversed route and there are stories of people who wanted to go home, say a man working in George’s Street and he wanted to go home to Harold’s Cross in the evening, he couldn’t get on a tram going out so he took a tram down to the Pillar where he could more easily get one that was going out the full way you know that was how heavy the traffic was on the trams, it was unbelievable.
There’s one route there that ... or two routes I should say that deserve more explanation, so down at the bottom almost, College Green and Whitehall, which has the inverted heart, the white heart, and that was a route that didn’t survive for reasons I’ll explain in a couple of minutes. And you’ll notice that there are two that have or three that have white squares and that was very simple because those routes didn’t cross each other at any time. One of them was the Hatch Street Route. Another was O’Connell Bridge to the Park and the third was Kenilworth Road and Lansdowne Road. Now this particular route which started at Ballsbridge went right over to Kenilworth Square and it crossed the services of the lines of about eight other routes on its way, it was known as the cross tram for many, many years. And the only other thing from that period I’d mention is that when the Bath Avenue line was electrified in January 1901 on account of the low bridge at Bath Avenue they couldn’t operate double deckers. They could operate double deck horse trams which sat lower on their trucks but double deck electrics were out of the question and it was the only route in Dublin as a result that had single deck trams. And incidentally the last horse tram on the 13th of January 1901 knocked down what was known as a gentleman’s gentleman, probably a butler or somebody like that, and the driver and the conductor of the tram were charged with injuring him but luckily for them there was a police inspector on board who saw what happened and they were exonerated at the hearing of the court. So that was the very early days of the electric system.
Now I have a couple of pictures here that will really intrigue you, O’Connell Street, I reckon the date is 1899 or 1900, you’re standing with your back to the portico of the GPO, you’re looking up the street, Parnell hasn’t arrived yet, he didn’t come until 1908. You have a variety of trams and the most important feature of that picture is the building there that you can see past the tram standard with the turret on it, that was the head office of the Dublin United Tramways Company which unfortunately was totally destroyed in the Civil War in 1922 and with it went a vast archive of all sorts of things including a huge collection of photographs from the earlier days. This is a picture from the same era taken looking across O’Connell Bridge and in this picture, which was taken to show how effective the overhead was and how unobtrusive it was, it was taken by the people who erected it, you also had the beautiful arc lamp standards that were erected in 1903 and in the background you have the DBC, the Dublin Bread Company’s building, which was only opened in 1899 and was destroyed in 1916. This is a slightly later picture taken again from the portico of the GPO, you’re looking over past the Pillar, now there’s wonderful activity in this and one of the things you’ll notice is there’s a hand cart over there beside the Dalkey tram and this was from the Parcels Express. From 1883 on you could hand in a parcel at any terminus of the Tramway Company or at the offices to go to any of the outer places that they served and for tuppence or thruppence the parcel would be taken, you could collect it at the other end. That was at a time when there was very, very little commercially available transport in Dublin. You had a lot of people in the business we’ll say of moving furniture, stuff like that, but you didn’t have anybody who provided a parcel service unlike today where you’ve all the couriers.
The top cover tram that I showed you a few minutes ago that developed on the Dalkey line into massive eight wheelers which were able to carry 71 seated passengers plus a number standing and there was a large fleet of these built before the First World War from 1906 up to about 1912/1913. They were known as windjammers for various reasons and the Dalkey windjammer became a very famous title of this particular type of tram and they operated an express service. Now in the mornings on the Howth line in 1903 and in the evenings you had express trams that overtook ordinary trams at Dollymount and at Fairview and got you into the city quicker and incidentally in 1954 a man who travelled on these very frequently he said that the normal time allowed for the nine miles from Nelson Pillar to Howth was 50 minutes, 40 minutes was the time allowed for the express and he said he timed one one day and it went from Nelson Pillar to Howth in 35 minutes. Now even driving a car today that would be quite a feat but it was the way that things were done. But if that was good the expresses on the Dalkey line were something else again, they ran morning and evening, there were sidings and points put in at Ballsbridge and Booterstown and Blackrock to enable the expresses to overtake the ordinary trams and the expresses travelled non-stop from Merrion Square to Blackrock. Now you know the mind boggles today thinking of doing that but they did and they were an incredible service and there were trams of this type and these were the trams of which the poet Æ wrote:
“My eyes behold new majesties; my spirit (soul) greets the trams, the high-built galleons of the street”
So they really did impress people. The Dublin United Tramways Company at the time was one of the wealthiest companies in the land and probably one of the wealthiest tramway companies anywhere. They were now operating a nominal fleet of 330 trams, actually there were probably no more than about 280 of them in service at any one time, over a route mileage of about 54 miles which was some achievement.
Now in addition to the passenger trams you had other wonderful vehicles that operated on the tramways such as water trams. This one photographed on O’Connell Bridge with the Ballast Office in the background and the time ball on time of the Ballast Office that dropped at a particular time every day to show when it was noon at Dunsink Observatory. You also had Dublin Corporation use of the tramways. Now I mentioned Fairview to you and the appalling sloblands where the park is now. The Corporation built an incinerator. Now note I’m telling you an incinerator at Stanley Street and all the city refuse was brought to that and was burned and the cinders and the ash were loaded into trains of wagons and they were hauled out. The Corporation bought three locomotives as well as seventy wagons and at night after normal traffic had ceased on the tramways these trains made their way out to Fairview, there were sidings laid into various parts of the sloblands and they dumped the stuff. And this went on from 1907 until 1925 or thereabouts when motor lorries took over the collection of refuse and it’s hard to believe that where Fairview Park is today was such an awful mess 100 years ago.
The trams had to be maintained and the Ballsbridge workshops they were really great. I knew the last foreman in the Ballsbridge workshops, Charlie Ross, and he told me a lot about what life was like in the early years of the century. Charlie had trained as a fitter in the Pembroke Tech which afterwards became the infamous spike on York Road in Ringsend and at the time that the trams ceased in 1949 he was 64 years of age but he was a mine of information on all sorts of things that happened in the early years of the century. This would have been his workplace in about 1908 or 1909. Two trams, a converted horse tram and an original electric hoisted off their trucks while the various jobs were done on the under frames and a water tram in the background. Ballsbridge was one of only two depots that had a very narrow entrance and it had a traverser. This was a moving platform, it moved sideways, the tram was driven in off the road onto this and the platform was then moved sideways to line the tram up with the particular track on which it was to go. The other one that had this was Phibsborough or Cabra whichever you prefer to call it, it was up there behind the shops at Doyle’s Corner. And incidentally it may explain for younger people when you hear match commentaries from Dalymount they refer to the tramway end and the school end, the tramway end was the end nearest to the depot.
Now in 1909 the Tramway Company which had been carrying parcels for years they also discovered that they could carry other things – sand, gravel, they took in a lot of farm produce and even animals from the Dublin and Blessington which were brought to the Cattle Market on North Circular Road up there at Aughrim Street. And they had old trams which were converted into electric locomotives like the one shown here and they hauled four or five wagons at the maximum and this was a very lucrative business and it lasted until 1925 once again when motor competition made it uneconomic and probably unsuitable in the traffic conditions as well. The Dublin and Blessington also had ideas of advancing before the First World War and they considered electrifying the route from Terenure as far as Jobstown and it was envisaged that Dublin trams might run right through to Jobstown but they experimented with a couple of petrol electric trams like this one here. They weren’t a great success and the idea was dropped and they reverted to steam haulage.
Now as I said before the First World War the Dublin United Tramways Company was almighty but things changed in 1913. You had the terrible Lockout in August 1913 and any trams that remained in service were driven by either supervisory staff or by strike breakers. The one thing that prevented the strike from being totally successful was that the staff in the generating station at Ringsend refused to come out. They were better paid than the platform staff, the drivers and conductors, and they were careful of their jobs and they didn’t want to get involved in the strike. And you had scenes like this where trams had to be accompanied by members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police who by that time had unfortunately dirtied their bib with most of the citizens after the baton charges in August and September of 1913. It’s one of a whole series of events that was very bad for the tramways over the next 10 years or so. William Martin Murphy was a confirmed Nationalist, he was a follower of John Redmond and when war broke out in 1914 he encouraged Irish men to join the British Army and tram number 242 was converted into a recruiting car that went around the city and it was photographed here in College Green in an effort to try and get people to join, and there is quite a queue of men there waiting to go on the rear platform to give their names in.
This is a particularly interesting shot, it shows number 308 in the depot yard at Clontarf, the conductor on the left, but the man on the right is Patrick Clifford who was the Depot Inspector in Clontarf and on the day of the Howth gun-running he managed to thwart the military and the police who wanted to get to Howth to stop the landing of the guns from the Asgard. He thought up all sorts of excuses – the phone went dead in the depot, he couldn’t get in touch with his superiors, all this sort of thing – and he managed to hold them there until the guns had cleared Howth. So that was his contribution to what was to happen afterwards. Now as you can see it’s number 308 and this is the same tram in Easter week 1916, it was destroyed by a direct hit at the junction of North Earl Street and Sackville Street and also in that week one of the more shameful incidents in the Rising was Dublin Tramway employee named James Malone where the CIE Club is now on Earl Place behind Clery’s there was a stables where the Company kept their few remaining horses they used on cartage and stuff like that and the horses had to be looked after during Easter week and James Malone was persuaded by his foreman to go in and look after the horses and he had to try and get out a couple of times for food and on the Thursday as he went down North Earl Street the poor man was shot. He was the only Dublin United Tramways employee to be killed in Easter week and in contrast to a lot of others he was just a man who was going about his job. Anyway that was it.
Now the war, the Rising and the First World War were a terrible time for people in general and particularly for tramway staff and there was also the War of Independence then in 1920. And here you have a Dalkey tram outside Clery’s which is being rebuilt in the background, an armoured car and a raid on the trams. Now my late neighbour and friend Joe Greely described in graphic detail what went on at that time. He was a conductor in those years and he said the instructions to the staff were if the Black and Tans pulled in in front of tram, which they were liable to do, you were to let your feelings go away and you were to treat these people promptly and courteously, get them through the tram as quickly as possible so that nobody would be injured and no property would be damaged. And Joe described how one day he was conducting an open top tram coming down George’s Street and a Black and Tan tender pulled in in front and as he made his way towards the stairs to try and get there before any patriot would attack these guys a revolver landed in his cash bag and he didn’t know what to do and he thought very fast and he put the revolver into the destination box which is of course up at the front of the tram and he went down, he was shaky, he was very fearful, he showed the Black and Tans through the tram, they went off, they didn’t get what they wanted and he went back up to take the revolver out and to give a good tongue lashing to whoever it was that had compromised him and when he opened the box two revolvers fell out. (laughter) He turned both of them in as lost property and he never heard anything about them so (laughter).
Now as I said there was a lot of interaction between the Dublin United Tramways Company and the Dublin and Blessington and here at Terenure Cross you have a driver or conductor carrying a churn across to the Blessington line. A lot of the dairy produce came in, it was put on the trams and went to outlying shops on the lines all over the city and that’s what this particular thing portrays. That was right at the end of the era of the symbols because in 1918 they decided to change the whole thing and they brought in a system of route numbers and they started on the south east side at number 1 with Ringsend and they went around clockwise until it reached 31 at Howth. There were a few blank numbers that weren’t used at the time, they came into use afterwards, and incidentally about 10 of those numbers are still in use today on the buses. So you know there’s a continuity there, it was one of those things that happened. Now 1918 was a very severe year, they had to cut back a number of things. The Dorset Street and Capel Street route was closed. They introduced cuts on various other routes and so on. They increased fares but they didn’t interfere with the penny fare, you might have got a shorter distance but the penny fare was absolutely sacrosanct, and there were various other changes took place at the time.
Now there were two trams destroyed in Easter week, others were damaged, and both of those were replaced after 1918 but they started to build a new type of tram at that time that I’ll describe to you in a moment. I just put in a map here showing the electric system as it was after 1906 and I think it’s on one of the things outside anyway you can study it. I also put on the M50 on this map to try and give you an indication of where you are. Now there were trams of different heights operating in certain routes and there were a lot of bridges in the city that certain types of tram couldn’t get under and these balcony trams that they had started building in 1904 they were too high to go under several of the bridges and in 1922 they brought out a new lower type of tram which was called a standard and which could get under all the bridges except one, Bath Avenue was the only one that was closed to it. Now they built a huge number of these and they converted others. They built new ones and they converted other ones to these new balcony cars and they became the most numerous type of tram on the system, there were 91 of them. And once again could I draw attention to the crew here or the staff who are now wearing cheese cutter type caps that were introduced after the First World War and they had a white top which could be put on in the summer and this was worn from May to September each year.
The next stage was to enclose the tram completely. The Standard Saloon, introduced in 1924, and there were 91 of them built and they were very successful. They were 60 seaters, sorry 62 seaters, and they could run on any route on the system. Very successful trams indeed and this particular shot, for those who don’t know the area, was taken opposite the Black Lion pub in Inchicore which was the tram terminus and the little Morris car on the right was the car of the photographer, a wonderful tramway photographer named William Camwell from Birmingham who came to Dublin several times in the 1930s and has left us a wonderful record of trams at the time.
Now the only new tramway opened after the First World War if you could call it a new one was the Dublin and Lucan. The Dublin and Lucan Company were taken over by the government during the First World War because they were a mail carrier and anything that carried mail was put under government control. After the First World War motor vehicles became much more reliable, they became much easier to get and there were a number of people who started up in the bus business. And the Spendlove brothers started the Tower Bus Company operating between Dublin, Lucan and Clane and in a very short time they ran the Dublin and Lucan out of business. Around that time the Dublin United Tramways Company were seeking powers to operate buses themselves and they did a quid pro quo with the authorities in 1925 after the Lucan line closed. They agreed to take it over, rebuild it and integrate it with the city system and it was rebuilt to the standard gauge and the trams now ran from Lucan right through to O’Connell Bridge and they built a fleet of 9 new trams for it of which this is one, seen in 1938 climbing out of Lucan. That line incidentally ran most of the way on the side of the road and if you drive along past the Phoenix Park and look at the lamp standards on the Lucan Road you’ll even see where the line crossed from one side to the other because the standards are still in use as lighting poles and they’ve survived all that time and it was before its time unfortunately. Lucan was still a small village and of all the tramways in the Dublin area the one that the LUAS people would most love to have today would be that particular line. Anyway, the company got their permission or they got their authority to operate buses and they were now operating trams and buses and it was envisaged that some of the bus routes that they opened would become tram routes when the traffic developed. Now I should mention to you from 1897 when the company was going electric they had two very successful general managers. They had Charles Gordon who came in 1897. He was killed in an accident in 1915 and he was succeeded by an even more remarkable man called George Marshall Harris. Harris was an electrical engineer, he was also a part-time lecturer in Trinity College. He was an incredibly good business man and even after the buses came he was still pro tram and as long as Marshall remained in office there was absolutely no danger of the trams being abandoned but there were more and more buses coming on the road, they had to abandon, as I said, the freight business. The parcels express continued with motor vans for another few years but the streets were getting very congested.
Now Dublin and Blessington, they really went to town on trying to modernise. Steam wasn’t a viable proposition so they bought a couple of Model T Fords and they built these rather Heath Robinson type bodies on them and needless to say they hadn’t got a ghost against the buses of the Paragon Company and the line closed in two stages – the Poulaphouca extension in 1928 and the main line from Terenure in 1932 and there was no talk of the tramway company taking this over. Now the paragon company was owned ... it was a subsidiary of the General Omnibus Company which was owned by A.P. Reynolds. A.P. Reynolds was an accountant who on carrying out an audit in 1927 discovered that there was money in buses and he set up the General Omnibus Company and he became very successful and he’ll come back into the picture a little bit later. The Dublin United Tramways Company on the other hand they decided that they’d have to build modern trams which could compete with the buses and from 1931 to 1936 they turned out 57 luxury trams from the works in Inchicore of which this was one of the last. There were 37 four wheelers and 20 bogie cars, the bogies were divided 15 to the Dalkey line and 5 to Howth. They maintained the winter service on Howth whether the open top trams would be considered a little bit obsolete at that time but were wanted for the normal summers and for people that travelled out in the summer. These trams were 76 seaters, they had a huge standing capacity and they really were something and in my opinion they were the most comfortable tramway vehicles or the most comfortable vehicles of any sort until the City Swift Buses arrived in 1996. That’s the interior top deck of one of them. Beautiful white ceilings, lamp reflectors, bulk head seats with lovely chromed handrails and chrome seat grabs and everything like that and they were really the apex of travel at the time. Now there was four wheelers as well as I said.
Now I’d like to draw attention to the ads again. Every week the Theatre Royal which was a wonderful institution of course it had the change of programme on the trams so you could see what there was without having to look up the papers or anything like that. We’ve been able to date that particular picture to sometime in 1938, I forget the exact date but I know it was dated by somebody who was very familiar with what went on in the Royal. Now as I say adverts they showed up social mores and all that sort of thing and this is a dilly:
For your throat’s sake smoke Craven “A”
(laughter) Can you imagine that happening now today? (laughter) That’s a Dollymount line tram, they started from just north of the Pillar and they went down North Earl Street. Now traffic was becoming a serious problem as I said in the 1930s. Here you have O’Connell Bridge from Bachelor’s Walk. You have a taxi rank beside the river. You have a bus coming around the corner from the bridge onto Bachelor’s Walk and the man with the white top cap is the unfortunate tram conductor trying to turn the trolley of the Lucan tram before it goes back. He’s in grave danger there and as are all the jaywalkers because people just didn’t realise how bad traffic was getting and it’s not today or yesterday that traffic was a problem, there was a Dublin Traffic Act as long ago as 1875 and in the 1930s they were getting really worried about it and a lot of people maintained that the trams were a hindrance to traffic. Well they were in a certain way but the system should have been developed and adapted to suit the conditions at the time. Now just how you took your life in your hands is illustrated here, a tram at Stephen’s Green, just opposite the Stephen’s Green Centre, and the passengers have to go out into the middle of the road to get on and they’re in dangers of being mown down by the opposing bus which would like to get the passengers but it’s not getting them there. So the tramways really did need to modernise, the track should have been realigned and they should have been put in new places, all that sort of thing, and unfortunately that wasn’t done.
Now George Marshall Harris retired through ill health but he was fairly well advanced in years in 1934 and around that time the independent buses had become such a threat that the government had passed legislation in 1932/33 first to license them and second in 1933 to enable the statutory companies, the railway companies and the tramway companies, to buy out the independents compulsorily. And the General Omnibus Company of A.P. Reynolds was bought out in 1935 but he was a very powerful man. At that time he had 40 odd buses on the road and it was a very well run company in fairness but there was a reverse takeover because Marshall Harris had retired and Reynolds came in and became the general manager and he was very much anti-tram and it wasn’t long before he got the idea that he would replace all the trams. Now buses at that period or up to that period mostly single deck in Dublin and petrol engine, they were a bit uneconomic to run, but at that time two things happened. Leyland Motors introduced the metal frame bus body which was very light, very easy to build, and they also introduced the diesel engine and when the diesel engined 56 seater bus became available Reynolds ordered it in large numbers and tramway abandonment began with the Ballybough route in 1938 and it proceeded very rapidly over the next few years. And by 1941 when we were well into the war about 220 trams had been replaced by an equal number of buses and the only lines that remained at that stage were the Dalkey line with its branches and the Terenure and Dartry lines and they just couldn’t risk taking those off during the war and in fact they refurbished 90 trams because they knew they were going to have to run the trams for a number of years.
Now recognising the changeover in its operations the Tramway Company changed its name to the Dublin United Transport Company in 1941, adopted a new livery and the famous flying snail symbol that decorated theirs and later CIE vehicles after the war. CIE was formed on the 1st January 1945 to take over the Great Southern Railways and the Dublin United Transport Company and the hope was that the very efficient Transport Company management would sort of reinvigorate the Great Southern Railways which was, except for its bus department, rather moribund, it was a bureaucracy and they were very, very fearful of what might happen with the railways but unfortunately that didn’t happen. Now they went into the new peace time world in 1945 still running 113 trams. They had about 240 buses in Dublin and this was a typical Dublin street scene in 1946/47 where you have a hustle of buses and trams in College Green, a couple of lorries, one or two horse drawn vehicles. And so distinctively incidentally were the ads on the trams that in this particular picture well the number is visible that was actually the last tram from Howth in 1941 and the two behind it that one has been identified and the one behind it again was what was to be the last tram from Terenure when that line was closed in 1948. Now I’ll draw your attention to one other thing in this, not to do with trams but it’ll give you an idea of what religious rectitude could do at the time, if you look at the third bus down, the one behind the lamp, you’ll see two eyes at each side of the destination box and those two eyes advertised a magazine called ‘Picture Post’ every Wednesday, four pence every Wednesday. And at that time a magazine could be banned solely just because somebody objected to it and all the buses that happened to have this ad for ‘Picture Post’ were based in Summerhill Garage and there was an incredibly conscientious superintendent in Summerhill at the time and every week the ‘Picture Post’ was banned the buses appeared with brown paper pasted over the ad. (laughter) Now I am not joking, that is the truth, I saw them, I lived through that era, I saw them myself. He did this on the grounds that it was even illegal to advertise the magazine that was banned and this man was right up to the minute, he knew what to do. (laughter)
Anyway, the trams they continued their painful way for another few years. I just threw this in to show you some more of the ads, one is Barnardo’s furs and Boland’s bread and Shaw’s bacon. That’s a photograph taken in Cabra or Phibsborough Depot and it shows the traverser here in front on which the trams were moved over to line up with the particular track they were to go in on. A wonderful picture – another Camwell picture. There were a couple of interesting survivors in the 1930s. This was known as the Submarine, it was based in Clontarf Depot until 1936 when the Corporation did a drainage plan for Clontarf for floods. The tide often came in over the road. The promenade didn’t exist at that time and trams were liable to get stuck in the floods. If you get the combination of an easterly wind, heavy rain and high tide you were in dead trouble in Clontarf. So this tram was designed with its motors over the axels so that they wouldn’t be interfered with by the rain. It was the body of an old horse tram put onto this truck and it was kept in Clontarf to tow out trams that had got into trouble in the floods and it actually lasted until 1938 or 1939 when there was only a few trams left in Clontarf for the Howth route. The director’s tram came down in the world, it was used to advertise the Whitehall Carnival in 1937/38, Dublin’s only illuminated tram ever. (laughter) And even the water trams had got a little bit more modernised, there was now a shelter over the driver, okay, he got the rain into the front but it didn’t come down straight on top of him. (laughter) This is the number 4 photographed at Donnybrook, it also doubled up as a snow plough, you’ll see the v shaped boards under the platforms. Anyway CIE took over, they decided to get rid of the last trams, the Terenure and Dartry lines closed at the end of October in 1948 and the Dalkey line continued until July 1949. It closed on the Saturday night of the 9th/10th of July 1949 amid scenes of the most appalling destruction. This is number 252 which was the last tram and it had to be turned at the Ballast Office, it wasn’t able to get through to the Pillar on account of the crowds and that is it photographed as it was going into the depot in the early hours of the Sunday morning. Now the trams were gone, they were sold off, but there was one thing that we still had and it got even more important after this, the Hill of Howth still working. A shot taken of the Summit in 1953, there were two types of tram, 8 of the blue ones and 2 of these magnificent teak ones, numbers 9 and 10.
The Great Northern Railway was in serious financial difficulties in the 1950s and it was taken over jointly by the governments of the Republic and Northern Ireland and in 1958 they decided to cease this type of operation and the fixed assets were divided between the transport authorities in the two parts of the island. And the Hill of Howth tramway came under the jurisdiction of CIE whose Chairman was still A.P. Reynolds and needless to say there was no hope for it, there was a big economy drive and eliminating losses and so in 1959 when the line was threatened with closure you had these enormous queues at Sutton waiting to get on the trams. They probably carried more people in the last couple of months than they had done in years previously and you had those crowds day in day out, it was a very fine summer, and that incidentally is tram number 7. The line was dismantled after the closure and this wonderful vehicle, number 11, it started at the Howth end and it carried all the materials back to Sutton, a shorter journey each day. Now this could be used as a goods tram, it could be used as a breakdown tram, an overhead wagon, but its most unusual feature was that it had a telephone on one platform which could be plugged in to the overhead telephone wires anyway along the line to enable the crew to talk back to the depot (laughter) so it was a very early form of mobile phone if you’d like to call it that. (laughter) Anyway the line closed, the trams were disposed of and number 7 that you saw earlier that’s it being broken up in Sutton in 1960.
That was probably the end of trams in Dublin until thank God 2004 and here you have one of the first LUAS trams but if you notice there’s a ghost behind it and this ghost is a very beautiful survivor which I show you here photographed at Stephen’s Green on the day that the Sandyford line opened and if it wasn’t for the modern car and the dress of the people in that photograph you could probably falsify it to make it look as if it was a 100 years earlier. And we’re very glad that that particular one has survived. Now there have been a couple of other survivors. That was what happened to number 9, the last Howth tram. It was exposed to the elements and to vandals and so on for several years and it was in that form until 1979 and after a 13 or 14 year refurbishment there it is in Howth being inspected by Tom Redmond who was the last surviving driver from the Hill of Howth line and he gave it his blessing. Another survivor from the Dalkey line, number 253, photographed outside the National Museum about 2 years ago. And the last survivor of all but in an appalling state rescued from Dalkey in 1988 and awaiting restoration the director’s tram, that’s what happened to it. Now to conclude, architecturally the DUTC didn’t contribute very much to Dublin but there were two depots that were built, one in 1905 in Dartry and a new depot in Blackrock in 1908, which had very pleasant architectural features and that is Blackrock with the luxury tram coming out and I understand that building is either threatened or being demolished at the moment somebody said to me, I haven’t been in Blackrock for a while so I don’t know. So last of all memo tickets, they were a wonderful form of collection for young people when I was young, when I was in my teens and so on, ranging from a horse tram ticket right up to the last ones that were issued by CIE. Now as I say you’ve only had a brief look at the tramways, like there was so much that I wanted to put in and I couldn’t, there just wasn’t the time to get it in and I only hope that you enjoyed coming down those routes with me for those number of years and I’d like to thank you all very much for your patience with me and your time. (Applause) Thank you.
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