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Trams, Trains, Smith

I went to a talk on the trams of Walthamstow this evening (1905-1939). The Tram Act passed in the 1870s apparently authorized districts to build tramways - but only up to their borders. As a result, all tramways ended just before the next set began. No connecting tracks. Less than a decade after installing on the cheap, Walthamstow - like many places - considered replacing their trams with newfangled autobuses. Trams were given a further lease of life by the first World War however: they were powered by electricity from coal mined within the country, rather than imported petrol.

Trams are only ever really a feasible method of transport in cities and major self-contained tourist attractions which have the numbers to justify the dedicated road space. It was odd being in an audience mostly consisting of people who thought of trams as a long-time-ago thing, long since replaced by more modern transportation. But that's not how it works. Greater London has a sprawl of narrow streets. Boulevarded cities of the continent have done just fine with trams. As does Toronto with its streetcars. Many of them were looking back to trams; I was remembering commuting to the U of T.

Speaking of justifying transit, I, along with fourteen-or-so other Smith grads, met up with the college president last weekend, while she was in town. She talked to us about all sorts of changed and developments at the college. What most excited me wasn't any of those things: it was learning that, thanks to federal stimulus money, the railroad from New Haven to Vermont is being rebuild along its former path, and Northampton (MA) will have a railway station once again!


( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 14th, 2011 03:14 am (UTC)
That is awesome about the train station. College Station lost its station a while ago and I know that they've had architecture students design new stations as a demo project (the tracks still exist, but all that we have to do with them is complain when the freight trains blow their horns running through. I'd like to think that stimulous money will come and make that line into a functional passenger/high speed line again, but I suspect even if it was offered our governor would not take it, thus relegating me to 2 hour car rides to get to civilization.
Jan. 14th, 2011 11:30 am (UTC)
I can't think of Toronto without thinking about the streetcars. I lived about six blocks from campus - but on really cold days or days when I wasn't feeling well - the streetcar saved me from walking. And it was good. :)
Jan. 14th, 2011 02:09 pm (UTC)
It was odd being in an audience mostly consisting of people who thought of trams as a long-time-ago thing

Obviously no one there from Manchester then? :)

I'm not quite old enough to remember the original trams running in Manchester, but when I was a child many of the streets still had the tracks in them, later tarmaced over. So it was very odd to return on a visit many years later to find the traffic in chaos because they were busy putting the tracks back for the new Metrolink trams.
Jan. 14th, 2011 03:14 pm (UTC)
They're currently constructing the line out to near where I live, and we're looking forward to it immensely. The line along Ashton New Road doesn't seem to be taking up any more room than a dedicated bus lane.
Jan. 14th, 2011 08:13 pm (UTC)
Obviously no one there from Manchester then? :)

Or indeed from Croydon.
Jan. 14th, 2011 09:17 pm (UTC)
My clearest experience of trams was Melbourne, where they run along the middle of really wide roads. I think they're a fantastic thing, and I know there are number of Auckland City planners who wished they'd never gotten rid of them.
Jan. 15th, 2011 12:15 am (UTC)
I went to a talk on the trams of Walthamstow this evening

On first pass, I thought this sentence referred to a talk that actually took place on a tram, which in turn reminded me of an event attached to last year's local folk festival in which Canadian musicans played sets on the city's commuter trains.

The very fact that I could be confused about this proves how close trams/streetcars are to my imagination and my heart. Ah, Toronto.
Jan. 16th, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC)
Preston Trams.
You have resurrected some very old memories I have of the tram tracks along the middle of the streets here in Preston. Church Street, Lancaster Road and Fishergate had them, possibly more that I did not see as a child of six or seven. There were no trams still running, and the lines were quickly tarmacked over to smooth the way for the almighty car.
As a transportation professional, I can confirm that Light Rail Transport (LRT i.e. trams) is still very much on the agenda for the future of city transit, as the price of oil soars, and green electricity, hopefully, becomes more abundant.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )